“Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink…”

two hands sharing a cup of water

Messages on Mark 9:38-50

Each week, Moravians across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean share a common message through their Sunday bulletins.

This month, we share writings based on Mark 9:38-50. This Bible text is for “Proper 21” in Lectionary Cycle B of the Revised Common Lectionary used by the Moravian Church.

Seeing God’s handiwork

Terry Folk, pastor, First Moravian Church, York, Pennsylvania • September 28, 2008

The scenes on CNN were incredible! As the war in Iraq raged on, humanitarian aid flowed simultaneously into the country in massive quantities, trying to help meet the basic life needs of the Iraqi people. Most impressive to me were the tons of drinking water being shipped, trucked, and pipelined directly to the people. Crowds of people massed around the relief trucks with buckets and containers of all shapes and sizes for the refreshing water that would quench the thirst of family members. Whatever one’s political views with regard to the war in Iraq, no Christian could dispute the necessity of the life-giving water for those in dire need.

In the Gospel passage for today, Jesus puts Christian caring into personal terms—the gift of a cup of water from one person to another. What a simple gift Jesus speaks of here! As his followers, we are not called to do extraordinary things beyond our power or capability. We are asked to give the simple things that anyone can offer to another. In so doing, we affirm the value of another person in the eyes of Christ. Any expression of kindness, any genuine offer of assistance, any caring response to human need, proclaims the love of Jesus himself to another. It is as simple as giving a thirsty man, woman or child a cup of water.

This passage gets right to the heart of what the Christian life is all about. As disciples of Christ today, are we willing to give of our time, energy and resources to give a cup of water to another? Are we as a church willing to step out of our comfortable sanctuaries to share the love of Christ in simple, concrete ways with those in need in our communities? As we give the cup of water to another, we share the gift of the abundant, life-giving love of our Savior.

Stay Flavored!

Corresa Whyte-Walters, elder and youth advisor, Grace Moravian Church, Queens, New York. September 30, 2018

There is just something about salt! This multipurpose commodity comes in various forms, types, and colors. When used in the correct proportions, the kind used in meal preparation is usually for taste/flavor enhancement. True, food prepared without it can be quite satisfying to the palette, but too much spoils the taste. Over time, ingesting too much contributes to ill health. 

So what did Jesus mean when he said to the disciples, “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?” (Mark 9:49–50 NIV). Certainly Jesus meant no harm toward them.

“Salted” Christians are matured in their faith and should therefore display exemplary lives earning the respect of others. Non-Christians should be eager to emulate us. “Salted” Christians should live peacefully and harmoniously with each other, have unwavering faith, and be kind and caring. Those on the outside should be able to readily say that “they are different” in a good way. When asked, we should proudly proclaim, “Yes, we are disciples of Christ!” not denying our Savior. By our deeds they should know we are Christians.

As “salted” followers of Christ, we are commissioned to be preserved and flavored with God’s grace and mercy; to be sanctified and armed with the word of God, as ambassadors for Christ. The tenets of goodness and upright living should exude from our pores.

When Jesus says, “Have salt among yourselves,” it is a charge to stand out in the crowd; to show love to our brothers and sisters and not be judgmental; to be in this world yet not of the world.

Let us therefore remain flavored in our Christian faith; be salted and preserved with the word of God; and be at peace with each other.

What Good Is Salt?

John D. Christman, pastor, Leaksville Moravian Church, Eden, N.C. • September 28, 1997

Jesus said on one occasion, “God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me” (Matthew 5:11 CEV). It is doubtful that many of us are offensive to people because of our religion. Indeed, the church is accepted by all parts of society today. We have gained the acceptance of people, but in gaining the acceptance of society perhaps we have lost our uniqueness.

An ancient king asked his three daughters how much they loved him. One daughter said that she loved him more than all the gold in the world. One said she loved him more than all the silver in the world. The youngest daughter said that she loved him more than salt. The king wasn’t pleased with that answer. But the palace cook overheard the conversation, so the next day he prepared a good meal but left out the salt. The king couldn’t eat the meal. Then he realized the value of salt.

Jesus was paying his disciples a high compliment when he called them salt. In the ancient world, salt was a very valuable commodity. It was used for currency in some countries right up to modern times. During an invasion of Ethiopia in the late 19th century, Italian soldiers found blocks of salt stored in bank vaults.

Salt has no food value. Indeed, doctors tell us that too much salt can cause harm to the body. Of what value is salt if it has lost its flavor?

What Jesus is saying in our lesson today is, “What good is it to be a follower of mine if there is nothing distinctive about your Christian commitment?” If by following Christ you make no contribution to the lives of others, if there is no redemptive power flowing through your life and actions, what’s the use of calling yourself a disciple?

Make a highway straight!

Steve Gohdes, pastor, Christ Moravian Church, Calgary, Alberta • September 30, 2012

People of faith would do well in highway construction. Highway construction strives toward constructing safe, straight, worry-free travel for all upon that road. The prophet Isaiah lifted up a vision of the Messiah and those who would serve in this way to “make straight in the desert a highway for God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low” (Isaiah 40:3b-4a). Isaiah’s issue was the call to clear away obstacles for those who walk or journey in a way of faith.

The firm and direct words of Jesus found in today’s Gospel reading deal with obstacles. My recollection of the manner in which our two children learned to walk includes lots of memories of them stumbling and tumbling and falling. Often, these falls were precipitated by something being in their path. In the early stages of walking, the toddler is most at risk of a fall when a bit of an obstacle is present. A throw rug on the hardwood floor is a perfect obstacle over which the toddler will stumble. As a toddler staggers from cement sidewalk to the fringe of the lawn, there is often the risk of a stumble or fall. Stairs are a huge obstacle for a little one at this stage of walking.

Our society and our churches have taken a serious stance on accessibility of buildings by adding ramps, elevators, lifts, etc. These steps have sought to remove known stumbling blocks or obstacles that have denied people access to churches, shops, government buildings, or schools.

Christ’s commands to those disciples present that day were to intentionally urge each to be a highway worker in having the grace of our Lord accessible to all. Jesus noted that childlike faith and innocence are within the heart of those who serve the kingdom of God’s peace. May we be at peace with one another along this pathway of faith as Jesus invites.