Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Cup of Cold Water!

It is overwhelming sometimes to come face to face with death.
Through it we see just how small we are to control life.
My wife’s (Vicki) grandfather is dying.
For us and her family it has been hard to watch a once active man change and move on to the next phase of life.
He is still the same gentle loving soul even now in these final days, but he is not the same.
He is changing as he makes the final journey to be at home with his Lord.
But you want to stop it, or speed it up and make it less painful for him and everyone else.
We see that in these instances despite our pleas there is inevitability to it all.
But in that moment you feel helpless.
Yesterday we were visiting him.
As I was talking with him trying to comfort him he kept asking me for “Cold water”.
I got the nurse to bring some cold water.
Sometimes that is all we can do.

Our Gospel from Matthew today comes at the end of a long discourse about mission and discipleship.
It comes after the sending of the seventy, and Jesus talking about what it cost to be a disciple.
Jesus reminds the disciples once again that it is not easy.
That they too may not be welcomed just as Jesus in certain cases was not welcomed.
To be a prophet is to be disliked.
To live a righteous life is too take the hard road.
And it is not for everyone.
But the least we can do is give a cup of cold water to one of God’s little ones.
Jesus is arguing from most to least.
You can welcome prophets and the righteous.
But even just giving a cup of cold water will do.

There is something comforting about that.
Not that being a disciple is easy, but that what we are called to do is obtainable.
There are so many things that we want to change but in the face of them we are often left to feel inadequate.

Recently, there were tornadoes in Springfield, Ma.
Seeing the destruction on the news made one feel inadequate.
What are we to do in the face of such destructive power?
It just so happened that the weekend after the tornadoes we had our synod assembly in Springfield.
Only a couple of blocks from where the tornadoes ripped through the city we met to be the Church.
And on Saturday we set out to do what we could.
My service project was to go to a park and put on a carnival for some neighborhood kids with an organization called the Lion’s den.
The pastor who runs the program told us that we were doing a great thing by showing up and doing what we could to help.
It wouldn’t seem that putting a carnival in a park would help.
I mean we were not moving trees from people’s houses or cleaning up after the tornado.
But the kids in that park were also affected by the tornadoes they saw it and had fears about being confronted with something of such awesome power.
They needed something that was good and reminded them about the normalcy of life.
We did not save the city of Springfield we merely showed up and gave a cup of water to people in need.

A couple of months ago the Friendly Kitchen burnt down.
It was again one of those things that made you feel that you were powerless in the face of the power of fire.
One of our members John Jurnot was moved to say that he could do something.
He organized people in the community to put on a successful concert at the Barley House.
Because of his efforts the Friendly Kitchen now has $2,000 more dollars to build.
It has not rebuilt the entire house.
But John showed up and gave a cup of water.

This week we hosted Bike and Build.
We did not do this last year for whatever reason.
But Marlene Smith and Linea Stevensen came to give them rides to the Holiday Inn to shower.
Jennifer Buck cooked dinner and Cynthia Marple cooked them breakfast.
Bike and Build is young people giving up a summer of their lives to build affordable housing from New Hampshire to British Columbia.
Each participant had to raise $4,000 to go on the trip and they use the money to build affordable housing partnering with local groups.
It did not solve all the worlds housing problems, but we got to welcome some young righteous people putting the world back together.
People from our congregation spent some of their time helping others.
It may not seem like much but people showed up and gave a cup of cold water.

Sometimes we get lost in all the things we can’t do.
We get lost in the complexities of the situation or the problem.
When all that is really required is that we show up and give of our time and talent.
That is what Jesus always asks of us is that we show up.
When called we are ready to do what is necessary.
We don’t have to do everything only the things within our power.
Certainly welcoming others and giving a cup of cold water is within our powers.

What are the ways that you will be called on to serve God this week?
Who will ask you for a cup of cold water and will you be able and willing to do it.
Or will you get lost in how big the problems are, how little control we have, how complex the solutions seem to be.
I think it is easier then we make it look.
If someone is in front of you that needs help do it.
Don’t over think all the eventual possibilities simply show up and give a cup of water.

I learned this week that at the end of our days that is really all we need or want anyway.
We want someone to be there holding our hand and getting us our cold water.
Everything else is in God’s hands.
This is how we live in grace and not in the law.
This is how we live sanctified righteous lives.

St. Paul tells us this morning that because of our baptisms we are given new identities.
We no longer allow sin to exercise dominion in our mortal bodies.
That instead of living for the law we live in grace.
That grace gives us the power to put on the face of Jesus Christ.
That we don’t have to be slaves to sin, but can be slaves to righteousness.
This means working to make things right.
Righteousness does not mean perfection, but toiling in the world to make things the way God intended them to be.
One of the bikers was telling me how the trip was reminding her of all the good that is done in the world.
What I think that looks like is that each of us in our lives has opportunities to offer others cups of cold water.
Each of us has the opportunity to offer hospitality.
Each of us has the opportunity to share the grace of God with others.

It is sometimes overwhelming to remember how little control we all have.
We cannot solve so many of the world’s problems.
We cannot stop our loved ones from dying.
But we can hold the hand of someone dying, offer some bikers a place to sleep, make a meal for weary travelers, give money to a worthy cause, and give a cold cup of water.

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