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A Reflection on Being Lifted Up by Our Loving Lord into Life Overflowing

September 17, 2013

Something it’s so easy for me to do is to take for granted the incredible gift of clean water.

Every year, 2.2 million people in developing countries die from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

At St. Paul’s, we support CAWST – the Centre for Affordable Water Sanitation Technology, whose biosand filters have impacted approximately 5 million people with improved water in 69 countries.

Holy Scripture speaks about the Source of our spiritual life, and how God wants to be the pure water of life for us.

In Jeremiah Chapter 2, God uses the metaphor of a covenant to lament a broken relationship with the people, a relationship God yearns to be healed.

Verses 1-2 begin:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying: 2 Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.

Then in verses 4-6, God continues:

Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me? They did not say, “Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” The priests did not say, “Where is the LORD?” Those who handle the law did not know me.

sinai-desert

God was their water supply in the wilderness, sustaining them where there would normally have been no life. But over time the people drifted away from God. They no longer experienced God’s power, Presence in their lives, but this did not spur them to turn to God, to go deeper. Instead, they decided to create their own gods, to be gods for themselves, their own water supply.

God cries out at this in verses 12-13:

Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

israel-cistern

Cisterns were the main water supply for many places in the arid Middle East in ancient times. These underground chambers collected rain water during rainy seasons to use in the dry seasons. The two main problems with cisterns was garbage collecting in them due to the necessity of having open tops, and stagnation due to bacteria or microscopic plants. No one would choose to drink cistern water over fresh flowing water if they had the choice.

That would have been bad enough. But the cisterns that they had dug were broken and leaked; they could hold no water! When they needed the water, they would find that the cistern was empty!

“But,” God said in Jeremiah, “It doesn’t have to be like this! I yearn to be your source of life for the journey.”

God came to earth to be with us as one of us, to restore this broken relationship and become our Source of life.

And so in the New Testament, we see Jesus, God incarnate, promising to be our living water.

In John 7:37-38, Jesus said: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

We see similar words from Jesus in John 6:35: “I am the bread of life;” John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life;” John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full;” and John 4:13-14, which is quoted below.

One of the iconic images from the flooding in Alberta in June was the photo at the top of this posting of a smiling firefighter holding an elderly woman over the flood waters in his arms in High River. The firefighter is Shawn Wiebe, from Nanton, and the woman has just said to him, “I haven’t been carried like that since my wedding day.” What struck me were the joyful effortlessness with which he is holding her, like a little child – and her complete restfulness and trust in his arms in response. They both know that she is safe and secure.

In the same way, Jesus didn’t rescue us frantically, by the skin of his teeth and ours. Rather, he rescued us in joy and strength. He was both willing and able joyfully to pour out his life for us on the Cross, taking all our impurities, all our silt, upon himself and absorbing them all; and then have the pure water of his life spring forth to fill us and quench our thirst for light and love for evermore. Through his life, death, and resurrection, we are lifted up out of the waters of chaos, darkness, and death to overflowing life in all abundance!

Jesus speaks to us in wilderness, in the chaos of our lives, and tells us that he is completely reliable, faithful, and trustworthy, and strong enough to be our living water – to rescue us from the water that brings death, and give us the water of life.

May we know this to be true, and rest, safe and secure in our Saviour’s loving arms – held like a bride on her wedding day by our Heavenly Bridegroom, our living water and our living Lord! Amen.

(This is adapted from the sermon at our September 1 Services.)

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Embedded below is the encounter at Jacob’s well between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John Chapter 4, as portrayed in the movie “The Gospel of John,” which we watched together last Lent. This clip includes Jesus’ words in 4:14: “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

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