RewardsMAtthew 10:40-42 (NRSVUE)
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 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.”
Friends, many times when we think of faith and religion, we think about things that are formal and fancy with long lists of rules and acceptable behaviors, and big complicated words. I did a google search this week on “words to describe religion” and here are a few that I found: clerical, devout, doctrinal, holy, moral, pious, sacred, sectarian, theological, canonical, ecclesiastical, priestly, pure, reverent, righteous, saintly, scriptural. And yes, those are all words that many people would use to describe religion. But sometimes when we focus on those things and let those things lead us, we lose sight of what Jesus is really calling us to.
Today’s scripture reading, as Matthew tells it, came just after Jesus had called his disciples and was telling them what their mission was and what they were supposed to do. Now as we all know, the disciples were a rag-tag group of misfits. They were not great scholars, nor were they popular in society. They were fishermen and tax collectors. One was a zealot, meaning that he was involved in politics and anarchy, and one was known as a thief and an embezzler. But Jesus called them just as they were, without judgment, and showed them a new way to live and to be. As he taught them, there were no books, no classrooms, no lists of dates and numbers to memorize. Jesus simply taught by his own example, using everyday ordinary things like water, light, bread, salt, fish, sheep, wind, and wine. There was nothing fancy about it, and it wasn’t separate from everyday life. On the contrary, it was life. It was right smack dab in the middle of their real, everyday, ordinary lives. But through new eyes and the acts of faith that Jesus taught them, those everyday ordinary items and actions became something so much more!
This month here in Oldtown our theme is water. Did you know that water is mentioned more than seven hundred and twenty times in the Bible? That’s more often than faith or hope or worship or even prayer! It is mentioned on the first page of your pew bible in the book of Genesis 1:2, “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” And on the last page of your pew Bible in Revelations 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes, take the water of life as a gift.”
Folks, water is an essential component of life, because without water we humans cannot survive. So, it makes total sense that water would flow throughout the scriptures, reminding us of its importance both physically and spiritually in our lives.
Okay, I need your help for just a minute. When you think about stories of water in the Bible, which stories come to mind?
Noah’s ark, Moses floating in the basket on the Nile, Parting of the red sea, Jonah and the Whale, Moses striking the rock in the wilderness, the Israelites crossing the Jordan river to enter the Promised Land, fishing and casting nets on the other side, John the Baptist, baptizing in the Jordan river, Jesus turned water into wine Calming the seas, Walking on the water, Washing the feet of the disciples.
In scripture, we hear that Jesus meets the disciples on the beach and the woman at the well, and he was always taking boats to the other side. And in the Psalms, we hear of running rivers and meandering streams, flowing fountains and great seas. As human beings, water is essential to life, and so it must be to our faith as well.
Okay, well, I want to leave a few stories for the rest of the month, so, let’s take a closer look at what today’s scripture is telling us. Jesus has just called his disciples. He tells them about his mission and then begins to instruct them on what they are to do. And one of the first instructions he gives, besides have courage and don’t be afraid, is “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 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.”
Okay so there is a lot in there, with welcoming prophets and the righteous people and the little ones, and receiving rewards. But basically, Jesus is telling the disciples that they don’t have to change the whole world; they don’t have solve all of life’s problems. They don’t have to fix every issue. They just need to start small, with something that is easy, every day and ordinary. Be kind, and offer a cup of cold water to someone. It doesn’t matter who they are–a prophet, a righteous person, a little one. It doesn’t matter what they do, or where they live, or who they love, or how they vote, or where they work, or what they watch on TV. They are a human being, and if they are thirsty, give them something to drink! The first thing that Jesus called the disciples to share was simple, everyday, and ordinary. It was kindness, compassion, and a simple cup of water.
In Household Huddle this morning, our huddlers learned all about water. They learned about the water cycle and the importance of water conservation, but they also learned about the living water that Jesus gives and how important it is for us to share it with others. They also decorated water bottles for each of you to take and share with someone else–maybe a friend or a family member, perhaps someone you see working hard in their yard, maybe your UPS, Amazon Prime, or FedEx driver, your garbageman, or someone in the grocery store parking lot. Remember, it’s not about judgment and trying to pick just the right person; it’s about using something everyday and ordinary to show kindness and compassion to another human being.
So, my brothers and sisters, as you go out into the month of July, keep your eyes open to the water you see and experience in your life as you take a shower or wash your dishes, as you go to the beach or water your garden. Remember that water is a gift! It’s something everyday and ordinary that can quench your thirst both physically and spiritually. So, use it responsibly. Share it kindly. And let it fill you to overflowing!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!