On Cups…

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26: 26 – 28 

Across from my desk at work on the top shelf of a bookcase is a China teacup and saucer. While this teacup may seem out of place in an office setting, for me, it is a constant reminder about how many different “cups” we drink from throughout our lifetime. Each “cup” representing a different stage or phase in our life and who we are becoming. Interestingly enough, the word “cup” is mentioned many times throughout both the Old and New Testament. Each time it could just be about the cup and yet many times it is what the cup represents. And depending on your interpretation of Scripture the word “cup” can occur as many as 90+ times or less again depending on the interpretation you use.

So…some examples: When Joseph is in prison, his ability to interpret dreams got around and when the Pharoah’s butler and baker found themselves in prison dreaming they called upon Joseph. The butler told his dream first and Joseph told him that the dream meant in three days he would be restored as the Pharoah’s butler and would continue to deliver Pharoah’s cup into his hand…the baker seeing the favorable outcome of the butler’s dream shared his with Joseph only to be told that his dream meant that in three days Pharaoh would take his head off his body. (This story can be found in Genesis 40)

There is Psalm 23 which states in verse 5: “…You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” In this instance the cup represents the many blessings God fills our life with and because God is a good God, our “cups” our lives, overflow with blessings.

In the Seder meal, celebrated at Passover, there are four cups that each person drinks from and each cup has a different meaning. They are named from the passage in Exodus 6 that says: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

I will bring you out…the cup of sanctification or blessing. I will deliver you…the cup of deliverance or judgement. I will redeem you…the cup of redemption. I will take you…the cup of praise or restoration.

Of course, Jesus when he shared the Passover meal with his disciples, he took the cup at the table and blessed the cup, then shared the cup with his disciples saying to them, drink this all of you for the forgiveness of sins…do this in remembrance of me. Later when he went to Gethsemane to pray, he asked God to take this “cup” from him…but then said: “not my will, but yours.” Many cups…with many different meanings.

The same is true throughout life. As toddlers we drink from a sippy cup because if we didn’t, we would spill all over everything. As we get older, we drink from a regular cup. Although when we get really old (depending on your definition of really old) we may need sippy cups once more. As Adults we drink from coffee or teacups that give us a morning jolt of caffeine. (And by the way, did you know there are 22 different kinds of coffee cups?) We drink from cups filled with water to keep us hydrated as we take care of our bodies. Some of us drink from cups filled with beer or other alcohol and if we drink too much we can get into big trouble!

But we also drink from metaphorical cups. Our cups can be filled to overflowing with blessing or they can be cups we don’t want to drink from because they are filled with sorrow and suffering. The word cup becomes the metaphor for a person’s fate just as it was in the story of Joseph and the Pharoah’s butler and baker. And sometimes the cup we drink from isn’t personal but encompasses an entire nation. For example: Jeremiah 25:15 “God will force all the nations to drink from his cup and stagger to destruction.” Yikes!

Cups…They are filled with blessings and sufferings. Sometimes I wonder if what they are filled with isn’t  directly related to our attitudes. If we see our cup as being half full our outlook on life is decidedly different than when we see our cup as being half empty.

Which now begs the question: What is your cup filled with?


Pastor Beth

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