In the verses prior to the ones in today’s reading, Jesus reminds us that the gospel can break families apart; it can set men against their fathers, daughters against their mothers. But going into a mission eld and taking the good news of God’s love often creates a more enduring community than some people expe- rience in their biological families—especially when the good news is welcomed. The relationship between the messenger and those who receive the message is key to all of us receiving the rewards of relationship with God. In Matthew 25 Jesus reminds us that when we welcome even the least of his brothers and sis- ters, we welcome him.
While serving my rst pastorate, my wife and I divorced. She expected her family and home church to disown her; they did not. I expected the members of the small rural church I served to say they could not have a divorced pastor; they did not. Most of the church members supported and encouraged me. Many of them had weathered their own storms in life. They had experienced what it meant to be offered a cup of cold water. God’s grace was truly active in both these instances.
I trained as a chaplain in a major Minnesota hospital, serv- ing on the Women’s Oncology unit. Daily I would visit women who were struggling to survive. A group of older women became my teachers. Many of them had life stories lled with suffering and loss. Inevitably at the close of the visit they would say, “Through it all pastor, God has been good.” Circumstances do not determine God’s goodness. In these moments of ministry, where I not only gave God’s good news but received it as well, all of us received the reward of God’s grace—the sure knowl- edge that sometimes even a cup of cold water can bring us into the presence of the Almighty.
Today I will have a hard conversation with God as to whom I welcome.
Not only is God’s call on Abraham unthinkable, it jeopardizes the long-delayed but now-realized promise. Yet in the end, Abraham’s faith and God’s grace prevail. Psalm 13 is the classic example of a psalm of complaint. It shows that a prayer of complaint is a vigorous, active form of hope in God. Thus the psalm moves from a situation of need to a resolution in joy and confidence. In the passage from Romans 6, Paul juxtaposes three pairs of opposites: sin versus righteousness, freedom versus slavery, and wages versus gifts. For Paul, sin is a power that exceeds the abilities of human beings to contest. Only God is a match for the power of sin. We cannot earn or achieve eternal life; it is a gift from God. Matthew 10 makes a strong claim about the identification of believers with Jesus and, in turn, with God.
• Read Genesis 22:1-14. We do not often face such demands from God as the one Abraham faced. What hard situations has God called you to? What hard conversations followed?
• Read Psalm 13. The psalmist asks God to pay attention and take his situation seriously. When has that been your request of God?
• Read Romans 6:12-23. When have you felt like a scout earning merit badges for God? How has obedience from the heart helped you reorient your life?
• Read Matthew 10:40-42. What “cup of cold water” might you offer to someone in need?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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