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The Reward of Discipleship

givedrinkMatthew 10: 40-42
Introduction to the reading
As we continue our summer series on discipleship, Jesus continues his instruction to the first disciples, the ones who are now apostles, sent out to proclaim the message of the Gospel.  He has been warning them that they will encounter inhospitable environments, rejection, even persecution.  But they will persevere because they know the presence of God with them.

The reward for this ministry is deeply personal to each one.  For they are representatives of Jesus himself.  When they travel, preach, teach and heal, it is Christ whose work will be done by their hands.  The world will meet Jesus through them.

Meditation
Last year, I bought a small round paperweight on the sale table at Barnes and Noble, intending to maybe give it as gift when the right occasion came along.  It reads:

Live simply, expect little, give much.
Fill your life with love.
Scatter sunshine. Forget self.
Think of others and do as you would be done by.

Instead of giving it away, however, I keep it on my bathroom counter.  It makes a good reminder of how to approach a new day or to reflect upon one just ended.  The words on the paperweight are, in essence, the words of Jesus.

As you heard in the Scripture reading, 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.”  It is a watershed effect:  Jesus teaches by word and example; in Jesus’ name, the first disciples teach by word and example; in the name of the disciples, others teach by word and example; and so on, down through the generations.  One by one, the Word of God is brought to the “little ones” – to anyone in need of its saving grace, to anyone who is weary and tired, poor, ailing, anyone who is in deep need of relief and salvation.

Just give a cup of cold water… that seems simple enough.  Maybe it doesn’t take so much to follow the way of Jesus after all.  

In Jesus’ day, it did take quite an effort though.  A household’s water supply came from the village well.  It started out cool in the early morning when someone – usually one of the women or girls –walked there with a clay jar, filled it, and came back with it balanced on her head.  She would set the heavy clay jar down, inside the house, out of the sunlight.  As the hours went by, though, the water lost its cool, crisp, fresh taste.  By late afternoon, it was warm and sort of stale.

And so, bringing a “cup of cold water to one of these little ones” would mean getting up, going to the well again, likely in the heat of the day, and returning with fresh, cool water.  It would mean making a special effort, going out of your way to serve another.  

Just give a cup of cold water… that seems simple enough.  Yet sometimes it feels like it takes everything you’ve got.  You might have to go out of your way.  You might have to set aside your pride or your personal inclinations to do what you might not feel like doing but know you should.  It’s often a matter of attitude, of taking God’s view of human beings instead of our own, of putting God’s gracious welcoming of others at the center of our relationships.

The simple, basic acts of kindness we do in genuine service and care for one another are what that God asks of us.  And you know that God provides many an opportunity.  Taking Jesus’ words to heart means letting ourselves become instruments of God’s will for the world.  “Whoever welcomes you,” Jesus said to his disciples, “welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

As disciples of Jesus, it is our privilege, our responsibility, our joy and our reward to make Christ visible to others.  It’s that simple and that challenging.

Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly, wrote the prophet Micah.

Live simply, expect little, give much.
Fill your life with love. Scatter sunshine. Forget self.
Think of others and do as you would be done by.

Amen.

Rev. Kathryn Henry
Peapack Reformed Church
Gladstone, NJ
July 2, 2017

khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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