It is so great to be here and to see all of you. Our lives have been intertwined for many years and we are so blessed to be with you today.
Today marks the end of a year of meeting remotely as spiritual communities in North Carolina. I bet it is much the same for you as we all have had the pandemic woven into our lives for this year. It has been a challenge but also a door to ministry in new ways.
This morning I want to talk about a few reflections on this past year, but before we get there I would like to share this story. Don’t you find that stories are the stuff of our lives as we ply our way in this world? One of mine unfolded some years ago; in fact, it was 10 years ago now that I experienced a heart attack. That heart attack led to a six-way bypass which is, thankfully, still holding well today. Suffice it to say that I am a miracle of modern science and a miracle of God’s blessing as statistics show that one in three die from their initial cardiac event. I share this story because as I laid in bed after surgery I awakened to the medical staff removing the respirator from my airway. I remember how parched was the feeling in my throat. I had had nothing to drink for days. “Would you like a cold drink Mr. Jackson?”, the nurse asked. I nodded and she handed me a cup of ginger ale. Nothing had ever tasted so wonderful as being alive to that cold drink. The nurse, to this day I am sure, does not know how much that meant to me. It was metaphorically the cup of cold water of Matthew chapter 10. It brought an awareness of life and that I am still here and I am alive. I know and trust she is blessed and rewarded where ever she is, and of the one who savored that drink I can say I am blessed as well.
Looking again at the scripture Jonas read in Matthew 10:40-42:
40 “We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. 41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” [Message Bible]
Jesus says, “We are intimately linked in this harvest work;” and then goes on to say “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It is best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out.”
Today, I want to affirm the many acts of grace and blessing I am seeing all around us in this time of the coronavirus. Acts for which I know you are participants along with countless of our fellow travelers. To use the metaphor, cups of cold water are going out everywhere. You are bringing what you have and sharing it with folks in the Meeting and the wider community. I am reminded of those stories of how God uses what seems to be the smallest of things and multiplies them greatly. Like the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fishes there seems to be enough. Charmin is abounding where needed. Here are a few things I know you have been doing:l
You are still wearing masks to honor and keep safe your fellow human beings.
You are staying 6 feet apart when being out.
You have been sharing recipes to use the food we have.
You know a friend is alone so you call or write or both.
You are alone but then you hear from a friend.
You are sharing links to Zoom services with the wider community and far-flung friends who want to be in your lives.
We miss being together but know we are expressing our love by distancing for this time.
Take just a minute. What else would you add to this list of gifts of cold water – either giving or receiving?
I would add to the list the gift of prayer. Luke 18:1 says that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. As I said, we have been experiencing this time of the virus for at least a year and I sense some of us are growing weary and wondering when the heck with all this be over. As far as I can see no one knows exactly when that will be, but we know that vaccines are on the way, and the time of full in-person gathering is drawing nearer and nearer. So as a first resort, pray.
The Apostle Paul says: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. So, for all who are growing weary, we hear you, and will continue to encourage you as we make our way. We ask you to encourage us as well.,
Speaking of hearing, I encourage all of us to be the best listeners we can be. If we are heard, we know we are someone of value. This is something we need at all times and especially now.
I asked around in our community about this question. What are we learning from this pandemic time?
Here are some of the answers I got:
The value of relationships. Even if we are not together we find strength in our family, our Meeting, our community.
Essential workers are heroes.
Being alone is boring and hard but sometimes required. Learn to be content with quiet.
Don’t lose your sense of humor.
For example, recently a restaurant in South Carolina opened its doors but with inflatable dolls seated at half the chairs to create a warmer environment while still ensuring patrons sit at least 6 feet apart. A national publication had a contest to ask what would be an appropriate name for the new socially distanced restaurant chain that fills its chairs with inflatable dolls?
The Winner was: “IPOP”
Second Place went to: “Chick-fil-Air”
And my favorite:
Third Place went to: “Dollive Garden”
A sense humor is essential in this time.
I close with two queries to take into open worship: What are you learning in this time? How is God speaking to you in this time?
Thank you to all of you for bringing your cup of cold water. Let us pray.
O, Lord, in this time of pandemic be with us. Thank you that we are not alone and thank you that nothing can separate us from Your love. Amen.
This message was given to Spokane Friends by Tim Jackson via Zoom on March 7, 2021.