Ice Cold in… Felixstowe
Words for 3rd Sunday after Trinity – 28 June 2020 – Parish of Felixstowe
A Cyber Sermon from the Vicarage
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and 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.’ (Matthew 10v40-42)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
In cinematic folklore the final scene of Ice Cold in Alex holds a special place.
So that it had the correct look real lager was used, and several takes were required. Sir John Mills on relating the events said he was ‘quite heady’ by the end of shooting. He also said it was one of the most pleasant days of filming in his career! Mind you John was a real trouper having grown up in Gainsborough Road Felixstowe and in his latter years was part of VADS – the Vicars Amateur Dramatic Society at our own St John’s. I admit to being tempted to reprising the group but I am not sure my stipend would stand the bar bill!
Offering someone an ice-cold drink at the end of a long endeavour is always a kindness and not the preserve of Christians alone. However for those of us who follow the One who poured out his life blood for us it is not simply a kindness but our duty.
The Gospel reading reminds us that when we serve both a follower of Jesus or one of God’s Little Ones (in the Old Testament they are called anawim the poor ones) we are serving God;
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Our Christian duty is not so much about entertaining angels unaware (Hebrews 13v2) but being aware that whenever we welcome and serve anyone in a spirit of Christian love and charity we welcome God.
There are three ways in which we are called to do this.
The first, and in this time of pandemic it is urgent and many have risen to the call, is to help those who, for whatever reason, are unable to help themselves.
This is the literal offering of a cup of cold water. It has been humbling to see how very small amounts from the Parish welfare fund, £30 – £40, have been used in our local schools. They have bought groceries, helped refurbish a computer for home schooling, and buy shoes so that a child whose mother was made redundant can return to school. The Corporal Works of Mercy (the Church’s antidote to the Seven Deadly Sins) are not to be seen an added extra but the meat and drink of the journey of faith.
It is, as the apostle James reminds us, the only way we have of demonstrating our faith.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2v14-17)
But not all of us have the time or ability to be physically active in these works of charity. This leads to the second way we carry out our duty. When we can’t do the work ourselves we support the work of those who can.
In these last few months I have found it deeply humbling and a privilege that parishioners have continued to support the work of the church across Suffolk and no parish clergy in our Diocese have had to be furloughed or made redundant, which has happened elsewhere in the Church of England. Our congregations have worked hard so that the Ministry Team have been able to continue pastoral care and extend our work amongst those who are the Least, the Last, and the Lost. People have gone out of their way to ensure their giving to the church finances continues, increased their regular giving, and some have given extra to support the publication of Weekly News and put fuel in my; car which is doing more miles than usual collecting waste food from supermarkets and delivering medicine to those who are shielding at home.
Thank you! Jesus is speaking about you when he says;
…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
The third way in which we welcome God amongst us is the most challenging of all.
We know we are made in the image of God.
We know we welcome God when we recognise God in the face of the Little Ones whom we help with the necessaries of life.
We know we welcome when we enable the work and ministry of others in God’s name.
Can we always see God in the face of those who do not love us, who malign us, and who perhaps even hate us?
This is a difficult path to walk but we cannot pretend that only the part of humankind that looks, thinks, and acts as we do bears the Imago Dei.
Russian Mystic and Social Activist Catherine Doherty reminds us of this when she says, ‘Faith sees God’s face in every human face.’
We have no choice.
If we are to take our faith seriously and begin the endeavour of welcoming the Lord Jesus in to our hearts than we must also open our arms to those who would wish us harm.
This may be the costliest welcome of all.
To care for God’s Little Ones and to enable the work and ministry of others will cost only time, energy, and money.
To welcome those who are at odds with us will cost us part of our lives.
We will need to learn to give up the sweetmeats of ‘taking offence’ and ‘being justified’ and instead make ourselves vulnerable before those who have no regard, and perhaps even despise us for us because of our faith.
This is the holiest of places to live.
For it is here that,
wounded, we find ourselves
next to our broken Beloved
It is here that,
dying to self, we endure
our small crucifixions
…and it is here that we will find a life worth living and dying for.
[This blog ‘Ice Cold in… Felixstowe’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]