Take Hold: Be Ready to Share - Rev. Michael F. Bailey

Take Hold: Be Ready to Share
Matthew 10:40-42
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
October 23, 2016

Matthew 10:40-42  ‘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.’ 

I Timothy 6:18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…

Have you ever been the recipient of a small kind act? I’ll never forget going on a delayed anniversary date one night at a fine restaurant in Greensboro. The anniversary celebration had been delayed because of the death of Lauralee’s mother. In the restaurant, we happened upon and chatted briefly with one of Christ Church’s great couples. In the course of our conversation, they learned of our celebration. When we asked for the check, the waitress told us the Christ Church folk had already paid it! We were simply overwhelmed. This had never happened to us before.

So, how about you? Have you received such an act of kindness? I posted that question on Facebook and received several answers. One person said an act of kindness is to ask people how they are doing and to truly deeply mean it and then listen carefully.

Another told of having a short hospital stay. A Church member found out and sent a beautiful card and note. One family related how they felt accepted and welcomed when I sat with them at a new members lunch. Another related how men of the church cut their lawn during an extended illness. I’ll never forget a couple of years ago seeing Mark Vickers give one of Susan’s robes to Virginia, since Susan was part of her inspiration into ministry. Then Virginia showed me where she had put Susan Norman Vicker’s name on the inside with the words “It’s all good!”

And we have some self-named “church mice” here. One of them always remembers and celebrates every staff members’ birthday with a balloon and card; others from time to time whimsically decorate our staff meeting room always with an eye for playful fun…all small, loving acts of kindness.

I wonder, could small loving acts of kindness be how the Kingdom of God is breaking into history? I mean, think of all of the Kingdom images Jesus used which were small: “a mustard seed,” “a bit of yeast,” “a pearl,” a Kingdom led into by a little child and in today’s Scripture, “a cup of cold water.” It almost so subtle we could miss it. Mother Theresa put it well: “Not all of us can do great things, be we can do small things with great love.” Our stewardship theme verse from I Timothy 6:18 calls us “to be rich in good deeds, generous and ready to share.” 

And through the Christ in us we can do small things with great love and in so doing, be Kingdom builders. The world, the politicians certainly lure our attention away with big proposals, grand schemes and purported sweeping reforms. It would seem though that the way of disciples of Jesus is different; it would seem that Jesus calls us to the “cup of cold water” way. 

To do small things with great love means truly, deeply paying attention to others and their needs.

One need we all have is to simply be recognized as the unique child of God we are. Often though, as we move through life, we don’t tend to that very well. I mean, think of how easy it is to overlook people: cashiers, grocery sackers, waiters and waitresses, bank tellers. Barbara Brown Taylor calls recognizing the humanity of others the spiritual practice of “encountering others.”

How might that look? Here’s what works for me: I use name tags to use names! When I’m at let’s say, Harris Teeter, I glance at the name tags of the person I’m interacting with, look in their eyes, smile and ask them how they’re doing and certainly thank them using their name. The reaction is wonderful! They light up! Some though are so used to not being seen on called by their named, they’re a little stunned. That’s how the spiritual practice of “encountering others” works for me.

To do small things with great love also means taking action – serving. 

For one to give a cup of cold water in the mid-east of Jesus’ day meant seeing the person and their need and acting on it with the additional, special touch of “coldness” added in our passage.

Acting matters. Some of us were blessed to hear an incredible testimony that included an awesome act of love from an unexpected place. Christ United Methodist hosted the first luncheon to support the Mustard Seed Community Health Center. Mustard Seed is a faith-based health center in the Cottage Grove neighborhood of our city and is located near Hampton Elementary. It’s based on the United Methodist Church Health Center in Memphis. The keynote speaker was Dr. Leslie Smith. Dr. Smith shared her incredible life story from being a homeless, emotionally damaged teenager, released from a burn center to the streets of Raleigh, to now being board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics and practicing in Boone, NC. She told of a time when she was homeless and waiting in line to get a bed at the shelter. She’d not eaten in some time and nearly fainted. A homeless man, also in line, asked her if she was alright. Because the rules said men and women were not to talk with each other, she and the man were turned away from a bed that night. After Leslie told him of her hunger, he went out and pan handled for her. He came back with the change and took her to the Greyhound station. There, he used the money to buy her a coke and some potato chips. Knowing he was hungry too, Leslie put another straw in the cup and they shared in that “communion” of his seeing her, seeing her need and acting on it. To give a cup of cold water isn’t mere sympathy, it is love translated into action.

And as a congregation we offer many ways where we invite you to act in love and serve. Even now we are collecting flood buckets for Hurricane Matthew Relief. In the Holy Grounds, you can donate blankets, diapers and socks for Christy Oxendine to take to her hometown of Lumberton; last Saturday Lauralee and left a green bag on our porch filled with food with Simple Gesture and recently received an email that that action taken helped collect enough food to provide 23,999 meals. Just before the narthex, you can sign up to ring a Salvation Army bell and give a bit of your time to help the homeless. There are so many ways at Christ Church to act in loving kindness; to serve as Jesus served.

Finally, “a cup of cold water” approach to ministry means giving of yourself, your time and talent and treasure.” 

Now, please note Christian stewardship involves time“and” talent “and” treasure, not “or.” Next Sunday is Commitment Sunday in all of our services. Each service will have a time where, as an act of worship, you’ll be invited to turn in your estimate of giving card. Our emphasis during this entire stewardship emphasis month has been to make your estimate as God leads you through the Holy Spirit and prayer; that’s why we’ve provided the daily devotional booklet. In the church we won’t have gifts that are equal, but we can have sacrifices that are equal. The family at their earning peak should give a gift that is as sacrificial to them as the single person, now retired on a fixed income. In all of our giving, we can trust God to help and provide. Now Biblically, a standard is the tithe, 10 percent of income. Many have achieved that goal and even beyond by starting their giving at 1 percent and growing a percent each year. Lauralee and I have done this and will both testify to you it’s brought us joy, not need. The important thing is to begin somewhere; no matter how small your pledge may be. Jesus promises us that even in the giving of a simple cup of cold water, we’ll never lose our reward. 

Discussion Guide for October 23: Be Ready to Share

Share with your group why you believe Jesus spoke so highly of a simple act of kindness such as sharing a cup of water.

Share with your group what “sharing a cup of cold water” to other disciples means in terms of caring for one another in the church.

Share with your group about a time you shared/received a small act of kindness and how it felt.

Share with your group ways we may practically share small acts of kindness.