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01 March, 2013

The cup . . .

March seems to be “coming early” this year.  It was just the other day we were anticipating Christmas, anticipating celebrating the birth of Jesus and now we are in the midst of Lent, the season of Easter.  

Often during both the Christmas and Easter seasons a word or a phrase related to the season becomes a focus of my thoughts.   Recently, I’ve been focusing on the phrase “the cup”. 

The cup, what is it?   The cup was a common Jewish metaphor either for joy or for divine judgment against human sin. Jesus applied this figure to Himself for He was to bear the wrath of God’s judgment against sin in place of sinners (cf. Mark 10:45; 14:36; 15:34). He would drink the “cup” voluntarily.  The cup, for Jesus was his emanate journey to the cross.   It was a journey to the place of willing sacrifice, willing obedience to do the will of His father, to do what he had been sent by the Father to do.  

During this Lenten season, Christine and I have been pondering thoughts written by Henri Nouwen in his book  “Can You Drink the Cup?”  (click here to read more) In this book, Nouwen reflects on the question Jesus asked John and James after their mother asked Jesus if they may sit on His right and left hand sides in His kingdom: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Nouwen uses the cup as a metaphor for our lives and breaks it down into three parts: holding, lifting and drinking. “Can we hold our life, lift our life, and drink it, as Jesus did?” 

To hold it:
Before anything else we must hold “the cup.”   To hold the cup is more than just living our life.   Nouwen states, “Holding the cup of life means looking critically at what [how] we are living.”   Christ demonstrated he was living for His father’s purpose.   The question which comes to my mind is, “Am I living courageously for Christ in every joyful or sorrowful circumstance?   Am I living in a way which helps connect people to Jesus?”

To lift it:
In lifting “the cup” Nouwen shares it is “Lifting our cup means sharing our life so we can celebrate it. When we truly believe we are called to lay down our lives for our friends, we must dare to take the risk to let others know what we are living.”  The question I’ve been pondering is,  “Am I lifting my life with all of its joys and its sorrows for others to see and encouraged so they too can lift their lives and connect others to Jesus?”

To drink it:
Nouwen writes that drinking “the cup” means “this is my life . . . I want this to be my life.”    Drinking the cup is recognizing we have been created uniquely by God and for His purpose. Regardless of circumstances in our lives, whether joyful or painful, God’s love and contentment in Him is enough.      The question I’ve been pondering for myself is, “Am I content with what God has given me and am I content where God has placed me?”    

Just as Jesus demonstrated unconditional selflessness and love for me, I too desire to demonstrate that same kind of love by holding, lifting and drinking “the cup” God has given me.  

Serving Him with a grateful heart,