Go to most sit-down restaurants and what is the first thing your server does? Fills your water glass, right? In all our discussion about water this Lent, let's remember that water also symbolizes a basic act of hospitality.
There is a wonderful story in Genesis 24 about Abraham sending his servant back to his home country to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant and his attendants had ten camels in their caravan. When they arrived, the first person to greet them was Rebecca. She got their attention right away when she offered to serve them water - no small task for a group of thirsty men, right? But then she made a lasting impression when she offered to bring water for their camels "until they have finished drinking!!!!" (emphasis mine) How much water would that have been?
The great source of all information - google - says a thirsty camel can drink as many as 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes! So mathematicians, if Rebecca brought water until the camels finished drinking, and there were ten camels, how much water did she bring? Right, 300 gallons of water! How much lifting would that have been? As the old saying goes, a pint's a pound the world around. Eight pints to a gallon, 8 pounds per gallon, 300 gallons...Rebecca eventually lifted 2400 pounds not including the water she brought to the men. Now that's some heavy lifting. Obviously she made a few trips, huh?
Rebecca ends up receiving the invitation to return with the servants and become the bride of Abraham's promised heir. That's Old Testament speak for really romantic and happily ever after! And it all started because a young woman offered to go above and beyond in showing hospitality to a group of strangers. Some things never change.
As another old saying goes, the loudest sermons we preach are the ones with no words - and that doesn't apply just to preachers! When we look for ways to serve others to whom we owe no debts and aren't looking for favors, we not only get people's attention, we make a lasting impression. We live in a time when our world is so divided politically. We listen for what words others use, how they react to certain people on television, even which news station they watch, in order to base our impressions. We live in a time when our diversity seems to stretch people beyond their limits. We wonder, "How can we pull together?"
Maybe the answer is as old fashioned as Rebecca. Let's just look for ways to serve others.
I'm always wondering how to get people to want to visit St. Luke's. Do we need more advertising? Is it more programming? Is it better preaching, music or welcoming? I'm sure the answer is yes for all of these, but I also wonder if it's not more basic. As we unite in our effort simply to serve others, perhaps this would be the most appealing impression we could make. Let's be the church all of Indy knows as the place where people go out of their way to serve you. What might God do with such deeds?
I'll drink to that!