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A cup of water

A cup of water

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

A cup of water

Sept. 6, 2005   News media contact: Tita Parham*  
800-282-8011   Orlando {0355}

NOTE: A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

When I was growing up in Mississippi, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans was our playground. Happily we rolled over the undulating piney woods toward the costal plain of marshes and hummocks of live oaks. On the Mississippi Sound at Biloxi and Gulfport we walked the white sandy beach and enjoyed the amusement park rides. To the west, New Orleans (pronounced Noo Órlans) beckoned with its picturesque French Quarter and the grand old amusement park on Lake Pontchartrain.

My old playground has become a place of death and destruction. It has happened before when Hurricane Camille struck in 1969. It is even worse after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina this summer.

The deferral of maintenance of the levees and pump systems at New Orleans and the slow response of the government immediately following the disaster is providing recrimination throughout our nation with unknown long-term repercussions. The urgent concern right now is the drama of human tragedy.

Each of us has a part to play in this drama. Every one of us has something to offer to our neighbors in desperate need.

The gospel of Jesus Christ shapes our vision of the world and gives direction for the way we live. In the midst of the drama on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans, we hear the word of our Lord, "For truly I tell you, whoever gives a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward" (Mark 9:41). The hospitality to the first Christian witnesses that Jesus praised is what the world owes to all of God's beloved people who are suffering following Hurricane Katrina.

HOUSTON — Hurricane Katrina evacuees line up to receive clothing, shoes and other essentials at the Houston Astrodome building. A UMNS photo by John Gordon. Photo #05-230.

The part that everyone can play in this drama of human suffering is to offer a cup of water to those in need. The water is all that the people need for survival — drink and food, clothing, shelter, employment, and moral and spiritual support. Each of us can contribute money to the American Red Cross and United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Many of us can contribute in more personal ways. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center is developing opportunities for congregations and individuals to give assistance during the period of relief and long-term recovery.

There are some Christian churches that emphasize theological reflection to help people to trust God in the face of human suffering. In the Wesleyan tradition we express our theology primarily through action: we do not have all the theological answers, but we know how to pass on a cup of water.

A cup of water is more than water. It is also a gift of love that flows through our hearts from the infinite fountain of God's grace revealed in history in the cross of Jesus Christ and that is poured into our hearts today by the Holy Spirit.

In Holy Communion when we pray the Great Thanksgiving there is an epiclesis — "a calling up" — to the Holy Spirit to make the bread and wine the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This prayer of the Church teaches us to always ask for the coming of the Spirit to transform us and our world. In this moment, let us offer an epiclesis to the Spirit to help our suffering neighbors and to strengthen us to offer them a cup of water.


This article relates to Outreach and Disaster Response.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.