Sunday, June 8, 2014

Living Water

John 7:37-39

        In case you haven’t guessed, today is Pentecost. Hopefully that is why some of you are wearing red. If you are not looking for it, Pentecost just kind of slips up on us. There is no baby Jesus, no Pentecost  candles, no Holy Week and certainly no great music to remind us of the significance of the day. To make it worse, Hallmark really lets us down. I didn’t receive a single Pentecost Card in the mail. But then, Pentecost has no Santa, it has no Pentecost baskets, and no one is hurrying home for a Big Pentecost Meal. Pentecost is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of Christian holidays. It gets so little respect that the Methodist Church in Crozet announced today was Pentecost on their bill board and spelled it P-E-N-T-A-C-O-S-T. So, in keeping with the Pentecost Spirit, instead of preaching on Acts 2, I thought we might look at John 7.
        Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me.” I know what it is like to be thirsty. Some of you are silently laughing because how often have you seen me very far from a cup filled with a refreshing beverage. It is a character flaw with genetic roots. I can never remember seeing my father for more than an hour without a Coke product nearby. I guess it must be one of those Georgia things. But I have been thirsty, really thirsty, and it is not a pretty sight.
        Last summer Mary Dudley and I took a bike trip on the Sky Line Drive. It was one of those uncomfortably hot days when both the temperature and the humidity were well above 90. The ride was to be less than 25 miles. I mistakenly believed two water bottles were sufficient. I was wrong. I was into my second bottle before we reached the turnaround point. I knew the last three miles were down hill so I rationalized if I could make it to the downhill portion I would be fine. The problem is dehydration doesn’t care if you are going uphill or down. Your mind is fried and you start making bad choices. Coming down a mountain road at over 35 mph on a bicycle is not one of those times you want your mind to wander. All reaction times become too slow or too sudden. My last rational thought was to get off the road, lie down and hope Mary Dudley had some water to share.
        “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.” Thirst is not always generated by a lack of fluids. Some folks thirst for power, some for knowledge or some for fame. Others thirst for God. Much like a person who is dehydrated, the mind of one thirsty for God often resembles one who is on the verge of madness. Allow me to share a letter by one who became honored with the status of sainthood in our life time.
        Your grace, I want to say something and I don’t know how to express it. I am longing, painfully longing, to be holy in a way that Jesus can live his life to the fullest in me. The more I want him, the less I am wanted. The more I want to love him the more I feel the separation between us. I have only a deep terrible emptiness that can only be God’s absence. I obey God blindly. I go to confessional with the hope of speaking and I have no words. Pray for me, that God might lift this darkness. Sometimes the agony of desolation is so deep that all I can pray is “Sacred Jesus, I trust in Thee”. I thirst for Jesus to quench my dried up soul.
(Mother Theresa in 1956)
        I often have folks come into my office and ask how they might become more spiritual. My first response should always be, “Why would you want to do that?” And then I should ask, “How thirsty are you?”
        We all play at being spiritual. The fact that you are here this morning means that there must be some yearning in your soul to become a holier person. But in this culture of caring for my needs and worrying exclusively about my self-esteem,     how willing am I to release my ego-centric soul to one who only promises a cup of water?  
        Perhaps I should be more than willing to drink the water offered. Our nation has been overcome by an epidemic of thirsty people. There is a dryness in the land, a dryness in our relationships, a dryness in our leadership, and a dryness in our dreams for the future. Part of the problem is we want instant gratification. We want to drink something that works now and face it, we are tired of drinking Kool-aid.
        I have been blessed to have some folks come into my office who were so thirsty they were willing to try anything. The truth is they had already tried a bunch of other options and nothing had worked.  My formula is rather simple. I ask them to give me six months of their life, one hour a week. Each week they have a reading assignment. Most of the hour we only talk about what they read. Sometimes we talk about their week, but not always. Almost every time I have done this, the six month stretches into a year and sometimes beyond that.  Then, at some point I say to them, “You need to keep reading, but you no longer need me.” How do I know when the time is right? Their conversations have gone from what they needed, to sharing how they had become involved with someone who needed a helping hand.
         What on earth is this magic book? Can it be purchased on Amazon, perhaps used, and hopefully in paperback?
I’ll give you a hint, Jesus said, “Let everyone who is thirsty come to me, and out of their hearts shall flow rivers of living waters.”
        After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples returned to the upper room. They read scripture, prayed and worried about their future. They made a decision concerning who would replace Judas, and elected Matthias, once again bring their number to twelve. And then they waited.
        Jewish tradition tell us that Moses was given The Law at Sinai, fifty days after the Passover. So on Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, fifty days after Easter, the disciples once again gathered in the Upper Room to celebrate God’s gift of the Word. In the midst of their celebration the Spirit of God, ascended upon them and their thirst and souls were quenched. Then Peter ran out into the streets of Jerusalem and sang those great words from the prophet Joel,
God will pour out God’s spirit on all people;
                Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
                Your young men shall see visions,
                Your old men shall dream dreams,
                And all who call on the name of God,
                Will be saved.

        Pentecost was never about the disciples finding closure. It was never about them rediscovering their sense of self. Pentecost was and still is about discovering being one with God and one with God’s creation. The Word was placed upon the disciple’s hearts and the Spirit of God ignited that Word into something Holy, something Sacred and something communal. Peter couldn’t help himself. He had to share that which had quenched his thirst. Peter’s tongue became like a river of living waters.
        The Gospel of John begins with that marvelous phrase, “In the beginning the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” At Pentecost the Word became Spirit and entered our flesh. When that happens Jesus will not be confined to just your heart. He will affect your soul and your brain, and your words and your hands. You who were thirsty will become a source of living waters.   
        On October 31, 1982, Mother Theresa spoke these words at the Vatican.
God keeps on loving the world. God keeps sending you and me to prove God loves the world and still has compassion for this world.  We have to be the love of God. Always Remember,
The fruit of silence is prayer;
The fruit of prayer is faith;
The fruit of faith is love;
The fruit of love is service;
The fruit of service is peace.     

May the power of God’s spirit fall on you,
Quenching your thirst,
Making you a river of living waters.
To God be the Glory                   Amen

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