Monday, June 05, 2017

Quenching Our Thirst for "It"

John 7:37-39
In The Silver Chair, one of the books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, there’s a scene in which a girl named Jill Pole, who is from this world, is mysteriously transported to an alternative universe called Narnia and there, happens on a lion. He’s sitting by a pool of water from which she desperately wants a drink. But seeing the lion, she simply stands, paralyzed by fear and indecision.

“If you’re thirsty, you may drink,” a voice tells her. It was a voice, as Lewis says, “deeper, wilder...stronger” than any she had ever heard, “a sort of heavy, golden voice.” She wondered where the voice had come from.

Then it said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink.” Now she realized that it was the enormous lion who was speaking to her. Frozen in fear, she said nothing.

“Are you not thirsty?” the lion pressed. “I’m dying of thirst,” she told him. “Then drink,” he said.

After considering matters, Jill thought that she didn’t dare go any nearer the lion or the stream. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream,” she said. And then the lion told her, “There is no other stream.”

In Lewis’ Narnia, Aslan is a figure of Christ, the King of kings, sent by the Emperor Over the Sea, a figure for God the Father. In this scene, Lewis gives us a picture of how God the Son and God the Holy Spirit work in our lives to give us faith and to give us life that can be found nowhere else.

You see, we’re all born with a thirst for God and for the life that only God can give.

That’s true whether we know it or not.

One pastor calls this our human desire for it, that unsettled feeling that tells us that there’s more to life than existing from day to day.

We’re born craving it and sometimes we think we’ve found it in new fidget spinners, new spouses, new friends, new cars, new homes, new jobs, new boats, new hobbies.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things. Everything in this world, including every human relationship, can be wonderful blessings.

But none of them is it. None fill our thirst for living water.

Saint Augustine, who spent many years searching for it in his study of philosophy and in illicit sexual relations before coming to faith in Christ, spoke of our common search for it in a well-known prayer: “You have made us restless for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in You.”

One of the psalmists speak of the same thing when he writes: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Pslam 42:1-2)

What is it then? What can quench our thirsty souls? 

It’s the very life of God, His breath, His Holy Spirit. 

It was the Spirit Who God the Father breathed into us to first give human beings life: “...the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The perfect life of God filled the human frame.

Of course, that life became distorted, marred, perverted after humanity fell into sin, bringing deterioration, death, broken relationships and a constant thirst for it.

Many today are so steeped in the sin and death of this world and all the habitual lifestyles we adopt to approximate what we’re looking for that it doesn’t dawn on them that what we’re looking for can’t be found in things filled with the death, sin, and corruption of this fallen universe.

Still, for many, the search continues. Paul told a crowd in Athens that searched for it in all manner of little gods, godlets, and lifestyles: “From one man [Adam] he [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27)

Then, Paul revealed to the crowd that He knew about what they were looking for: A relationship with Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, Who died and rose to bring forgiveness and new, everlasting life to all who believed in Him. This Jesus could fill them with the Holy Spirit, with the life human beings lost at Eden, the life that they longed for. Only Jesus could give them it. Only Jesus can give it to you and me.

When, in Lewis’s story, Jill Pole sees the water that could quench the thirst from which she’s dying, she wants it more than anything. But to get to it, she must pass through Aslan. And so she hesitates.

When I was starting a new congregation in the Cincinnati area, I went door to door to introduce the church to the community. One house I stopped at was a large one set on a golf course. A young couple invited me in. They offered me water and I sat in their living room for a visit.

It turned out that they were both preachers’ kids. They were knowledgeable about God and the Bible. They had both been through divorces. I asked them how long they’d been married. They weren’t married.

“I know that’s wrong,” the man told me. I didn’t deny it. “So, how do you feel about God?” I asked them. “I love God,” the man told me, “But He’s just not part of our life right now. I want God in my life. We both do.” I asked him if he would like to do something about that desire, because, I assured them, “God wants you even more than you want Him.” They said, “Not now.”

That’s one of the most tragic conversations in which I’ve ever been involved. Here was a couple who knew what it was: life from God, life with God, freedom from sin, the power of the Holy Spirit to live in community with God forever, through faith in Jesus Christ. They hesitated. They said they weren’t ready yet. They were too busy with their sin to let God in just then.

Folks, the time to get ready, the time to let Jesus in, the time to drink the living water that Jesus can give to us is always now!

In today’s short Gospel lesson for this Pentecost Sunday, Jesus is speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem during the feast of booths or feast of tabernacles. It occurred each year seven weeks after Passover and was celebrated during the harvest season. During this season, it was common for Jews to erect booths or tabernacles in their fields in remembrance of the temporary shelters their ancestors used during the forty year Old Testament exodus. Jesus is in Jerusalem to teach and to make an amazing promise.

Take a look at the lesson, please. Verse 37: “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’”

I love the fact that Jesus spoke in a loud voice!

The world wants to turn Jesus into a compliant, namby-pamby dishrag, a weakling who will go along with us and not stand in our ways when we go wrong. But Jesus isn’t putty in our hands!

Revelation 5:5 calls Jesus, “the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David,” Who by His death and resurrection, triumphs over His enemies--our enemies of sin, death, and darkness--to bring us life.

Last week, you’ll remember, Jesus told us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Here, He tells us--in a loud voice--that if we want the life of God, the Holy Spirit bringing us, as we confess each Sunday in the Creed, “the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting,” if we want it, if we want to quench our thirst for what only God can give us, we must come to Jesus Christ. There is no other stream!

We can’t steal this living water from God. We can’t get it by being good people, or by dabbling in religion. All roads don’t lead to God or the life we long for. Jesus is the only road.

That may fill us with fear, betting our whole eternity on surrender to a Savior Who commands us to leave our sins and our most cherished selfish dreams behind.

And yet, we know that Jesus isn’t just the Lion of Judah, He is also “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

If we are thirsty for the life that God only gives through Christ, we must come to Jesus!

Verse 38: “‘Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Today, six Living Water young people will affirm their desire to live in the covenant of their Baptism. They are saying that, for themselves and not because their parents brought (or dragged) them to church, they believe in Jesus Christ, that they don’t want to seek life anywhere else.

Of course, they haven’t formed these intentions on their own. They’ve been influenced by their families and this congregation.

But more than that, the Holy Spirit, unleashed in their lives when they were baptized, has drawn them to Jesus, filled them with life, caused them to realize that the holes in their souls--and the holes in every human soul--can only be filled by the sinless, crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus Christ.

As Paul reminds us: “ one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

And it is this same Holy Spirit Who can sustain them--and all of us--through the ups and downs of this life, quenching our thirsty souls through God’s Word, the witness of the resurrection, and the fellowship of the Church.

It is only when God helps and guides us that we can follow through on our good intentions of following Jesus always.

 Jesus once said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

It’s Jesus’ promise, certified by His death and resurrection, that if we will look only to Him to fill that need for life, peace, hope, and relationship that only He can fill, we will be filled to overflowing.

He will send His Holy Spirit and we will have forgiveness and life, “pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Luke 6:38) as Jesus says.

That’s what He promises all who trust in Him on this Pentecost Sunday and every day we dare to affirm, by word and by living, our total trust in Him. May this be our way of life. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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