So, how are you feeling? Be honest with yourself. Don’t give me that” Facebook happy” version of how you WISH you were feeling. Give me that “Awake in the middle of the night with your brain spinning like a gerbil on a wheel” version of yourself. I can handle it. So let me ask the question again. How are you feeling?
At this point in our journey with COVID-19 most of us are starved for live interactions with people who are not members of our immediate family. We wake up tired or depressed or pessimistic, or maybe a combination of all three. We’ve had to cancel vacations, birthday parties, family gatherings, and other social events. Many of us haven’t been to a restaurant, movie or concert since February. The last worship service we had in person at Abiding Savior was during Lent.
At the beginning of this pandemic, I had envisioned a big Easter celebration for the first Sunday we were able to return. I saw us filling the sanctuary to capacity and singing Easter hymns at the top of our lungs. Needless to say, I’ve had to significantly adjust my expectations of what worship will look like when we’re able to safely gather again. It’s still hard for me to admit that we won’t be able to sing hymns or recite prayers and creeds together, because it’s not safe for us to do so.
So, if you’re feeling poorly these days you’re not alone. This pandemic has taken an emotional and financial toll on all of us.
In addition to dealing with the pandemic we are also having a national conversation about systemic racism and police reform. It’s a conversation us White folks cannot ignore this time around. The Church cannot ignore it either.
We also need to be concerned about global climate change (Remember that?) It’s something we’ve put on the back burner because these other issues have taken center stage.
When we add these three global issues on top of our personal challenges, it makes us want to run and hide. We look at the endless ocean of problems that need to be solved in our world, and feel paralyzed to do anything about them.
Thankfully, Jesus, in our gospel lesson, gives us a wonderful coping strategy that is made for times such as these. He teaches us the importance of narrowing our focus considerably. It’s a strategy that has worked for me personally, throughout my pastoral ministry. Multi-tasking is overrated. I have found that if I focus on one thing at a time, and give it my full attention, I am a lot more productive than if I try to do three things a once.
This is how Jesus did it. He had an endless ocean of people who surrounded him. They flooded him with requests for healing, wisdom, and even how to prepare supper for over 5,000 people. It would have been easy for him to feel overwhelmed and stressed. But, instead, he gave his followers a piece of wisdom he often followed himself:
Jesus said, “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.”
The best paraphrase of this verse comes from The Message: “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
When facing an endless ocean of problems to be solved and needs to be addressed, Jesus tells us to narrow our focus, to work on giving a cup of cold water, and that will be enough. I believe he meant this both literally and metaphorically.
We can accomplish a lot of things with a cup of cold water. It can revive a wilted tomato plant. It can wash the hair of an infant. A cup of cold water can quench our thirst on a hot summer day. It can be mixed with mud and straw and turned into a brick. It can be added to flour and yeast and made into a loaf of bread that will feed a hungry family. A cup of cold water is a powerful thing. Don’t underestimate it.
Likewise, Jesus tells us that small acts of kindness and service can do a lot of good in our world. We are the mustard seed that grows into a large bush where birds can find shade. We are the candle that gives light to the entire house. We are the little pinch of salt that makes the meal taste better.
You see, Jesus has been giving us this advice over and over again, in many different forms. It’s the wisdom that good things come from small packages. It’s a reminder that we are far more powerful than we can possibly imagine. Jesus is telling us to trust that the cup of cold water each of us has to give is not only enough, it is a force to be reckoned with. Can we believe this? Can we trust that it is true?
So, my tired, pessimistic and depressed friends, this is the gift Jesus is giving to all of us, in a time of pandemic, protest, and global climate change: Each of us cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good we can do nonetheless. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the endless ocean of problems that exist in our world, focus on the cup of cold water that you can personally give.
Reach out to others who are suffering from the same social isolation blues as you are. Make masks if you have the talent, or share vegetables from your garden with your neighbors. Support black-owned businesses. Read a book on systemic racism. Make a donation to an organization like Beloved Asheville who works with the homeless, or My Daddy Taught Me That which is a local mentoring program in Asheville for black male teens.https://mydaddytaughtmethat.org/
Give your cup of cold water, wherever and whenever you can. Don’t hesitate! Make it happen! Believe it is enough. It’s something everyone can offer, from our youngest church members to our oldest. We can do this even in the midst of a global pandemic, where our contact with others is limited. We just have to be a little more creative, than we’ve ever been before.
But I’ve watched us continue to be the church, even after our building has been closed for over three months. So, I know we can do this! We still have cups of cold water to give. We still have lives to change with the power of Christ working through us.
I love you. I miss you. I long for the time when we will be able to gather again in person for worship and ministry. But in the meantime, we have cups of cold water to give to a world that is so very, very thirsty. Don’t hesitate. Believe that it is enough in these uncertain and troubling times. Amen!
Copyright ©2020 by David Eck