After a long time in lockdown, it appears that things are getting better and hopefully soon we will be able to meet together as a congregation in our own church once again.
Today is the Third Sunday after Trinity and as we celebrate St Peter tomorrow, it is also known as Petertide. Traditionally in the Anglican Church this is the time when new priests are ordained, and Veronica was ordained as a deacon 29 years ago at Petertide.
In today’s short Gospel St. Matthew speaks about water.
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Have you ever been really thirsty? Perhaps you have been doing the housework, or been out shopping and said: “I’m dying for a cup of tea – or mug of coffee”. Or you have been playing or watching sport, and looked forward to a nice glass of lemonade or something else! Have you been watching tennis and seen the players taking their break and invariably a drink. I wonder how many of you remember when the only drink supplied was Robinson’s Lemon Barleywater. Or perhaps you have taken part in a nice friendly game of football, – if there is such a thing – or the rough and tumble on the Rugby field and then enjoyed half a pint of shandy or perhaps even a pint.
Yes, you were thirsty, but not REALLY THIRSTY, not dehydrated as in a desert region, when the lack of liquid in the body becomes life threatening. I haven’t really been in that position, but I got close to it when I was in Bahrein. Some of you may know that in the Persian Gulf in the middle of summer it gets very hot. I won’t bore you with all the details but I was required to fly a low level flight over the harbour and surrounding coastline. It was nearly noon and it was too hot to touch the metal of the wings with bare hands. Getting into the cockpit, was like getting into an oven, and flying around at low level with the sun beating through the canopy was as hot as I imagine Hades to be. When all was done, after an hour, I was soaked in perspiration and had probably lost about four pints of liquid and felt quite faint.
I did not want lemonade, I did not want beer; all I wanted was cool water.
What did our Gospel say? “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these…” Even a cup of cold water! I would have given a king’s ransom for that. No! In the desert, or the hot lands of Palestine, the gift of a cup of cold water is not to be sneered at – it is a gift beyond price.
In the passage this water is to be given to “one of these little ones because he is my disciple”. Jesus talks a lot about children, but here he is talking about his band of followers. The whole of Matthew chapter 10, which has been set as the Gospel over the last three weeks, tells us about Jesus and his instructions to his disciples. Earlier he had told them about what to do, “As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near’ “. This is a direct instruction from Jesus to his disciples that they were to go out and spread God’s word.
And we as followers of Jesus we are also tasked to spread his word. Today that is called ‘mission’, and we know that if there is no mission then we are not a church. Mission is our work and we know it is not easy to spread God’s word to those who do not wish to hear. In the Gospel reading, Jesus is talking about the rewards. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” What a wonderful thought, and so clear. Jesus was sending out his disciples to take news of the kingdom of heaven to the Jews.
They were doing his work and so those who received the disciples favourably, or welcomed them as it is translated in the New Jerusalem Bible, were also welcoming Jesus and those who received Jesus were welcoming God the Father who had sent him. And so today, if we are God’s true disciples, anyone who is receptive to your telling the good news of the Kingdom of God and spreading the Gospel message, is welcoming Jesus; and anyone who welcomes Jesus welcomes the one who sent Him, that is God the Father.
And going on with the reading, “Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward”. What do we mean by a prophet and a prophet’s reward? Where would we look for a righteous man today? In today’s world we can think of a missionary or a person going out to spread God’s word as a prophet and I would hope that all modern day Christians would be righteous men and women.
OK. so we can understand that a prophet should receive a reward in the life hereafter, but why should anyone who receives him or her, receive the same reward? That is the wonderful simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For those who believe that Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified for our sins, and rose again on the third day, the reward is eternal life; to be made heirs of the Kingdom of God.
By the Grace of God, that reward is the same for all, you might say, that for those who receive Jesus into their life and are born anew, it is their birthright.
I remember a sermon many years ago, when the preacher emphasised: The Gift, the Blessing and the Call.
God in his loving mercy has given us the chance to be free from our sins. If we acknowledge our sins and accept that gift, God showers us with many blessings, one of which is eternal life – to be with Him in glory. And after we have received the blessings we each have a call, to live out our faith in our everyday lives and to pass on the good news of God’s love to others. The Gift, the Blessing and the Call.
Let us return to thinking about the gift of cold water. In the Bible we have lots of imagery concerning thirst and water and wells, because it was easily understood by a people who were aware of the importance of water in a hot dry land. They could not get water by just turning on a tap.
We all remember the story from St John’s Gospel about the Samaritan woman at the well in the heat of the day and how Jesus told her, “Everyone who drinks the water (from this well) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
We are all thirsty for spiritual refreshment and we turn to Jesus because he is the only one who can protect, refresh and sustain us. Without God in our life we are nothing. But with the gift of spiritual water that Christ is offering – and that spiritual water will become in us a spring of water welling up to eternal life – we can be born again and do anything in the name of Jesus.
And remember what happened to the Samaritan woman when she had accepted Christ’s gift she rushes back to her village to witness to Jesus and lead others to him. This is the proof of living water, the stuff of the new birth – a life redirected from being a sinner to being a glorious witness for Christ.
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply on us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may pass through things temporal
that we lose not our things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ sake,