It is Holy Week, and I have been thinking about water. Not holy water, mind you; just ordinary water. You see, I gave up drinking all beverages except water for Lent. (I know you’re not supposed to talk about your fast while you’re fasting, but the period is almost over, and it helps make my point for this post.) I have been thinking about water throughout this season, but admittedly more so as the fast nears its culmination in the joyful celebration of Easter.
And I have been thinking about the earthly visit of the holy one and his call to a holy life.
One that involves water. Ordinary water. Maybe even just a cup of ordinary water.
Long before we get to Holy Week, Jesus has gathered his disciples to dispense advice before he sends them out. These instructions are tough, even hard to hear, but are not without encouragement. There will be folks who receive them and welcome them into their homes. But there will also be folks who won’t. Some may be even hostile toward their teaching. There is talk of separation from family and perhaps worse as he talks of crosses and swords. There will be terrible punishment for those who reject them and therefore him, but great rewards for those who welcome them, and therefore him. Jesus ends this training session by telling them “… if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth he will certainly not lose his reward.”
Travelers became thirsty. Without drive-through windows or even rest-area vending machines, a cup of cold water from a friendly villager was a necessity. Even this simplest form of hospitality wasn’t just a nice gesture -- it was refreshing, maybe even lifesaving. Not everyone could prepare a feast or lodging accommodations for the traveler, but everyone could likely spare a cup of water, and even such a basic display of welcoming kindness is deserving of a reward. God takes seriously the welcoming of his people in even the most ordinary of ways.
Fast forward a few years to Holy Week. It is just before the Passover Feast. Jesus has gathered his disciples once more for parting instructions. Again, these instructions are tough and hard to hear, but also not without encouragement. There will be more rejection and separation. Later that night there will be crosses and swords. But there is also talk of a reunion, and a comforter, and a great love. As the evening meal is being served, Jesus gets up and pours some water into a basin. The travelers’ feet are dirty. And he washes them, a job usually done by a servant prior to the meal. He is setting an example. They are to live in humble service to one another. This is so important to God that in his last hours with them, he has Jesus take the time to show them and tell them. “Do this as I have done for you,” he says. “And you will be blessed.”
Not gifted in hospitality? Can’t prepare a feast or provide four-star accommodations?
You’re not off the hook. Go to the well and draw some water, and fill either a cup or a basin – or both! -- and offer it to a weary fellow traveler.
Water. Ordinary water. But water that becomes holy when offered in his name to his people.