4th Sunday after Pentecost- Fr. Chris- July 2, 2017

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 2, 2017

We will start with an easy one. Tom Hanks… Tom Hanks starred in “Apollo 13” with Kevin Bacon. Therefore there is only one degree of separation from Mr. Bacon. But what about Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood was in “The Bridges of Madison County” with Meryl Streep who was in the “River Wild” with Kevin Bacon. What about an older actor like Charlie Chaplin who was in “A Countess from Hong Kong” with Tippi Hedren who was in “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” with Kevin Bacon. For those that have never played this game it is called “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” The idea is that the actor Kevin Bacon has been in so many movies, around 60, that any actor or actress in Hollywood is only 6 degrees of separation away from any other actor or actress. These degrees of separation are through shared movies. It turns out that all but a handful of actors in the entire history of film are within these six degrees. This week I got curious just to see what my “Bacon Number” is through a colleague at my last church. It turns out the answer is just three. I worked with Kelly Koonce at Good Shepherd who was in “The Tree of Life” with Brad Pitt who was in “Beyond All Boundaries” with Kevin Bacon. And so that means each of you are at most four degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

Now, this whole six degrees of separation concept originated not with Kevin Bacon or the book and film by that name, but rather in 1929 when a Hungarian author noticed that advances in technology was causing a shrinking world effect. He believed that the world had reached a point of six degrees of separation. Since that time various mathematicians, anthropologists, psychologists, and many other people with a suffix title of “ist” have looked into this whole six degrees of separation phenomenon, also known as the small world theory.

Jesus said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

For several weeks now, we have heard from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is instructing his disciples on how to share the good news of Christ. This whole section is often called “The Missionary Discourse” because in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus give five big sermons that serve as a fulfillment of the Torah, as in the first five books of the Bible. These five sermons are called “The Sermon on the Mount,” “The Missionary Discourse,” “The Parabolic Discourse,” “The Discourse on the Church,” and “The Eschatology (or End Times) Discourse.” In fact, we will hear from the later three after today through the end of the liturgical year.

Anyway, the Missionary Discourse is directed at the twelve apostles and instructs them on how to travel, what to say, and to have no fear for God is with them. This whole discourse in a way paints two pictures. First, what does being an evangelist look like, and second, what does hospitality look like? Let’s focus on that second question: what does hospitality look like? And as a follow-up question, how does this affect the way we treat others?

In 1998, two researchers from Cornell University were studying the synchronization of cricket chirps which show a high degree of coordination over long ranges. This led them to contemplate how the “Small World” or “Six Degrees of Separation” effect plays a role in people, animals, and other systems across the universe. What they showed in their research models was that through a small number of random links outside a confined area actually make the average connection of any human being to another human being around six degrees of separation. Of course, this does not include tribes of people with no outside connection, but it is true for those that are connected in any way to the world at large. For instance, the random connection of having friends and relatives that live in other parts of the country much less world is enough random connection to make this “six degrees of separation” principle on average true. And so it really does turn out that we are more connected to one another than perhaps we ever realized. “It is a small world after all.”

And so what does hospitality look like and how does this affect the way we treat others? This concept that Jesus teaches us is one of the most well known, but at the same time one of the hardest to follow. It is easy to be hospitable to your friends and family, but what about everyone else.

There is a short film entitled “The Rabbi’s Gift.” It is a little cheesy, but effective in presenting this point of the Gospels. The story is about an old monastic community that is in such a steep decline that it will have to soon close its doors. The abbot of the community is sharing his concerns with a wise local rabbi who in turn shares incredible news with the abbot. It turns out, the rabbi says, that the Messiah is among the monks in the monastery. The abbot shares the good news with the monks and excitement builds. The monks begin to care for one another in new ways, pray more vigorously, and receive each visitor with warm affection. As you can imagine, a community like that is quickly thriving all because the rabbi helped them see what was true all along… That the messiah was among them, no… not physically, but as a spiritual presence in each one of them.

Jesus said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

Perhaps Walt Disney can also help shed some light on what we are talking about. When Carolena was almost two, we went to Disney World. As you can imagine we found ourselves in the Magic Kingdom riding Small World over and over and over… and it didn’t stop when we returned because a little voice would call out from her car seat “SmaSma.” That is baby talk for Small World. And we would play the song on repeat wherever we drove. Perhaps on purpose or by accident, but this song taps into a truth of our faith: “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears. It’s a world of hope and a world of fears. There’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware. It’s a small world after all.” As the song points out, we are all connected.

Jesus said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

And so what we see in this picture of what does hospitality look like and how do we treat others is that this call is hard. It is the call to not just treat others as we want to be treated but in fact to treat others and welcome them as if it were Christ himself. I wonder how our Sundays at church would change if we had a deep commitment to welcoming everyone that walked through our door, both new and long tenured, as if we were welcoming Christ. How would we change if we treat the stranger or even our enemies in a similar fashion? In the end, isn’t this part of how we show ourselves to be the Body of Christ? We do not conform to the world but rather we transform the world. And so we are to not lose sight of the Jesus within those we encounter. And so yes, truly, I wonder how would our lives and the lives of others be transformed if we acted this way.

It turns out that there are on average six degrees of separation with nearly every person on the planet and that we indeed live, as the ride reminds us, in a small world after all. But even more closely linked than that is the truth that there is only one degree of separation…Yes, there is just one degree of separation through the God that created us in his image.

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist


St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785

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