Sunday, 6 July 2008

Come to the waters

Pentecost 7 year A Sermon Isaiah 55 1-12 John 7:37-38 Amplified Bible

Did you hear what the prophet said...did you hear what Jesus said...refreshment from our innermost being... rivers of living water from deep inside ourselves... drinking from the very fountain of life that pours forth from God... dwelling within us.
Drink deeply of this and you will never thirst.

We often overlook Jesus promise that this reviving will come from within us not from outside us. But…if you look closely at our reading from John today that’s what it says.

In her book Aotearoa Psalms[i]…Kiwi Christian poet Joy Cowley ...captures Jesus promise like this:

The quiet pool
There is within each of us a quiet /clear pool of living water/
fed by the one deep Source/ and inseparable from it, but so often hidden by a tangle of activity/
that we may not know of its existence.

We can spend the proverbial forty years
wandering in strange deserts
Sinking unrewarding wells
And moving on/ driven by our thirst
But when we stop still/ long enough
To look inside ourselves/really look
Beyond our ideas about water
and what and where it should be
We discover it was with us all the time
That quiet clear pool which is ageless
The meaning of our existence
And the answer to all wanderings

And as we drink/ we know what Jesus
meant when he said/ we’d never be thirsty again. [pause]

But in our everyday we act like we believe this...where do we go for a pick me up...for refreshment/ for reviving. Straight to God in prayer and devotion? Or do we look to satisfy our longings in the fridge, the chocolate box, the booze cabinet, shopping, romance novels, fantasy, gambling, golf, playing patience on the internet, maybe pornography on the internet.

But do we remember to seek God’s word for us/ to savour God’s presence? [pause]

Last week we reflected on the Breath of Life/ which comes from God. We learned to breathe the name of God Yod heh vav heh watching Rob Bells DVD. Today we explore another image... which comes to us from God’s that comes from within us/ one that transforms and revives us/ makes us whole and brings us peace.

The radical subversive message of the prophets
and later...of Jesus Christ....the message of good news which is for all people /Jew and Gentile/ believers and pagans …Hebrew and Greek… Kiwi and Korean male and female…slave or free…

And Jesus delivered this message in time and space teaching us among other things / us how and where to access God’s fountain of life…echoing the scroll of Isaiah and its oracles of God.

Isaiah’s oracle was/ for a whole nation/ in exile/
and Jesus is talking to the crowds around him.
Jesus isn’t sitting in a cafĂ© somewhere talking to one person over a flat white…Everyone they’re saying...can access this water of life…

Now, it’s much easier to understand /
how this refreshment from God /
can come from within our own being...
when we see how different the Jewish understanding was /of what it means to be human... how different it was from the Greek understanding.

Remember how we learned last week that the word for breath and the word for spirit /in the Hebrew scriptures/ is the same word. Well that’s a clue. In ancient Hebrew thought and language/
there was no separation between body mind and spirit. They simply were part of a whole human being…

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their word for our being/ was nephesh…the breath of God was in and through us /sustaining our body our spirits /
our brains our heart and lungs and muscles …

Now, contact with the culture and thought of the Greeks distorted this understanding for the Jews and for us today. Put simply the most first century Greeks believed in base material bodies,
slightly higher emotions, and even higher level intellect /and they believed in a soul that was liberated from our body when we died…some say the Greeks got this from eastern religions /which believed in the transmigration of souls and reincarnation.

But for Jesus and the Jewish people /
humans were whole beings...who would die whole /
and after the sleep of death/ be raised together with a renewed body mind and spirit /a new nephesh at the final resurrection.

But right through Jewish history when times were tough... the Hebrew people needed to be reminded... that God was with them…in them ...
that God’s refreshing could word /lived in them …
if they would only just remember...
to drink of it so to speak.

