Is there anything else as miraculous as water? Search the cosmos for other signs of life. So far, planet Earth is the only blue planet. It is the vast oceans of our world that have made it possible for all the life forms we know to develop on our planet. The first creation story in Genesis begins with its feet wet. Before any other creating can occur, God must gather the waters and separate a heavenly dome out of them. We cannot perceive even the primordial beginnings of life without water. Water is the fluid of life.
The word “water” comes from Arabic for luster and splendor. It is used often in talking about jewelry, especially the luster and transparency of the finest jewels. Water is nature’s jewelry, the very elixir of life.
We live in a time when the lack of clean water is becoming a crisis. Flint, MI is the most talked-about city struggling with water issues, but other communities are problems as well. Parts of the country are rationing water, and it seems clear that farming will look different in the next decade as the demand for water for the extraction of fossil fuels and large-scale farming begins to severely restrict the water available for people to acquire and use for daily living.
Access to water defines what property has value, and in some societies makes women and children vulnerable to attack as they venture far to acquire their daily water. How wonderful would it be if there were stones today we could break for streams of living water! In other parts of the world, the water rises to dangerous levels, and people seek shelter from dangerous flooding. Water comforts and cleanses, as well as destroys by its abundance or scarcity.
Both the Exodus and John texts deal with the human need for water. In the Exodus text, the people are so thirsty they threaten Moses’ life and wish themselves back in Egypt. What the people don’t realize, however, is that the water they most desperately need is the living water of faith that God provides. Despite Moses’ warnings, the people seem oblivious to anything but the dust in their throats.
The gospel text for this week recounts Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:5-42). In response to Jesus’ words about “living water,” this woman shows great enthusiasm for such a drink. Yet her first response seems to indicate that she looks at this living water as a labor-saving device – she will be free from the wearying walk to the well to draw up water for herself and her household. The living water Jesus offers will make her free, but not in the way she imagines.
Both the rebellious Israelites and the woman at the well recognized that water was a resource that living things need every day for health and strength. We are utterly dependent on water, and we confirm that truth as we carry it around in plastic or other recyclable or reusable containers, sucking on it for dear life. Still, most of us still don’t take in the optimum amount of water for our bodies. It is recommended that we consume at least six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day to keep adequately hydrated. Under conditions of great heat, exertion or stress, that amount increases dramatically. Survival-course teachers warn their students that while they can exist for weeks, even a month, without food, unless they find water in four or five days, they are doomed. We are that dependent on the life-giving fluid we call water.
The continued vitality of the church is as dependent upon the constant flow of Christ’s living water as our bodies are on H2O. We cannot subsist on a sip now and then. Our spiritual health depends on the constant rehydration only this living water can bring to our souls.
The only way to increase our supply of living water is to invite others in to take a drink. Living water doesn’t have a very long shelf life. In fact, a new shipment must be received for every new generation of Christians the church would welcome in. Just as the human body can exist only a few days without water, so the body of Christ can only exist as long as the next generation of believers is being offered its fill of living water.
The Bible says we are to “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Our job description is to get people to put their mouths to the living water that comes from faith in Jesus Christ. After that, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job description. Trust the water. It alone has the power to heal, to transform, to save. Our job is simply to get people to drink. What happens after that is beyond us. It is up to each generation to make sure the living water of God’s redeeming love, Jesus Christ, is made accessible for the tastes of the next generation to come. As long as we don’t try to tamper with the recipe, living water – like plain old H2O – is perfectly adaptable to almost any shape or size of the container.
[Note: You may want to demonstrate this. Have some weird-shaped bottles, glasses, etc. to show the fact that water fills every shape imaginable without changing its nature.]
Good thing! – because all generations need a shape that fits their own hands, their own souls.
– The disciples drank straight from the source.
– The first-century church gulped from the cupped hands of witnesses.
– After Constantine, it was shipped out in cases down all the major roadways.
– During the Reformation, it was shaken up and sprayed out over the church like champagne fizz.
– The Age of Enlightenment thoughtfully sipped it.
– “Hippies” served it in paper cups at rock concerts.
– Baby-Boomers sought it out from country chapels to mega0-churches.
And the next generation? They may need the living water zapped to them via “virtual reality” sessions on the Internet. Who knows? Who cares? The delivery system is not important – the cargo itself is. Paul says he became “all things to all people” that he might win some (1 Corinthians 9:22). We are not to alter Christ’s living water. We are not to add to it or mess with the contents in any way. What we are to do is to get people to drink it from containers that they can pick up.
The important point is this: The CONTENT remains the same while the CONTAINER changes.
It’s time for the church to get wet! In fact, if the church is to survive, it had better get wet in ways it has heretofore never even dreamed of. For only water quenches people’s eternal thirst.