Read Matthew 15: 10 – 20
Imagine that you’re holding a cup of coffee, when someone comes along and bumps into you, making you spill your coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? “Because someone bumped into me!” I hear you say! But no! You spilled coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup is what spills out.
Therefore, when ‘life’ comes along and ‘shakes’ you (which it inevitably will) whatever is inside you will come spilling out.
It’s easy to pretend that our lives and our hearts, are filled with goodness and light – the fruits of the Spirit – until, that is, we get rattled. It’s then that what’s really in our hearts and lives spills out.
So, we have to ask ourselves ‘what’s in my cup?’ ‘When life gets tough, what spills over?’ Is it joy, gratitude, goodness, kindness, peace, forgiveness, love, gentleness, patience and humility? Or have we hidden anger, or bitterness, or prejudice, or selfishness, mean spiritedness, or hatred (you will know which of those lurks within) under a layer of froth, like the sweetness of froth and chocolate on top of a coffee. When we get knocked, does the darker side of us spill out?
We are all ‘cups’ and we have to decide how to fill ourselves. If our lives are filled with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation, resilience, positivity, kindness, gentleness and love for others, that’s exactly what will spill out of our mouths when we are knocked.
Of course, I have gone a bit ‘off piste’ with my analogy, because it focuses on something we can physically ‘take into’ our bodies, and Jesus says it’s not what we physically take into our bodies – our food and drink – that makes us bad, it’s what is in our hearts that comes out of our mouths that makes us bad, unclean, but I think you catch my drift.
So, if you and I are filled to the brim with the love of God, with compassion, love and kindness for others, filled with that pure life-giving water that Jesus offers us (Jesus himself, as life-giving water) that’s what will spill out when we are knocked or shaken in life.
You see, the thing is, you can bet your bottom dollar that people are looking at us as representatives of Jesus when we meet adversity. We are Christ’s ambassadors and people will be listening to us, whether we realise, or like it, or not. So, what is it they hear from us when we are knocked and shaken? They will, of course hear whatever has filled our hearts to the brim.
So, will they hear gratitude and goodness; patience and peace; joy and gentleness; compassion and forgiveness, and love for others; or will they hear complaint and cursing; bitterness and prejudice; selfishness and stinginess? What will spill out of us?
Naturally, whatever is inside a vessel is what comes out, when it’s knocked.
And as Churches we sometimes feel shaken and knocked; we are not as strong as we once were. And what do people hear from us as a Christian community, as representatives of God, of Jesus, when Christ’s Church meets adversity – you really don’t need another list!
What do people hear from us, the Church, when we encounter the evils of violence, oppression, greed and enslavement in the world. Do they hear words of inclusion, welcome, generosity, solidarity and sanctuary? Or do they hear words of collusion, exclusion, defeat or apathy? What comes out of our mouths is what defiles us… that’s what lets us (and God) down.
Or, just as bad, do they hear nothing at all? Are we silent on the things that matter in the world; things that are matters of life and death for people, the things that cause God to grieve and weep, the things that matter to our neighbours, those down the street and those we will never meet.
In our times of trial, as individuals and as Christ’s Church, we must ensure that what spills out of us when we are knocked gives God glory. What spills out of our mouths must build others up in love, our words and works must invite and include, not destroy and discourage. What spills out of us must not defile us, rather it must contribute to the building of God’s kingdom on earth.
Perhaps then God can do something amazing, even through us, as people want, with all their hearts, to know ‘the source’ of the fruits of the Spirit that overspill from us – even when we are knocked.