Day 22 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 22

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Many people feel cursed-cursed by God with illnesses, losses, handicaps, and misfortunes. They believe their cup doesn’t carry any blessings. It is the cup of God’s wrath, the cup Jeremiah speaks of when he says: For Yahweh, the God of Israel said this to me, “Take this cup of the wine of wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it; they will drink and reel and lose their wits, because of the sword I am sending among them…. You will say to them, ‘Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Drink! Get drunk! Vomit! Fall, never to rise again, before the sword that I am sending among you!’ If they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, you will say to them, ‘Yahweh Sabaoth says this: You must drink! Look, for a start, I am bringing disaster on the city that bears my name, so are you likely to go unpunished? You certainly will not go unpunished, for next I shall summon a sword against all the inhabitants of the land, Yahweh declares’ ” Jeremiah 25:15-16, 27-29).

This is not a cup to lift “to life.” It only brings misery. It is not surprising that no one wants to get close to the vengeful god that Jeremiah depicts. No blessing is found there. But when Jesus takes the cup on the evening before his death, it is not the cup of wrath but the cup of blessings. It is the cup of a new and everlasting covenant, the cup that unites us with God and with one another in a community of love. Paul writes to the people of Corinth: “I am talking to you as sensible people; weigh up for yourselves what I have to say. The blessing cup, which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?” (I Corinthians 10:15-16).

The immense suffering of humanity can easily be understood as a sign of God’s wrath, as a punishment. It often was understood that way, and it often still is. The Psalmist says: “Yahweh is holding a cup filled with a heady blend of wine; he will pour it, they will drink it to the dregs, all the wicked on earth will drink it” (Psalm 75:8). And we, looking at the horrors that plague our world, are saying, “How can there be a loving God when all this is happening? It must be a cruel, spiteful God who allows human beings to suffer so much!”

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