Good day friends - thanks for tuning in. To continue on with our series "Drink from the Fountain of Grace" I have been thinking about the Biblical images of cups and our relationship to those cups. One particular example I have been reflecting on is the role of the cupbearer. A cupbearer was an important servitude role in the royal kingdom as the cupbearer would personally serve the king his wine and ensure that it never runs out. As a result the cupbearer would receive some pretty amazing benefits such as access to leftover food, safe sleeping quarters in the royal home, and higher than average pay than other jobs to the average citizen. Not to mention the influence of developing a relationship with the king himself! However, despite these obvious benefits it came with substantial personal risk as one of the jobs of the cupbearer was to drink the wine first and ensure it was not tampered with. In other words - poisoned. Today's blog will consider how Jesus flipped the conventional thinking of the cupbearer on its head and the implications and mandates for us. But first, let's revisit the most well known cupbearer in scripture - Nehemiah.
Scripture to Read
- My Thoughts -
Quick recap of Nehemiah....he wanted to personally help in the rebuilding of Jerusalem which was left in disarray after the siege of Rome. The king urged him that he could send anyone else but he knew he had to be the one to do it. His mentioning of the cupbearer implies a great deal of privilege that he is giving up. I can't help but see the eerie similarities between Ukraine and Jerusalem (and Rome/Russia) in this scenario. Some courageous people have left places of relative safety to fight for their country because their President turned down extreme privilege and safety in order to do the work himself. (Can this dude just be the leader of the whole world? He is a (humble) force to be reckoned with.) However, the message here is not the measure of ones courage but rather the question of whether or not like Nehemiah you personally feel called to help in the repair. For example, can you buy something from a local Ukrainian artist on Etsy? Or, you could join the millions of people around the world that have booked AirBnB's in the last couple weeks trying to get money into the hands of fleeing refugees. $100 on a house you'll not actually stay in could be food and safe passage for a family. Whatever you can do whether it be prayer or action do so with the confidence you are doing the work of God's people - lifting up others in despair and being a people of hope, light, and life.
I want to return to the image of the cupbearer beyond Nehemiah and bring Jesus into the conversation. In John 4 (which I'll preach from this week) Jesus visits the Samaritan's well and meets a woman that has been living in sin. (with another man other than her husband.) Jesus meets her at the well and engages her in conversation, to which she is reluctant. Towards the end of the message he requests from her a drink from the well and she immediately begins to realize just who this man standing before is. So what's happened here?
Samaritans and Jews do NOT get along
It would be unclean for a Jew to receive food/drink from a Samaritan
It would be unfathomable for a woman to be talking to a man as an equal
Not only is Jesus breaking down customary barriers that have separated His people from others for generations but he is subtly inviting the woman to be the cupbearer for the King (Messiah) in this exchange. Once she realizes just who she is talking to she feels unworthy to offer him a drink but he insists and she does. Even when the woman is elevated to a place of privelage beyond what her peers had ever done Jesus says "not enough" to her assumption she is a servant. She is an equal. A child of God. Worthy of respect from others, her husband, and herself.
Later on Jesus would become the cupbearer himself as he prays to God the night before he is killed. He describes the fearful events as "let this cup pass by me." Like a nervous cupbearer testing the wine for poison Jesus understood that this glass would come at great personal anguish. Earlier that day Jesus would wash his disciples feet, serve his friends a meal and would share with them the cup of blessing. Did you catch that? Jesus was the one that was serving, not being served. Jesus was the one to bless the cup and pour it for others, not the other way around. Jesus was the one to wash the dirt off their weary feet. His disciples never understood his teachings because they were living in a world that was in pursuit of a strong legacy through power, fame, and victory. It was a world like our own where a desperate and evil man invades another country on nothing more than propaganda and lies. It wasn't until many years later that Peter and the crew would come to realize that Jesus' leadership is about servant leadership. It's about feeling the call within your heart to say I am willing to give up being the cupbearer to the bearer of peoples burdens, griefs, and shame.
This lenten season I invite you consider how you can give up some comforts you have now in order to make the life of someone greater. It can start small...maybe your partner is always the one to cook for you. Consider cooking for them one night. Maybe it's buying a hot chocolate for the crossing guard or volunteering to stand out in the cold yourself to make sure the kids to school safe. Maybe it's just taking a moment to celebrate someone at your office who usually goes through their day without being seen. (the cleaners for example.)
I'm thankful for Jesus showing me what it means to be a real cupbearer - I can only hope to have the same courage he did. Amen and amen.
Praying through Praise
Elevation Worship is my favorite contemporary band out there by a long shot. They have come a long way from being like the rest of the popular bands to going deeper with scripture and writing music that reflects the diversity of their church body. The title track of their newest album is unbelievable and is simply an Easter anthem. It's also a message that it is in the weak (lamb) that the roar of the Lion can be found. I invite you to join me in getting (way way way too) hype to LION. Also, at the time of writing this is in the top 25 songs for all of music across YouTube. Like, rock on for helping make church feel so relevant to new people. Just watch the passion pouring out of the thousands of young people jamming with them. THIS. IS. CHURCH. (Ok, I'm done.)