Saturday, March 18, 2023

Life-Giving Water

Living Water is a metaphor for the endlessly flowing supply of God’s regenerating love poured into and through us by the Holy Spirit.   

Are you thirsting for “things that could not satisfy” as Richard Blanchard’s song puts it? Or do you know someone who is?

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.     (John 4:11 KJV)

Living Water is a Gift from God. God’s love and God’s Spirit and God’s Salvation represented in this Gospel reading, is the free gift Paul referenced in Romans 6:23, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If only we knew! If only they knew! If only everyone could realize at least in some small measure how wonderful the gift encompassed by the phrase “eternal life” really is, what a difference that would make in everyone’s personal lives and in the whole world. Just think how different the news on TV would be if everyone wanted the gift God has already made available, instead of pursuing things that only bring harm to themselves and to others and to Creation.

Asked and given. The woman at the well asked for this living water, even though she understood even less than we think we understand today about what it means. At the moment she said to Jesus, “Sir, give me this water” (John 4:15 KJV) her new life began.

Manuscript of the sermon preached on March 12, 2023, at Briensburg UMC   [Audio Podcast] 

Bible Readings for the 3rd Sunday in Lent: 
Exodus 17:1-7;  Psalm 95;  Romans 5:1-11;  John 4:5-42

God provides all our spiritual and temporal needs.

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.    (Exodus 17:6 KJV)

During the forty-year Journey through the Wilderness, God provided all the needs of everyone, even though at times it wasn’t apparent to them how God would or could meet their most imminent necessities. Getting ready to give the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded everyone that God knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8 KJV). Paul encouraged the Philippians that God would “supply all your need according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19 KJV).

God is the Rock of our Salvation.

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.     (Psalm 95:1 KJV)

“Let it flow.” The last time I saw Bishop Richard Wills in person we were standing by his car at the Carson Center and his parting words to me were, “Let it flow.”  Those words have come back to me many times over the last several years, in many different circumstances.  They are like a modern-day version of what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Quench not the Spirit.” 

A few chapters after the Woman at the Well, Jesus would call out to everyone at a festival, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38 KJV). The New King James Version says, “our of his heart will flow rivers of living water,” and the New American Standard Bible reads, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” This inexhaustible supply of living water comes from deep within the soul of whoever believes it is there.

The living water of God’s love and Spirit is a part of our salvation. Our salvation is accompanied by various religious encounters, each uniquely provided and experienced in different ways by different people at different times. My father received his call to preach as a separate experience decades after he was saved.  I received my call to preach kneeling next to him at the altar for Holy Communion at the same time he received his, but also for me, I was saved in the same experience. Years later I experienced what I identify as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and sometime later received what I recognize as Sanctification. We are saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost and called into our various ministries each in different times, ways, and combinations as the Lord sees fit.

Each and every experience of God’s grace and love is not the end of our spiritual journey, but a new beginning. Even our first conscious experience when we place our faith in God and when in our own ways we ask Jesus to come into our hearts and we make our personal professions of faith, these are each a new beginning born out of the prayers and guidance of those who have loved us along life’s way combined with our own seeking and longing for a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God and Creation.

Living Water continues to channel its way through the winding corridors of our lives, replenishing what moves on through with fresh water from the everlasting reservoir of God’s love.

The Psalmist implores us to celebrate the spiritual life that flows into us by letting it flow through us. Like water, love always finds a way forward, even through the desert stones as evidenced by the Grand Canyon or the streams flowing through the rock walls along the highways we travel.  Our Creator provides a never-ending supply to meet whatever physical or spiritual challenges we face throughout this life, and will continue to do so in the life of the world to come.

God himself is the Rock from which the Water of Life flows, symbolized by the rock in the wilderness.

The Book of Revelation paints a picture of the River of the Water of Life flowing down the median of the main street of New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1-3). The Bible ends with this last grand invitation on the last page,

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17 KJV).

The Holy Spirit works within and among us to spread God’s love wherever we go.

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.   (Romans 5:5 KJV)

And what a hope this is!  The love of God transforms everyone and everything it touches!  Who is so strong to be able to resist the power of God’s love?  We can see the best evidence of this in our own personal lives.  Even at times when we have hardened our hearts like the sojourners in the wilderness, still God has eventually overcome our fears and resistance and stubbornness to turn us around and move us forward – if only a tiny bit at a time – over and over throughout life. God hasn’t brought us this far just to give up on us now. 

And that is how it is not only for me and for you, but all our friends, all our enemies, everyone we know, and everyone we don’t know.  To hijack and paraphrase the movie title, God’s unrelenting, universal, unconditional love is for “Everyone, everywhere, all at once.”

The Bible uses food and beverages as metaphors for spiritual nourishment. One of the most famous of the ancient invitations given through the prophet Isaiah is phrased in the Contemporary English Version, ”If you are thirsty, come and drink water! If you don't have any money, come, eat what you want! Drink wine and milk without paying a cent” (Isaiah 55:1 CEV).

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

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