Monday, June 30, 2014

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

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

What is the cup of cold water?
Who are these little ones?

What do these things say about our understanding of God?

The phrase “one of these little ones” is only used in one other place in the Gospel, Matthew 18:
"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea." 
So what we have is reward in doing good, a cup of cold water,
and in this later case,
punishment for doing wrong, a stumbling block.
Both reward and punishment are described in the case of what is done to “One of these little ones.”

Who are these little ones?
Who are these who we are to give a cup of cold water to?
Who are these who are not to put a stumbling block before?

They are anyone in need.
We are called to meet those needs, big or small, meaningful or seemingly meaningless.

Jesus will say in Matthew 25:
“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Hunger, thirst, alone, naked, sick, imprisoned.

If anyone is in need we are to answer.
Calling them little ones implies a helplessness.
It implies someone who will grow.
Think of a little one as someone who knows nothing of Jesus.
They hear about this wonderful man, fully human, fully divine.
They hear the stories of healing, his compassion, his feeding the hungry. They hear how he gave his life for those he loved.

Think of that little one seeing a community of people who follow this same man.

They would rightly expect to see those same qualities being displayed.
A community that follows Jesus should do the same as Jesus did while he walked on earth.

For a community to not be will only lead to being thought of as hypocrites.
Talking the talk but walking the walk.

The letter of James puts it this way:
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

He goes on:
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

So the little ones are anyone in need.
What is the cold water?
It can be anything.
It can be something tangible: food, drink, clothing.
It can be something different: a hug, a smile, a kind word.
Sometimes the most significant thing we can give is our time.
Just to listen.

That cup of cold water will make the difference to a little ones day.
It can make a difference to their life.

It shows what following Jesus means.
It shows who Jesus is and what he does.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

The way we act for and with the least of our society is shows our understanding of how God acts with us.
If we think we don’t need God’s help, we won’t think anyone deserves our help.
God helps those who help themselves is not in the Bible.
Our relationship with God is expressed in how we treat others, especially those who are in need.

We express our love for God in in our love for others:
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

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