September 24, 2018
[Jesus said:] "Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward."
 [Mark 9:41]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, September 30, 2018, the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
A cup of water in Jesus' name is a powerful witness.
To give a cup of water is a symbol of meeting another person's essential need, a gift, a meaningful expression of hospitality and genuine welcome.
Along the southern border of the United Sates, several faith-based volunteer groups have taken this image to heart in recent years.
Clergy members and volunteers of the group, No More
Deaths, march into a national wild life refuge in Arizona 
in August (Photo: Huffington Post, Ash Ponders)

One such group, No More Deaths, is based in Tucson, Arizona. Their mission, as their name indicates, is to end deaths of undocumented border crossers in Southern Arizona. They offer humanitarian aid to migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, by providing water, food, and medical assistance in the desert, a free legal clinic in Tucson, and assistance to migrants and deportees in Northern Mexico.
I only recently learned of the group when I read an article in the Huffington Post, in which they claimed that some of their volunteers were being targeted by federal agencies for their work.  They were facing misdemeanor charges for, among other things, littering federal property, because they left water bottles for those migrants on those restricted federal lands.
This is not the first time that No More Deaths has raised these accusations. Apparently, the clashes between the group and Border Patrol agents have been going on for quite some time.
Our nation is deeply divided over the issue of Immigration. I've made no secret of my sentiments in many of my previous Musings, so my purpose is not to debate the merits of my position. Regardless of where one stands on the immigration question, arguments over policy must not let us forget that we are first and foremost talking about people - human beings, created and loved by the same God that is creator of us all.
This upcoming Sunday's reading from the Gospel according to Mark is full of powerful images:  a cup of water, a great millstone, the undying worm, salt and fire. There is layer upon layer of meaning in all these images. The words of Jesus challenge us to examine the quality of our lives and more important, the quality of our discipleship. 
The world needs us.  It needs the hope we offer, the water and food we share, the relationship with God that we have entered into.  The world needs to hear the message of salvation that God brings through us, to hear the word we have about our unity in the family of God, and about how God loves us and wants to help us be whole.
The world needs us. No matter how different we may seem to be to one another, if we are really using the name of God, the name of Jesus, in our work of helping and healing, we are working together.
The world needs us. It needs to hear the message we bear about our common brother and sisterhood. The world needs to see that we are - in fact - all related and that our relationship is one of peace - of shalom - of God's righteousness and God's love.
When we understand this, the world in which we work, and for whom we work, is blessed. The world needs us to work together - even if we work at different things or work in different ways for the same goal.
We may not ever agree on immigration reform, or resolve the world's humanitarian crisis.  We may never eliminate hunger or find cures for disease. We may never resolve conflicts, but we can be a blessing wherever God places us.  We can be the place where people come and find rest in God. We can be a cup of water, to a migrant or any other child of God.
There are many ways that we can care for others, and there are so many that need our care.  Let us share with others what we ourselves have received from God.
Another week, another Conference Gathering with rostered ministers. This Tuesday morning I will be at Advent Lutheran Church in Uniontown with the servants of God in the Canton-Massillon Conference.
Tuesday evening at Ashland University, I am privileged to be one of a panel of faith leaders who will discuss Christianity and Immigration. The discussion is one of a series of events under the theme of "Who Is My Neighbor?" presented by the Ashland Center for Nonviolence. The panel discussion will be held in the Ridenour Room, Dauch College of Business & Economics, beginning at 7 p.m.
On Wednesday at noon, I will meet with the Worship Committee at the Lutheran Center. From there, I will be heading out once again to Chicago and our Fall meeting of the Conference of Bishops.
The words of my closing blessing this week are adapted from the assigned lectionary Psalm [Ps. 19:14] and a verse with which I end all my sermon prayers:

This week and always, may the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart be acceptable in God's sight.
+Bishop Abraham Allende