When I read through the texts for this week my first thought was that the whole world needs a cup of cold water. We need to stop worrying about who has the better cup, or who deserves a drink, or who should be first to drink and just hold out a cup for the first thirsty person we meet. Is this not what Jesus would have us do? There’s too much fighting, too much violence, too much death. There’s just too many people who have forgotten that there love and grace in the world.
The story of Abraham and Isaac makes us squirm. How could God ask such a thing? How could Abraham be so willing to do it? Personally, I am a bit envious of Abraham. He had such deep faith that he trusted God enough to risk his own son. I’m not sure I’d be able to do such things. But Abraham had drunk deeply from a cup of cold, pure water, more than once. He knew the God he worshiped and, moreover, God knew Abraham. God showed the world that God was not like the lesser gods of the day. Unlike them, God did not require the sacrifice of a child to be pleased. God needed nothing more than Abraham’s faith that all would be well if he did as God asked.
Why aren’t we as trusting as Abraham was? Why do we often lack a depth of relationship with God that would enable us to believe that all will work out if we love and serve God? The Romans texts offers a pretty good answer. We are reluctant to offer or to receive that precious drink of cold water because we are enslaved by things that do not matter very much at all. The appetites of our bodies, the whims of society, the inability to accept our status as God’s beloved… whatever it is that turns our attention away from living in God’s abundant love is killing us. Paul clearly says that the payment for sin is death. Someone throw some of that cold water on us now so we can begin once more to walk the path that leads from death to life. Is it not time to leave behind our selfish ways that nurture and preserve our culture of violence and our systems built on white privilege?
Matthew would tell us that if we want things to be different, we need to pay attention to the welcome. Who do we welcome? Do we welcome the ones who are easy and comfortable to welcome? Or do we welcome all who have need? Do we seek to preserve our current level of comfort and privilege or do we risk opening our doors and our hearts to those who need a community of love and grace? Do we offer cups of cold, life-giving water to those who thirst or are we afraid we might run out and keep it only for ourselves? When did church become more about safe-guarding traditions and dogmas than it is about providing living water for all who thirst?
I don’t know about you, but these texts stir a yearning deep within my spirit. God has told us again and again what we must do to truly embody Christ. We must first love and trust God with all that we have, even that which is most precious to us. We must be willing to let go of all the little gods we serve and turn toward the One who offers us eternal life. And then we must welcome all and greet each one with a cup of cold, refreshing, living water. This would be so much better than the pain and suffering the world offers. So let’s drink deeply and get to work; there is much that God would have us do.
These texts are rich with images and sermon possibilities. Where is the Spirit leading you this week?
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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