by Jeanette Bidne
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and 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.” (Matthew 10:40-42)
These words in the Gospel of Matthew resonate with me: “[W]hoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…”
They make me smile. As a pastor, I am often presented with a cup of cold water wonderfully transformed by a parishioner’s coffee maker into a soothing cup of hot coffee. Often I am welcomed with more food and coffee than words. There is something about accepting a cup from another, holding the cup in your hands, feeling its warmth in winter or its coolness on a hot day.
Could a simple cup be a sign of God’s grace? An object becomes sacred when it is used to share God’s love—whether it warms a cold body or quenches a parched throat. I remember one visit with a parishioner when my coffee cup was hardly allowed to reach half empty. During the visit, I took a sip or two and when I looked down, my cup was full again. My host proved watchful and caring. A safe place for conversation was created with a couple of cups of water and some coffee grounds.
Gifted in faith
Yet the words from that lovely phrase in the Gospel of Matthew bother me. Reward? My Lutheran radar beeps, and I am reminded of the expression, “We are saved by grace alone and not by works.” Many verses in the New and Old Testament tell us that we receive life and salvation as a gift from God. Why then do these words in Matthew talk about rewards?
We cannot determine in Matthew’s Scripture who receives the reward or what the reward is. Some might say God’s favor is the reward. Some might the reward is heavenly. But I wonder if it is more immediate.
Sharing a cup of grace
When we share the love and grace of God with one another, we have an opportunity to represent Christ–to be God’s hands and feet. In being the body of Christ to one another, we can witness and share God’s grace daily.
We can share God’s grace in quiet conversation over coffee after the death of a loved one or the joy of a new birth. We can share Gatorade with thirsty high school athletes, while letting them know that we care about them: their athletic gifts and their faith lives.
Through the cup that Christ shares with us in Holy Communion, we are reminded that we are loved by God and made in God’s own image, through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Sharing a cup seems like such a small act, yet with God in the act, it is a cup filled with love and grace.
1. Have you experienced love and welcome over a cup (be it coffee, tea, cider, hot chocolate or Gatorade)?
2. What portions of the verses from Matthew 10:40-42 stick out to you? What rewards do you think may happen in sharing Christ’s message and welcoming and serving others?
3. What acts of God’s grace and love have you experienced this week? How can you share a cup of cold water, Christ’s love and message to others?
God of Welcome, you promise abundant life in this world and eternal life to us as a gift. Help us to embody Christ, not in search of a reward, but that we may receive, give and see your presence in our daily lives. Amen.
The Rev. Jeanette Bidne serves Esther Lutheran Church of Parkers Prairie, Minn. She is a wife, scrapbooker, crafter and interested in helping people connect Scripture to daily life. She also enjoys a good cup of coffee.