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Jeremiah 28.5-9; Psalm 89.1-4,15-18; Romans 6.12-23; Matthew 10.40-42

Postscript: A cup of water

How many things can you do with a cup of water? (Matthew 10.40-42)



How many things can you do with a cup of water?

If you are with, say, a family group, you might like to hold a glass of water as a visual aid and pause for answers.

You could, of course, drink it. Or rinse your fingers. Or water a plant, make a cup of tea, cook some rice, wash a patch of floor… In hot weather, you could go outside and have a socially distanced water fight!

In this week’s little passage from Matthew’s Gospel (10.40-42), a cup of water becomes a symbol of hospitality – a cup of cold water for a hot, tired and dusty traveller. To be hospitable, to be welcoming, is to provide another person with the basics of food and shelter. But it’s far more than that. For hospitality is no impersonal exercise. A simple glass of water is an embodied way of saying to another human being that they matter, that we are glad to see them, that we enjoy their company. To be welcoming is not simply a matter of handing over material goods. When we open the doors of our homes, we open our hearts. We show someone that they are of value by being prepared to share something of ourselves. We make ourselves vulnerable, thereby creating relationships. And here in Matthew’s Gospel we are told that in welcoming other human beings we are welcoming God.

The opposite of a welcoming atmosphere is a hostile environment. The government’s policy of creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants proved disastrous for our society, leading, among other things, to the Windrush scandal. It created fear, encouraged suspicion, perpetuated divisions, and demonised vulnerable human beings. All in the hope that people would voluntarily leave this country. It cultivated not welcome but rejection. And by shutting ourselves off from other human beings, we risk shutting ourselves off from God.

In this time of Coronavirus, hospitality, like just about everything else, can’t quite be what it was. We haven’t been able to invite people into our homes or into our churches. We can’t give them a hug. But that needn’t mean that we can’t be welcoming – the challenge is to find inventive ways of telling people that they matter, of sharing the basics of life, giving reassurance and comfort, and opening our hearts. Something as simple as a picture in the window, to make people smile as they pass by. For in each welcoming gesture, we welcome God.

Having started with a question, I’ll end with one: How many ways can you think of to be hospitable?


A prayer 

In morning sunlight, birdsong and the beauty of nature,
come to us with joy.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In the care and compassion of family and friends,
come to us with love.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In the creativity of art and music,
come to us with inspiration.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In stretches of boredom or anxious waiting,
come to us with hope.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In uncertainty, loneliness, or desperation,
come to us with peace.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In grief and desolation,
come to us with consolation.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In claps of thunder or a still small voice,
come and speak to us.
May we welcome you
into the clutter and chaos of our homes and hearts.


Prayer with tea

For people of all faiths, prayer is a time to be truly oneself, to let down one’s guard, and express bottled up emotions. I have tried to convey that in this poem.

Assume the lotus position
and hold a cup of tea.
Feel its warmth.

Watch the raindrops pattern
the window. Observe
the watery outline of trees.

Give thanks for the blood
in your veins. Give thanks
for the morning.

Then weep.

Weep for the lonely and lost.
Weep for the terrible cost
exacted in human suffering.

Let tears fall into the tea.
Sit with your God;
and drink together.


Ann Conway-Jones is Chair of Birmingham Council of Christians and Jews.


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