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A Cup of Cold Water

As I have been finding my way around St Stephen’s, I’ve tried to spend a little bit of time on as many days as possible at the food pantry, meeting our neighbors who volunteer, neighbors who drop off donations, and neighbors who come for groceries to feed their families. All of these are essential to the vitality of this ministry. If any were missing, our work would be diminished, or might vanish altogether! Standing out there, you can’t help but notice the generosity of donors and the kindness with which volunteers tend the line, doing what they can to not add more stress to people’s complicated lives.

One day last week, one of our neighbors visiting the pantry suffered a medical incident, possibly brought on by the hot weather. Realizing they were not feeling well, others helped them find a bit of shade by the steps and offered the very last bottle of donated water on hand in the pantry. A friend of this neighbor assured us that they would be okay but needed to get out of the heat.

I think our neighbor appreciated the cool water and I hope it eased a moment of potential crisis. What struck me was the tenderness with which their friend, others in line, and our pantry volunteers tended to this neighbor’s needs, expressing concern, and then helping them back into the friend’s air-conditioned car. In a world that often seems oblivious to the presence of other people, to say nothing of their needs, watching all this take place was to catch a glimpse of God in action, right here on N. Broom Street.

It also brought to life words we’re using this summer in our opening rite of Confession and Forgiveness:

God is a cup of cold water when we thirst.

God offers boundless grace when we fail.

The image of God offering a cup of water comes from a gospel reading a couple of weeks ago when Jesus praised “those who give even a cup of water to one of these little ones.” (Matthew 11:40-42). Our liturgy compares God’s forgiveness to the refreshing power of cold water to revive us on a hot day. But it also reminds us that through the simplest actions of care and concern we can each embody God’s love for the people we encounter.

May God give us many opportunities to lean into the work entrusted to us: to love, to invite, to serve.



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