Sermon for Sunday, 2 July 2023
By Revd George Mwaura[Bible readings: Psalm 89.12–18 and Matthew 10: 40–42]
In year 6 of my primary school days, a trip was arranged to go to Mombasa the costal port of Kenya and visit the historical city to see for ourselves marine life and sea-going vessels. It was a wonderful opportunity for village boys like me. Notices had been sent to parents with instructions about transport, accommodation, lunch, times of departure and return. For us, the trip was like waiting for Christmas. Finally, the day arrived. We grabbed our lunches and lined up for the bus. At the back of the queue, one boy began to cry because he had forgotten to bring his lunch box and would have to stay behind. In a few minutes, the other children contributed extra sandwiches, fruit and drinks until the boy had a feast for his lunch. With new tears of gratitude, he boarded the bus. We had given him a cup of cold water. Acts of service are not always dramatic or earth-shattering. Simple caring is all that is needed. In the movie Evan Almighty, which is a sequel to Bruce Almighty, God (Morgan Freeman), tells Evan, the way to change the world is through acts of random kindness. The lesson here is that Christian discipleship means being alert for opportunities to care, to demonstrate God’s loving-kindness, and to teach others to do the same. Because at the heart of Christian faith, is the spirit of giving. We often say, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave…’. Great Christians live by the law of love and have always been great givers. Florence Nightingale, for example, was a Christian social reformer and is best known for her role as the founder of modern nursing. John Wycliffe, who translated the New Testament into English, led a grass-roots movement of relief workers who ministered to the poor. General William Booth was a Methodist preacher when he started the Salvation Army, known for being one of the largest distributors of humanitarian aid. I could go on.
We only have to survey the ministry of Jesus to see this theme of service in practice. Everything he did was sacrificial and he calls us today to be men and women who serve others by giving, and this giving takes two forms.
First, we give to help those who need a helping hand. You and I are extremely blessed. We have so much, but quite often we forget how little many in God’s world have. A nun in an orphanage in Congo told me a true story of how the CEO of a company that makes Frisbees in America once sent them thousands of Frisbees. He thought the children in the orphanage would enjoy playing with them. Several months later, he visited the orphanage. One of the nuns thanked him for the wonderful plates that his company had sent them. She told him the children were eating off the Frisbees, fetching water with them, and even catching fish with them. When he explained how the Frisbees were intended to be used, the nun was even more delighted that the children would also be able to enjoy them as toys. On one level, this story is rather amusing. On another, it is sad; very sad..
There are people all around us who would treasure even our cast-off items, people who would be grateful to eat what we throw away, especially in these days of cost-of-living crisis. People in some parts of the world are dying, literally, on the high seas to get here and share what we have, as I am sure you have seen those horrible images on television. A cup of cold water would help. It matters to Christians that there are people in need – not just because we are nice people or because we want glory, but because there was a time when we were in need ourselves. Today, we are the recipients of grace. God was gracious to us when we were helpless and undeserving. So, it’s our duty to look around for others who are helpless so that we may pass on the love we have received.
The second form of our giving is to the work of God. You may have noticed that the lesson we read was not about giving to the poor but giving to those who are engaged in the work of God. Jesus said, ‘And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.’ The little ones he is referring to are those ordinary people he has sent out to do his work. Remember, Jesus was sending his followers out into a very cruel world. Often, they were totally dependent on the kindness of strangers in the lands which they visited. So, he was saying; when you receive one of them and give them even a cup of cold water, you are doing it to him.
The main point of Jesus statement is this: if in obedience to him you will go even a little bit out of your way to be kind and generous to those who cannot pay you back, Jesus promises that you shall not lose your reward from him. At the risk of sounding self-serving, let me say that ministers of religion are sent to serve Christ’s churches in the world. It is only right that in those communities where they serve, they should be kindly received, and that their needs should be met. You never know when you give that cup of cold water whether to the needy stranger or to the work of God how that gift may be used.
And that brings me to the final thing I want to say on this matter: No gift given to the needy or given to the church is ever given in vain. Listen to Jesus again: ‘And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones.…’. Look around you; little ones everywhere. If you reach out to the forgotten, the marginalized, the family living in a slum in Kibera or in a favela in Buenos Aires, the woman trapped in sex industry in Manchester, the newly arrived immigrant next door trying to find their feet, the prisoner who has just been released in your community, Jesus sees your concern for those little ones.
Some people are afraid to give their money, their time, their talent or their life to God because they think they will lose what they give. And to be fair, some have genuinely founded fears. We know some pastors, especially in the Pentecostal churches, who drive around in Range Rovers and fly private jets at the expense of the suffering saints. Sunday in, Sunday out they ask their congregations to plant seeds, but ironically, only the pastor’s seeds seem to grow and produce fruits. This is wrong and it has put some people off from giving to the work of building the kingdom.
But those who refuse to give to the work of the kingdom don’t understand God’s economy. They don’t realise that God works the opposite way. You may think that if you give your money to God, you will lose it. You may think that if you give your time in service to God, the church and others, it’s a waste of time. Well, you are wrong. Jesus gave His life that we may have eternal life, so there is nothing we give now that can measure to what He had to give so that we may have abundant life. As Christians, the true test of our faithfulness and commitment is only validated by our giving because it demands of us to be sacrificial. But don’t take my word for it; just listen to Jesus as he has the lasts words: ‘whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’ His words have remained true for more than two thousand years.