Cool Water

Cool Water  |  Matthew 10:40-42

God starts with us where we are, for not even God can start anywhere else.

I have written that thought before. It may not be true, given that God is outside of time and space and can therefore start, or finish, or dwell, at the beginning, or the end, or everywhere in between at once.

Still, God starts with us where we are. To put it another way, Water from fountainwherever we are, God is already there.

The two verses from Matthew are oddly worded. What does it mean to welcome a prophet in the name of a prophet, or a righteous person in the name of a righteous person?

Perhaps we are dealing with the ancient belief that names were the essence of a thing—knowing the name of something gives you a powerful connection. To act in the name of something or someone is likewise to connect, to identify, with that thing or person. To welcome a prophet in the name of a prophet is, in a manner of speaking, to be a prophet. To welcome a righteous person in the name of a righteous person is likewise to be a righteous person.

To give anything good and helpful in the name of a disciple is to be a disciple, even if the gift is only a cup of cold water. Small service is still service. A little faith is still faith.

I have to admit that when I hear the phrase “cold water”, I immediately think of the Sons of the Pioneers and the Bob Nolan song “Cool Water.” There have been many recordings by artists ranging from the Pioneers to Hank Williams to Joni Mitchell. The song tells of a man crossing a desert, longing for water. Hearing it, one has to appreciate the power in such a simple thing as water.

Small gifts, small faith, and still one remains a disciple. That changes the perspective on Jesus rebuking the disciples in Matthew 8:26—O you of little faith! Even with their small faith and small understanding, they remained the chosen disciples of Christ. Likewise, a cup of cold water is no small thing, not to someone in the desert.

Not all deserts are made of sand. Some are made of loneliness, or depression. Failure. Rejection. Mourning. Loss. We usually don’t know what people need when we see them.

It may be something as simple as a cup of cold water.


The Ice On Our Wings

Fourth Sunday After The Epiphany  |  Matthew 5:1-12

Snow On BushIt is difficult to find a passage of scripture more famous than the Sermon on the Mount, and within this passage it is hard to find verses more well known than the beatitudes, the blessings.

In Matthew’s telling (Luke differs), Jesus spoke eight blessings, or nine if you view the two mentions of the persecuted as separate. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, and those who are persecuted for righteousness. Also blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Five of the blessed appear weak or downtrodden. In the midst of these five, Jesus offers three who appear strong and outgoing—the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. Are these three offered as contrasts to the other five? Or does Jesus consider all of the eight to be strong in the spirit?

Whatever Jesus considers them, these eight groups get what they desire. Because their hearts are centered in the good, they receive the good.

They get it.

As I write, a winter storm is passing, leaving the ground covered in ice and snow. The night sky is low and the wind is cold, ice flakes filling the air. Strangely, a seagull has landed (crashed?) in my yard. It lingers, chattering, before once more taking flight. Surely it is hungry, and poor, mourning the night and the ice and the cold, feeling persecuted by the weather. I doubt it deems itself blessed. It likely thought that the ground was not where it should be, but that moment of rest was what it needed to continue through the storm.

Blessed are the poor in spirit and the mournful—they recognize their neediness. Blessed are the merciful and the pure—they recognize need, and the good, in others. All of the blessed ones share the honesty to know what they are lacking, what God is waiting to provide.

Somewhere in the darkness, a seagull is still flying with ice on its wings.