Here is today's message from worship, based on Matthew 10: 40-42

I remember when I was a kid, my father telling me a story about guilt by association.
He spoke of a case where there were six guys who robbed a bank.
Two sat in the getaway car, two watched the front door, and two went into the bank.
One of the two in the bank killed someone inside; a teller or guard or someone.
But at the trial, he said, all were found guilty of murder and punished accordingly.

His point was to impress upon me the concept of who you hang around with matters.
He wanted me to know that, even if I didn’t do wrong things or get in trouble, if those I chose to hang around with did, that then would reflect poorly on me.
Its the old ‘guilt by association’ adage that, although maybe not held up in court much today, still carries some weight in public opinion.
Donald Trump takes a lot of heat for buddying up to the Russians and Putin.
Hilary Clinton lost votes she could have had for being chums with Wall Street moguls.
Who we befriend and make nice with or lend a hand to, reflects on and impacts us

Well, Jesus’ sayings from today’s Gospel reading in Matthew make the same point.
Only, in this case, its the opposite of the ‘guilt by association’ idea.
He says your reward will be great if you associate with people who work for God.
And if you welcome and show hospitality to people sent by Jesus, all the better.
And if you lend a hand for those who are serving the Lord,…your reward will be great!

In today’s bible lessons we hear of prophets sent by God and disciples sent by Jesus.
Jesus says “whoever welcomes (them), welcomes me… and the one who sent me”.
And then says those doing such will receive a “reward” (a word he mentions 3 times).

So what does that mean for us?
(Well….it means be very nice to the pastor and it will pay off for you;…Ha, Ha….just kidding).
It does not have to be a pastor or even someone who seems particularly holy.
While the bible passages talk about those directly sent by God,…there are, have been, and will be persons in our lives indirectly sent by God.
Since we are all sent by Jesus to further and promote God’s will, just about anyone fits.

So who is doing God’s will and work in the world?
That’s not rocket science stuff for us to figure out, is it?
We can tell when people are a reflection of Jesus Christ in what they are doing.
Sometimes they are a bit more obvious in their vocation and their official capacity.
But other times it may just be the guy or girl next door or a stranger.
The Spirit of God gives us a sense that tells us when a person is doing God’s work.
It may be a major effort or might seem insignificant, but it’s all good and it all matters.

The question for us then becomes;…. whom do we chose to associate with and help?
If we inherently know the difference, it’s up to us to choose who we associate with.
Its up to us who we decide to be hospitable to and accommodate in their work.
Its up to us whether we lend a hand to those doing God’s will or some other goal.

When I was young, I had a period when I associated with some shady dudes.
But the thing was,… I knew before hand that they were not the right bunch for me.
My parents told me as much but at that point anything they said: I did the opposite.
Yet, my own intuition told me that I was not putting myself with the right people.
And what ended up happening was that I ended up tainted by what they did.
Tainted in how I was viewed by others but also tainted in the making of my character.
I even ended up participating in things that I am now ashamed to think about. 

So the basic idea is that it is good for us and good for God’s will to be done.
To welcome, and buddy up to, and lend support to those serving God’s interest.
The reward will not always be tangible - like you won’t win the lottery if you do.
But for our own inherent sense of self, the reward can be even more significant.
Knowing we have sided with and supported the work of God, is a great reward itself.

When I went on Habitat for Humanity mission trips,…..that alone was a great reward.
When I rang the bell for the Salvation Army Christmas kettle in the freezing cold, that was itself a great reward.
When I volunteered to work in a food bank once a week, that was a great reward.
None of those things had to do with clergy work;…just helping those who helped God.
Reward by association based on who we welcome into our lives and who we help

Given what Jesus said, He knows what we do and will also reward us, according to our good works when we aid or assist those doing God’s work.
While none of that adds anything towards our salvation, God will show his appreciation for the things we do helping those who are working on his behalf.
Just like you or I would show that we appreciate someone who does something for us.
The reward will be great!  Jesus promises us so!

Amen