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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.


Photo: CC0 image by Photo Mix


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12 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: A Cup of Cold Water

  1. Wednesday evening and i am still tossing up between Psalm 13, and talking about lament; and Matthew and thinking about how we welcome/ or don’t welcome people into church.
    from Sermon4kids website – Jesus said, “He who receives you receives me.” If we turn that around, we will understand that if we do not welcome others into our homes and into our churches, it is the same as if we are refusing to welcome Jesus. We wouldn’t do that, would we?

    it may be one of those weeks with 2 mini-sermons, starting with Lament and moving on to the Gospel.

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  2. I’m not sure your topics aren’t connected. We lament over the state of the world, the circumstances of our lives, yes. However, if we want to move from lamenting to joyful service of God, we welcome others, especially those the world rejects or ignores.

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  3. In the time of the writing of this gospel, a cup of cold water took work. You didn’t just go to the refrigerator and dispense a cup of cold water. Water was gathered in clay jars and soon became lukewarm in the desert heat. To give a guest a cup of cold water required an extra measure of hospitality. An unplanned trip to the well, a new gathering of water, a carefully timed presentation of a drink of water. A drink of cold water was exceptional. This was exceptional hospitality that stretches the hostess and host beyond the ordinary. And, yes, the world and our neighbors need us to stretch ourselves beyond the ordinary.

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  4. I’m going back to Philly en route to a wedding and preaching at my church for the first time since I moved to Ft. Worth in June 2014. I need a finished sermon loads to my kindle by 5 am because I’m not taking my laptop. (Worst case, copy what I have to Notes, Pages or Word to revise and preach from my phone.) I’ve got most of it. I need an ending but I’m still in the screaming phase.
    I am lamenting. It is a season of lament for black folk particularly in the US.

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  5. I’m debating between Paul and Matthew right now. I put both texts in the lectionary, as we read 2 texts with the Children’s’ Sermon. I am considering doing the CS on Matthew and the full sermon on Paul to get both ideas in. Even if we don’t have kids due to summer, I have been sharing the message with the adults as a reminder that we can all learn from the simpler messages some time. Feasting of the Word talks about how everyone is a slave to something that keeps us from following God’s will in relationship to Paul and I’m seriously considering taking this as a way to talk about fear – fear of others, change, the unknown etc so that I am giving my congregation a break from the direct “what it means to be church” theme of the summer, but still challenge them in a way that will hopefully help them recognize ways that fear is blocking them from being church. The welcoming of Matthew definitely has direct ties to our summer theme, but I am realizing that until some underlying issues are addressed and accepted they can’t truly focus on the larger issues. This congregation thinks they are very welcoming…and they are as long as you seem to fit in ok. To really get them to hear Matthew I think I would have to do some major pushing that as a still new minister (almost 5 months) I still don’t have the relationship with them to do yet. All of this to say that right now Paul seems “easier” to preach right now. Or maybe I’m just rambling at this point lol.

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  6. I’m preaching on Genesis 22. I avoided this one the last time it came around. There are so many questions about this text, and I’m not sure how much I can address or answer them. i am sure that we all face trials of faith in different ways. Our ongoing challenge is to trust God in whatever situations we find ourselves. 4th of July is a big homecoming weekend in this small town, and this will be my first time to experience that. They tell me to expect lots of people in church on Sunday and in town throughout the holiday. I’m easily distracted by the holiday buzz. Trusting God to help me get a sermon done despite my…..squirrel!

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    1. When I learned that child sacrifice was common with other gods, it changed how I view the story. God revealed the uniqueness of God more than tested Abraham. May the Spirit be with you as you wrestle with this text.

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