Love and Belonging: Embracing a Larger Vision of God’s Beloved Community (July 2, 2023)


Welcome to the Glencliff United Methodist sermon podcast.

Rev. Nicole Nyembo delivered the sermon on July 2, 2023. She spoke about loving and belonging and the real rewards of welcoming through the lens of Matthew 10:40-42.

Liste for perspective on how being the person of welcome affects our own sense of welcome. As well as how Jesus modeled breaking social norms to provide welcome.

Glencliff United Methodist Church strives to be a faith community that is inclusive, compassion, justice-oriented and rooted in the love of Christ. We are located in Nashville, Tennessee.

Find out more about Glencliff UMC and our efforts to extend mercy and justice across our area at



Nicole Nyembo [00:00:01]:

Our scripture passage this morning is from Matthew ten, verses 40 through 42, if you’d like to follow along. It’s a short one, but there’s a whole lot in there. It says, Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. And whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. And whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous. And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. This is the word of God for the people of God thanks you.

Nicole Nyembo [00:00:54]:

Pray with me. Loving God, may these words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. Amen. I was talking with another pastor about church signs recently. She shared that she had a vision for her church, for a sign that emphasized radical welcome, including naming multiple groups, including using multiple languages. And her congregation kind of shut her down. They said, well, why can’t we just say all are welcome? And she and I were kind of talking and thinking, well, a lot of churches do that. A lot of churches say all are welcome, and just leave it at that.

Nicole Nyembo [00:01:42]:

And she was feeling like some of that meaning was lost in the process. It’s one thing to say all, it’s another to emphasize who is welcome without any context of a sign that says all are welcome. I wonder how open people would be to someone out of the norm walking through the doors, and how comfortable people would feel. It reminded me of when Ellie, my husband, and I lived in Atlanta. We were looking for a church, and he’s not Methodist, so we’re already coming from vastly different backgrounds, so it was already challenging. And we tried several, looking for at least some racial diversity so that we would both feel good. We finally found one, but no one went out of their way to talk to us. They had coffee before worship.

Nicole Nyembo [00:02:34]:

That’s a great check, Mark. They said hello and good morning, but it was really easy to come in and out without anyone stopping us, without anyone learning our names. And it wasn’t a large church, so in one way it was really welcoming, and in another, it didn’t quite feel like it. Welcoming is complicated work. Have you ever come to a new church? At some point, everyone came here to Glencliffe for the first time. How did that feel? How does it feel entering a space? Feel free to shout out some ideas. It can feel awkward because you wonder if you’re going to fit in. Yeah.

Nicole Nyembo [00:03:17]:

Awkward because you wonder if you’re going to fit in for sure. For me, it can feel scary not knowing what to expect. Hey, Greg. Intimidating. Intimidating. Yeah, for sure. There are certain churches that if you’re not dressed like everybody else, you feel judged, and that does not feel good. Absolutely.

Nicole Nyembo [00:03:48]:

If you’re not dressed like everybody else, you feel judged. So think about it in the reverse. Now, how does it feel to be the welcomer? What are thoughts that you try to kind of embody when you’re in that role? It’s exciting. Yeah. Happy, warm and welcoming. Yeah. I’m trying to remember when I wasn’t spoken to and think of that. Absolutely.

Nicole Nyembo [00:04:25]:

Using our own experiences, for sure. So in talking about welcome and what it means and what it means as a church in 2023, I think it’s really important to consider both what it feels to be the welcomer and the welcomed. The context that this scripture passage was written in was clearly vastly different than our own. It included a really intense hospitality culture and an understanding that if I came to you seeking a place to stay, you weren’t just welcoming me into your home, you were welcoming my entire family, whether or not they were there with me. This passage takes that a step further, as Jesus does, breaking the social norms of family structures and who was included in people’s circles. He is emphasizing here that it’s not family that’s being welcomed, but God. God’s self being welcomed. Jesus once again emphasizing that that traditional family structure that even now we get so caught up in is not the end all, be all for community.

Nicole Nyembo [00:05:42]:

That God’s beloved community is much, much larger and much more interconnected than we could imagine. Now, if I’m being honest, one aspect of this passage that I struggle with is the idea of reward. That language of reward for doing something that we’re called to do anyways. I’ve witnessed and heard about a lot of hurt caused when Christians are taught that certain actions win them favor with God. And while I wholeheartedly believe that God calls us to love one another and act accordingly, I do struggle with that reward system language. But one commentary I read explained it in a really helpful way for me, so I thought I’d share it. Maybe the reward for welcoming is getting to welcome people. In other words, living in the kind of hospitable interdependent relationships we are built for.

Nicole Nyembo [00:06:42]:

Maybe the reward for loving is loving, being in relationship, honoring the sacredness of one’s own self and the selves of others. Maybe the reward is something like integrity, which is not to be confused with morality. Integrity is the state of being whole and undivided, not separated from one’s own most loving, dignified, wise self, or from others or from God. So if we consider loving one another and being loved by one another as our reward, how do we embody that? How can it become so ingrained in what we do that it’s not just what we do, but it’s who we are? Now, July 4 is coming up, and as a country. We don’t necessarily have the deepest history of hospitality or welcoming. We settled on stolen land, our white ancestors enslaved Africans, and even today, we’re still passing laws that harm our siblings in Christ and perpetuate systems of oppression. With Pride Month officially ending just two days ago, a month full of love and acknowledging love, how can we continue to embody the love shared throughout that month and fully embrace our LGBTQIA plus siblings throughout the year? How do we extend care and love and welcome beyond specific days or months like Pride, our Black History Month, where we put all of our focus for that one time and then forget about it for the rest of the year? How do we show up beyond words but in action? How do we show up in solidarity with one another? Because I think a part of welcoming might just be working towards a more equitable world together. Genuine hospitality with our neighbors means working toward a safer world, where people feel encouraged to be their full selves just the way God created them.

Nicole Nyembo [00:09:02]:

Genuine hospitality is not just about providing sanctuary for just a moment. It’s about reaching for that just world. Though sanctuary can be really important when safety and inclusion aren’t assumed. So as we get towards July 4, there’s a lot about Independence Day, which often leads to thoughts that we don’t need anyone else, that we stand alone. So as you go about celebrating this week, I invite you to consider what it means for us to be interdependent. What does it mean for us to rely on one another and extend and receive welcome? It has to be both. We’re not always one or the other. What does it mean to consider all of God’s creation as sacred and holy and actively work in solidarity for a more equitable world? This goes beyond any borders that we’ve created.

Nicole Nyembo [00:10:07]:

It spans the earth. Our passage today ends in concrete action. Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, what does giving a cup of cold water look like to you? This week? This month? This year? What does that action look like for you? In your context? You. Amen. Thank.