The Abbeville Fete is Awesome!

Mtr Ruth's sermon on 29th June, when the Fete which took place the day before was fresh in our minds 

In spite of the rain, on offer here yesterday were – candy floss and cake, burgers and bands, strawberries and song and so much more.

Also on offer were street sweeping, rubbish clearing, furniture hauling, onion chopping, running yourself into the ground and rushing around like a mad thing (I saw a lot of you doing it!).
                                 
The Abbeville Fete IS awesome but it is also exhausting!

So just why do we do it? 

This morning’s gospel is full of references to rewards – what is the fete’s reward?

Why do we do it? What is the reward? The prize?

For some the answer is obvious: we do it for the money! The reward of the fete is the cash raised to support local charities.  

For others the cash is secondary, the main goal and reward of the fete is to bring the community together.

For me the answer is welcome. 

The call to welcome that fills our tiny gospel reading this morning – just three short verses - but brimming with the word welcome: who is to be welcomed and the reward that welcoming them brings.

As usual, we welcomed all sorts yesterday.  The gospel mentions 3 groups in particular.

The prophets, the righteous and the little ones.  Who are of course the people we welcomed too! 

The prophets are those who speak out about what is wrong in the world - their job is to point out places of pain and injustice.  
Whilst the righteous are those who act to try right those wrongs, heal that pain and end the injustice.  

The local organisations that the fete support are all both prophetic and righteous: they both tell us about the ways in which the young, the elderly and the homeless in our community are let down and failed. At the same time they strive to provide for them, care for them and protect them.

What do we get from welcome?                                                       

The gospel tell us that our reward for welcoming the prophets and the righteous will be the same reward that they get, which turns out to be both positive and negative, both awesome and exhausting.

Prophets, those who speak out against injustice, often encounter conflict and opposition – because people don’t want to change.                

The righteous, on the other hand encounter the kingdom of God, because, of course, that is what they are working to change the world into.  

True in Biblical times but also true today – I know that Sarah, in her work with the homeless and Nick, in his colleagues at the Met in their work with youth and violent crime, both encounter the cost of conflict and opposition as well as the delight of bringing hope and healing into broken lives.

We are truly privileged to be able to support and welcome those who are called to be prophetic and righteous in and on behalf of our local community. 

                                                  

But for me the most important group is the last, the little ones. 

Whoever does the smallest thing for these little ones, Jesus tells us, will surely never lose their reward.  
Yet we are not told who the little ones are or what the reward of welcoming them will be.   

Well, in Matthew’s gospel the little ones are the least, the lowest, the unimportant and the over looked. 
And we are not told what the reward of welcoming will be because they themselves ARE the reward. Last week, you will remember that we welcomed some of our young people into holy communion with us.  In preparation for that day I welcomed them into my home every week.  

One week I started the class by asking each child to share something about themselves that was great, something they loved about themselves, something special about the way that God had made them. 

When they finished thinking and sharing they did something astonishing that I was not expecting at all: they started to list some of the things about ME that they thought were great, some of the ways in which (in their eyes at least) God had made ME special.  

And so I, the host, became the guest; I, the teacher became the pupil. What I had wanted to provide for them they too provided for me.  

The word welcome implies more than a cup of tea and a smile.  In the gospel, the word welcome means to take and to hold, to receive and to accept as you would a gift or a honour.  

To truly welcome someone is to open ourselves to all that person is and all they bring, to value them, to learn from them and so to receive from them the presence of God their maker in our midst.

The Abbeville fete IS awesome AND the Abbeville fete IS exhausting.

Its goal and its reward is welcome - in welcoming all sorts: the prophets, the righteous and the little ones, we find we have also welcomed God in our midst. 

 Thank you all for your efforts on Saturday and for your welcome.