Williams: The cup of kindness
Jan. 27, 2018 at 12:04 a.m.
As the new year of 2018 began, the New Year's song, "Auld Lang Syne," came to mind from a 1788 poem by the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns. Scottish for, essentially, "Old Times' Sake," the poem is about remembering past times together, which is why we sing it at the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.
The poem begins, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, / And never brought to mind? / Should auld acquaintance be forgot, / And auld lang syne!"
It asks whether we should forget old friends and old times, and the implied answer is that, no, of course we should not forget such things. Let us remember and celebrate them in joy.
The chorus goes, "For auld lang syne, my dear, / For auld lang syne. / We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet, / For auld lang syne." For old times' sake, we'll take a cup of kindness.
On one level, taking "a cup o' kindness" surely indicates having a drink in honor of the past, and New Year's celebrations frequently make use of such drinks. But there is also a metaphorical meaning to taking a drink with and in honor of dear friends.
Friends do not just share drinks; they also share life, memories, and well-wishes. This is indeed a cup of kindness, and, while others may forget the past and their dear ones, we will still take a cup of kindness yet, remembering that past as we move forward in life. In fact, we can only move forward well if we do honor that past.
Jesus Christ, in his own way, promised to remember a cup of kindness.
In Matthew 10:42, Jesus promises to reward those who give "even a cup of cold water" to someone who is one of Jesus' disciples. He appreciates the kindness done to his disciples, with whom he identifies, and he promises to reward the favor done to them. Even a small kindness, like a cup of water, given to even a little disciple will not be overlooked when the time comes to reflect on how men lived.
Of course, the most famous cup in the New Testament that we are to remember is the cup that Christ himself took at the Last Supper.
We, too, are to take that cup, remembering, as often as we do it, Christ and the blood he poured out in his death on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).
Taking the cup of the Lord's Supper is a remembrance of Christ's presence among us, dining with us, but especially of his death on the cross for us. We are, in fact, commanded by Christ to remember Him in this way, so let us do so, reverently and frequently.
The cup of Christ is a remembrance of His death on the cross, but it is also a cup that makes us anticipate the future: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (v. 26).
Taking this cup of kindness — indeed, this cup is far more than just kindness — is a proclamation of Christ's death, which is essential to our salvation.
Taking part in the Lord's Supper is one way to demonstrate our faith that Christ died for us, and it also is a demonstration of our faith that He is coming again.
We remember Christ's death in the past, over and over, until He comes again in the future, which we anticipate and even long for. Just as we are faithful in proclaiming what Christ has done, let us be faithful in proclaiming what He promised that He will do.
It is a new year. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? By no means. Let us take a cup of kindness yet — and give one too. And let us take that cup of kindness for old times' sake — and in hopes of new times of joy as well.
— Will Williams is a lecturer in residence and professor of theology in the Honors College at LeTourneau University. He holds a doctorate degree in religion from Baylor University and a master of divinity degree from Duke Divinity School. He is fluent in English, French, Danish, ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Chinese and German.