When things were going great they forgot
and when things were turning to custard /
they failed to remember...over and over they had to be reminded… at times of drought and famine …when they were dying of homesickness in exile... the Hebrew people had to be reminded that
God... was... with... them…

This morning we heard/ how through the prophet Isaiah... God reminds the homesick exiles in Babylon /
not to seek oblivion escape and refreshment /
from the wealth around them in the greatest city of the world

Through the prophet God reminds them/
where real reviving comes from…
where real refreshment /real joy /real blessings comes from

And through the prophet God warns them/
they won’t find what they’re looking for...
they won’t be satisfied /
with what riches can bring /and money can buy.

Because God’s refreshment...God’s reviving...
is for rich and poor alike.

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WAIT and listen,/ everyone who is thirsty!
Come to the waters; /and you who have no money/ come, buy and eat! Yes, come, buy /priceless, spiritual wine and milk without money…available simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing.

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The prophet then asks...Why do you spend your money on stuff other than your daily bread?
On what doesn’t satisfy you? What can’t satisfy you?

Over and over through the prophet God reminds them to wait before they rush off to self medicate on useless things to wait and listen for his voice...his word.

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Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your whole being delight itself in fatness in spiritual joy.

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Incline your ear ...submit and consent to the divine will ... and come to Me; hear, and your being will revive;

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When you’re flat and lifeless and sad and homesick…when you are trying to find happiness through eating and drinking and spending money …turn to Me ...God is saying to the exiles...
and unlike all that temporary self medication…

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I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
even the sure mercy promised to David. A promise as sure as the one I made with your ancestors….
who I chose and called to be
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‘a witness /who shall testify of salvation
to the nations…

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Behold, Israel you shall call nations you never even heard of. Nations who never heard of you, will come running to you /because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel... for He’s glorified you.

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Because God has shown you how to find true satisfaction... for your whole being. {pause]

So stop looking in all the wrong places...
Isaiah is telling them…
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‘seek the Lord while He may be found
call upon Him while He is near.’

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If you’ve been looking for love and oblivion in all the wrong places... turn around…

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’repent and turn back to the Lord, and He will have mercy for those who turn back to him.
For his forgiveness is abundant!’ [pause]

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My friends...this is the good news Israel was chosen to take to all nations…[pause]

To find true satisfaction... to really be filled up... humankind has to rely on be reminded
we need God…we need God’s living water…God’s voice...God’s word...the fountain of life…
the source of all love…[pause]

Why? Because going it alone just doesn’t cut it...
as individuals... as nations.
We need God...

Because... God reminds us.
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‘My thoughts aren’t your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways…’

God’s word…God’s way of Shalom...
bring life and peace on earth... with justice and mercy and compassion…and we...well...we... need to be reminded of this over and over again....

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because left to our own devices…our ways don’t bring life... and peace /on earth.

God’s word…God’s way... have been given to us... so we will produce Shalom... as the prophet says... just as the rain and snow have been given...
to water the earth and make it productive …
And like the life giving water that comes from the rain and the snow...God reminds us…

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So My word will accomplish the purposes
for which I sent it.

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Soon after the resurrection, Jesus followers realized ... that though Israel had failed to make God’s love and God’s word productive... by taking its living reviving refreshing waters to all nations…

God’s purposes couldn’t be so easily thwarted... and in Jesus... God’s word had become flesh and blood…
God had sent his Word... to be embodied in Jesus. And Jesus…not Israel... would be the messenger...
to all nations…and he would form a new covenant people... to accomplish Gods purposes of love…

and so the writer of John’s gospel takes up the story...on the final most important day of the greatest Jewish festival...Jesus stands up from the table, and proclaims for all to hear... that he has truly understood his calling.
Citing the words of the prophet... they’d all learned by heart since they were young

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If any one is thirsty, let them come to Me and drink!
Believe...Trust the word I embody with my life it to be the very water of life…
and when you do... springs and rivers of living water will flow continuously from your innermost being.

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That’s why we return /week after week /to drink from these waters…because we need /
to be reminded too… because we lose our way …because we get diverted /to look for the water in all the wrong places…

So may you find the true source of satisfaction ...
may you find the fountain of life... God’s living water revealed by Jesus /in your innermost being. And may you go out to share this love from the overflow... with all who are thirsty.

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[i] Catholic Supplies NZ 1989