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Proper 8A Gospel

Matthew 10:40-42

Libby Tedder Hugus

In June of 2005, U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and SEAL Team 10 were assigned to a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah a high-ranking Taliban leader responsible for killings in eastern Afghanistan and the Hindu-Kush mountains.

Local sheepherders stumbled upon the team and ended up betraying the SEALS to local Taliban militia, and a horrific gun-battle ensued. Marcus was the only survivor. Badly wounded, he managed to walk and crawl seven miles to evade capture. He was miraculously given shelter by an Afghan tribe, who at the risk of their own lives alerted the Americans of his presence, and American forces finally rescued him six days after the gun battle.

The Afghan man who gave shelter to Marcus is Mohammad Gulab. Mohammad lives by the “Pushtunwali” code of honor which promotes self-respect, independence, justice, hospitality, love, forgiveness, revenge and tolerance toward all, especially to strangers or guests.

Part of the Pashtunwali code is the concept of “Nanawatai” meaning sanctuary. Nanawati allows a person to seek refuge in the house of another, seeking asylum against his enemies. The host is honor-bound to offer that protection, even at the cost of his own family or fortune.

When Marcus found himself in enemy territory and bound by the beautiful “Pushtunwali” honor code, Mohamed prepared a table, a shelter for Marcus that literally saved his life. Mohamed was not only threatened during the time Marcus was sheltered in his home, but continued to face persecution afterward. The Taliban has targeted the whole village for being traitors.

Marcus and Mohamed have become dear friends, and Mohammed has since immigrated to the USA with his family because the persecution was so strong from the Taliban, a consequence for providing shelter to a complete and total stranger who found himself in enemy territory.

In the final three verses of Matthew’s gospel chapter ten, we hear from Jesus about the reward for those who receive anyone representing him as emissaries of God’s global mission. The theology of mission underlying Matthew’s gospel is girded by the principle of “imitatio Christi,” or imitating Christ, which is far more than just imitation. In the Hebrew tradition the word is “shaliah,” in the Greek it is “apostolos,” meaning the one who is sent represents the full presence of the one who sends.

Chapter ten of Matthew’s gospel is known by scholars as “the missionary discourse” in which Jesus sends the twelve disciples to represent his presence entirely, as he was sent by God. If this sending passage seems unfamiliar or demanding, perhaps it is time to reexamine what we understand of Christian living, what we know to be our calling as Jesus’ disciples in this world. It is a call to witness that warns of persecution, poverty and possibly martyrdom. Matthew chapter ten is a vision of the essence of Christian life:

“confession of [God’s act in] Jesus, living toward the eschaton with a concern for mission in this world, letting go of both material possessions and fear of what others might think about us or do to us, placing of loyalty to the God reveled in Christ above all other loyalties, even the deepest ones of home and family, a life of non-residence to violence, trust in God and God’s future.” (M. Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew, The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, vol VIII, page 263)

For Matthew, this was not a call to the twelve