Rivers of Living Water
June 8, 2014
READINGS FOR THE DAY:
First Reading: An Excerpt from Living Myth: Personal Meaning as a Way of Life by D. Stephenson Bond
The metaphor of imagination guides us back to the land of the soul. That is my map. Soul is the place that imagines. The wounds of soul, then, would be the wounds of the imagination, places in the geography of the inner life that have been strip-mined and left barren. To develop the soul we would have to concern ourselves with the strengthening of imagination, give ourselves over to the hard labor of restoring depleted soil, stemming the tide of erosion, cleaning out the toxins from all the years of abuse. And to feed the soul we would have to find ways to nourish the imagination, beginning with fertilizers, yes, from the compost heap, and then turning the soil over with the blade of a plow in the proper season to give it light and air, and watering it carefully with living water until in the end it might sustain a garden to feed us once again.
Second Reading: John 7:37-39. From The Message by Eugene Peterson
On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)
When we come to this place –
we come to worship God
But we also come to question ourselves;
Our beliefs / Our purpose
I can only hope that what I have to share
Helps in that endeavor . . .
May we be soothed and challenged.
Peggy and I have a 40 pound dog that we rescued while on a mission trip in Kentucky. She has this thick undercoat of downy fur that makes her a perfect fluffy dog for Wisconsin winters, but she should never get wet because she’s impossible to dry! I was walking down by the lake near our house, late in the day one summer after the water really warmed up, and next to the little dock there, it was covered with pond scum that was so thick it looked like a person could walk right across it. Which, of course, is what the dog thought also – and so she did! She experienced the shock of her life when she dropped right through the surface of that scum coated water and came up drenched and smelly and quite shaken by the experience.
This is one of those times when I really wish we had a screen and projector and someone to run it all, because I could quickly just ask for the pond scum picture. You’ve seen it – stagnant water growing warmer and warmer, and as the summer goes on, it gets that thick scummy coating across the top. The kind of image in your mind that just makes you want to get a cup and dip it in there for a refreshing drink … right?
Okay then – contrast that scummy pond against the pictures on the other wall of your inner mind. This is a picture of a mountain river, flowing fast and cold down its boulder strewn path. It’s early spring, and the ice edges the river as it cascades down a few hundred feet in elevation while progressing just a mile down the valley. That water is fast and cold, and looks so refreshing that, in this case, a person really does feel as if they could scoop a cup in and drink their fill! In the river scene the water looks alive! It’s moving. It’s active. It’s clear. It’s not just sitting there – it’s really doing something!
In one body of water you’d gladly dip your feet to cool your heels; but in the other… well, you might think twice.
Water is such an essential part of life, that our sacred texts are filled with images that use it as an integral part of a number of different stories. In the Genesis accounts of creation, it comes second only to light and dark. A few chapters later, the flood waters are welling up from the depths in the Noah stories. In the Moses stories, water comes up frequently as a key player. Dividing the waters through which he escapes with the Hebrews; then the water’s force devours his opponents, killing the Pharaoh’s men. There are also the stories of Elijah drenching his fire wood; the calming waters of the 23rd Psalm; and all the cleansing rituals of the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament includes Jesus and the life giving water at the well, and other instances from turning water to wine, to this passage today where Jesus offers himself as the life-giving water to so many people. Water is as much a part of the whole story as Jesus is himself. In John, there is an invitation to come and drink, which is the culmination of several stories which reference water in this Gospel: the water turned to wine, the water of the new birth, the living water, the cleansing water of Bethesda, and then once again, the calming of the waters when Jesus is with his disciples. All of these stories have helped to reveal Jesus as the agent of God who brings God’s gracious offer of life in the form of water.
We can imagine the swift river, or the depth of an ocean; clean and fresh or still and deep. Water is a life giver, a thirst quencher, and a cleansing agent referred to in the law (or symbolically in the act) of Baptism to clean away the separation of our spirits from the spirit of God, reuniting us with all that is Sacred.
There are so many stories in the Bible that are rich with images of the life-giving water: refreshing, sustaining, and cleansing, that we long to say often, “I don’t know if it really happened this way, but I know that it is true.” So rich an image is the living water that, to this day, we conduct ritualistic cleansing and call it Baptism, either through total immersion (in some traditions), or by sprinkling as we do here; water cleanses our soul and refreshes our spirits.
Jesus, in the passage read, offers himself as the living water, suggesting that through the wisdom he offers, through the cleansing rituals he brings, through the thirst quenching and feeding of the body and soul that happens through his teachings, all can have hope in life as they are fed and nurtured and brought forth to find peace. The excitement of the imagery is beautiful, as Jesus calls out to the people on the last day of the festival, when those who have struggled and not found fulfillment are still hanging around wondering about their faith traditions and seeking some solution. Jesus provides the fount of blessing that seeks to offer freedom to those who will listen. Freedom even from the oppression of the law, freedom from the oppression of the invaders, and freedom from the constraints even of our own spirits that keep us from growing to our own fullest potential.
Stephenson Bond, in the book excerpt in the Readings, offers to us the suggestion that out of the compost heap of our lives, out of all the rotten stuff that happens, out of the worst times can come – when properly turned and cared for and watered – life gardens, which can be fully lived with joy and peace.
Chewie – that’s our dog – she learned the hard way that what appears to be a solid footing can often times turn to a watery pit. She got drenched and dirty that day, and it took a long time to clean her up and make her look good again. The stillness of that lake, the heat of the sun beating down, the water enriched with all the wrong nutrients; came together to give ole Chewie a nasty surprise!
I want to invite you to think about your life here at Hope, and your spiritual life in general, as dipping your cup into the living water; a cool refreshing dip into spirit that enriches this place and gives life to us all. Gustavo Gutierrez says, “Spirituality is . . . like living water that springs up in the very depth of the experience of faith.”
Here, at Hope Church, come and drink from the living water that spills out from the depths. Come and know Hope.