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Some of you know that I had an issue with kidney stones a few years back. This is not something I recommend to anyone. They say the pain is equivalent to a woman giving birth. Ladies: I am sorry. We are not worth it. When everything was back in order, I had several follow up visits with the doctor. I asked the Doc a number of questions: it still hurts a bit, what should I do? Answer: drink more water. How can I prevent them from reoccurring? Answer: drink more water. Is there anything else I should be doing? Answer: drink more water. I asked: do things like coffee count? He looked at me blankly, sort of cocked his head to the side and said: drink more water. At this point, I was beginning to catch on. Drink more water. So I do, but what kind? Do I go with regular old tap water or something a bit more… expensive?
Apparently when it comes to drinking more water, it’s not just those of us who’ve had kidney stones that think about that one. The bottle water industry, of course, wants us to think they’ve got a superior product to what comes out of the tap. Why? Money! By 2022 it is estimated that worldwide sales of bottled water will exceed $320 billion. Not surprising, because a bottle of water is about 300 times more expensive than a glass front the tap. And how does that industry dupe us into spending that kind of money on something we can more or less get for free? Answer: fear. And that fear has two major thrusts. The first is the obvious: fear that the water coming out of the faucet is dangerous. There are some instances when those fears are founded, but in most cases, the water in the bottle is no better than the water out of the tap, but the second of those fears is the one that is more interesting and far more subtle, but it is apparently a major driving factor.
Stephanie Cole, performed a research project on the topic. Addressing this second fear, she writes, “There is also a deeper subconscious force at work here, one that caters to our desire for immortality.” (Source) Put another way, we spend umpteen billion dollars on bottled water, because we’re afraid of death. One of the other researchers in the study, Sarah Wolfe, states: “Our results demonstrate that corporate [ad] campaigns appeal to people who measure their personal value by their physical appearance, fitness levels, material and financial wealth, class, and status.”
Do you remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man? It is in Luke’s Gospel. Lazarus was a poor beggar who laid at the gates fo the city. Each day, the rich man passed him by, ignoring Lazarus’ needs. Eventually, they both die and the tables are turned. Lazarus is in eternal glory and the rich man is in hell. Seeing this, the rich man calls out to Father Abraham: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” Father Abraham replied: “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”
(Now, before you think I’m slapping you around this morning, if you look in my refrigerator, you will find sparkling water in glass bottles, so I’m not judging here!)
Essentially, Father Abraham said to the rich man, you drank bottled water your entire life. You were concerned more about… what did our researcher say… You were concerned with “physical appearance, fitness levels, material and financial wealth, class, and status.” You were concerned with these things and you never gave Lazarus a second glance. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus said, “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” To the rich man, Father Abraham said, “You want a drop of cool water… a drop… to bring you even a moments relief to your current agony. Yet all Lazarus was ever really looking for from you was a glass of cool water. Had you given him one, you would be with us now.”
Our Gospel reading today is the end of the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples before sending them out into the world to do the work of teaching and healing, the work he had been doing. So, where I do believe that Jesus, when talking about this cup of cool water, is speaking about caring for the physical needs of others, I think the larger context is providing a cup of cool water for the soul, for Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Yes, the disciples when going out were to care for the needs of others, but more importantly, they were to give cups of this eternal life giving water that flowed from them to any of the little ones who asked. As we too are the disciples of Jesus, that is also our duty. We must also be the vessels who carry this eternal life giving water into the world, so that we are able to give cups of cool water… so that we are able to share Jesus. We may not think we are qualified for such work, but the Lord knows differently.
There was once a water carrier in India whose job it was to bring water from the river to his master’s house. Day after day, he would take two pots on a long pole down to the river, fill them up, and bring them back to his master’s house. One day, he fell, and one of the pots was cracked.
The water carrier continued to use both pots, but by the time he arrived at the house from the river, the cracked pot had leaked out half the water.
As this is just a story, pots can talk and have emotions, and the cracked pot eventually became so ashamed of its inability to properly carry water, that it said to the water bearer, “I ask that you simply break me on a rock and throw me on the rubbish pile.”
The water carrier understood the distress of the pot, so he said, “Today, I’m going to make the trip like I always do, but I won’t fill you up. I just want you to look around and tell me what you see. Will you do that?
“Yes,” said the pot, “but when this day is done you are to do as I ask.”
The water carrier only smiled and they made the journey to the river and back. When they returned, the water carrier asked the pot what it had seen.
“I saw the trees, birds, grass and flowers along the path, but I saw nothing to warrant my continued use. None of those things had anything to do with me.”
“Ahhh,” said the water carrier, “but it does. You see, two weeks after I had fallen I noticed that I was leaving a trail of water behind me. That day I took some wildflower seeds and I spread them along that side of the path. You have watered those seeds, which have become flowers, which I pick every day now when I am coming back. Now I do not only grace my master’s table with water, but with beautiful flowers as well.”
None of us may think we are qualified to be the vessels of living water, the ones who are called upon to give cups of cool water to those are thirsty, but the Lord is able to use even a bunch of cracked pots like us.
We are the disciples of Jesus, the ones who are today called upon bring life giving water to the world, a world that is in just as much agony as the rich man in hell. The only difference between the story of the rich man and Lazarus and us today, is that it was too late for the rich man. There was a barrier that could no longer be crossed, but for us today… nothing. Many need to drink more water… life giving water and we choose, we can freely give it to everyone we encounter.
At the beginning of this conversation with the disciples, the Lord said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” We are those laborers and we cannot ignore the thirsty. When he calls, when he asks who will go—who will bear the eternal life giving water into a thirsty world—as his disciples, we respond, “Here am I. Send me!”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, Lord of the harvest, call many members of our community to be generous workers for Your people and to gather in Your harvest. Send them to share the Good News of Jesus with all the people on earth, that we may be one body and one people. Father, we ask this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.