March 16, 2009

2021 March Gathering - THIRST

Humans have a tenuous relationship with water.  It covers 71% of the earth's surface.  The human body is anywhere from 55 to 78% water.  We're told to drink at least 8 glasses of it a day.  Civilizations have historically formed around major bodies of water.  It is just a huge part of our lives, especially here in Baldwin County.  Rivers, bays, creeks, bayous, lagoons, canals, the intercoastal, the Gulf - water is a huge part of our lives.

Yet, like I said, our relationship is somewhat tenuous.  Too much or too little water, and things quickly go from balanced to wildly out of control.  Remember the lady in 2007 who died of water intoxication after the "hold your wee for a wii" radio contest?   Who can forget the pictures of a flooded New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Even six inches of moving water can take your car from safely on the road to deep danger in a flash flood.  Too much of this good thing is most certainly not good.

And neither is too little.  Drought affects huge swaths of the earth in any given year.  Which leads to too little drinking water, even less crop production, and starvation.  Human beings can survive about 2 weeks without food, but only a few days without water.  Thirst is a condition known by too many.

In the fourth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus finds himself thirsty.  Jesus had begun to gain the wrong sort of attention from the religious authorities.  So, Jesus decided to leave the Judean countryside and return to Galilee - home base for his ministry.  To get there, he had to pass through Samaria.  There were, in fact, other ways to get home, but the most direct route took you through the land of the half-bloods, the Samaritans.  For a religion based on purity of body, mind, and spirit, this trek through Samaria was a less than desirable one.  Jesus came into Shechem, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob later known as Israel had given his son Joseph.  The well that Jacob dug for his family was still there, and Jesus, already worn out by the trip, sat down at the well to rest while his disciples went into the village to buy food for lunch.

A Samaritan woman came, strangely enough in the middle of the day, to draw her water.  Himself quite thirsty, Jesus said to her, "Would you give me a drink of water?"

The Samaritan woman was shocked and asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?"  First of all, Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.  And secondly, men in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to a woman without her husband present.

Undeterred, Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."

The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?"

Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."

The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!"

The thirst that Jesus was talking about quenching really had nothing to the water that the woman could draw from the well.  Jesus was talking about thirst for life, for meaning, for love.  The sort of thirst every human being understands.  Even the youngest child thirsts after the affection of her parents.  Later on in life we thirst for friends that understand us.  We thirst for relationships that fill us.  We thirst for all sorts of things.

Jesus promised this woman, and promises us, that he has living water to offer.  Artesian springs that will gush forth with endless life.  [Show Cat Waterfall] 

And yet, so many of us us are still thirsty.  So often, the faith handed down to us leaves us wanting.  This Church, for its part, has spent a lot of time and energy bottling up the ever flowing living water, and selling it like a commodity.  Many of us have purchased those bottles over and over and over and in the midst of tough times found what is supposed to be an endless supply instead is merely another empty water bottle.  We find ourselves standing looking at the water source, but unsure where to get out of the water commodity market and into the everflowing stream.  We are often afraid or angry or unprepared to step in.  So we go about trying to find water elsewhere, but it is never as refreshing as the spring that Jesus offered - it is never enough.

I think a lot of us are here tonight precisely because we know that we are thirsty, we understand that God offers refreshment, but the faith tradition we've known has left us parched.  Over the next few months we would like to offer the chance to move from purchasing water bottles one at a time to residing permanently in the midst of living water, to address what has left you thirsty in faith, in church, and in life.  

What if we started meeting weekly to address our collective thirst?
Would you come?
Could you come?
How long?

I too am thirsty.  I long for the living water Jesus offers to overflow in my life, all the time.  I've tasted it.  I know it is good, but I know that from time to time I fail to drink it in; I fall back into the cycle of limiting God by purchasing water bottles.  I want to help you find living water, just as I want you to help me find it.

I want to move into the pool of living water, and I hope you do too.  In the next few minutes of silence, I invite you to reflect on the water sources in your life.  If you feel compelled to move into this terrible representation of the spring of living water, you can take a ridiculous fireman or policeman (sorry ladies, there is no gender equality in the world of dollar tree plastic toy people) and place it in there.  If you feel weird doing that, which you no doubt will, you don't have to.  Just ponder for a few minutes -

What am I thirsty for?
How can this community help channel the living water in your direction?

As we wrap up and move back into conversation and break bread together I will offer a prayer for refreshment, during which you'll have time to offer prayers for those who, for whatever reason, need the spring of living water.


O God, you have created all things by the power of your Word, and you renew the earth by your Spirit: Give now the water of life to those who thirst for you, that they may bring forth abundant fruit in your glorious kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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