The Day of Pentecost
June 4, 2017
“Living Water/Water for Living”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us for our celebration of Pentecost is the Gospel lesson read earlier from John chapter 7.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
In the church year, it’s a new season – Pentecost. We’re about into what we call the “rainy season” here in Sarasota. Once the “snowbird season” is over the “rainy season” begins. And this year…that’s good! We had such a dry, warm April and May. My yard was so brown and spotty and crusty, but then add a little water and Presto! Instant green, lush grass once again. All it takes to bring life and restoration is one of God’s most basic and vital gifts – the gift of water.
Water. It’s a unique element to manage, isn’t it? If there is too much water, there is a wash-out or a flood and much damage is done. Too little water, and then you have what we call a drought, and much damage is done. I’m no horticulturist (Selby Gardens is not beating down my door begging me to work part-time there), but so far, in my limited gardening experience, seems to me you need just the right amount of water or things go bad. Too much water or not enough water, and that’s bad. But when you have the right amount, that seed and soil and water combine to create and sustain life, giving way to mature plants which yield beautiful flowers or succulent fruits and vegetables.
Today’s Gospel lesson is all about water. In John 7, Jesus has gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This was an ancient temple feast going way back to the days of Solomon (1 Kings 8:2). So imagine, there you are, in the crowd alongside our Lord at this feast celebration. On each of the previous six mornings, a priest filled a golden pitcher with water as the choir repeated words from Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Water was then poured on the base of the altar. On the seventh day the priest poured water seven times into a silver funnel surrounding the altar. “So far, so good,” you think to yourself, “just like we did it last year.” But now, Jesus stood up on this last day of the feast (v. 37), and He also spoke of water…a different kind of water…a different kind of life: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (v. 37-38). “Wait a minute! Was that in the script? This isn’t what we did last year!” I bet that was the same reaction as the people in today’s Second Lesson when the day of Pentecost rolled around (Acts 2). What is this guy talking about? Living water? Spirit? Confusing, right?
Maybe you’re not so sure about ancient Temple worship practices, but you know plenty about droughts and floods, and you might not even be a farmer. You know all-too-well the flood of memories or relationships or past actions or words spoken that cause you anguish and heartache and the destruction it caused. You are awash in a flood of pain or guilt or grief or worry. Conversely, you also know the droughts of life: the drought blowing through your account balances, drying up your joy on the job or at home, scorching the hours otherwise spent in physical and emotional peace. Sin has a way of doing that: either sweeping us away through its powerful torrent or else blistering us under its blazing, unrelenting dryness and cruelty.
The same horror we feel because of sin is expressed in the infamous words of Jesus from the cross in John 19:28, “I thirst.” How ironic! The great source of living water, the font of every blessing, the raging river of life, is reduced to just a drop until it completely dries up. Look. It’s no longer the Feast of Booths, but it’s Passover. And they just crucified Jesus. Blood, tears, and sweat are caked to his cheeks. His lips are cracked and swollen. Then witness the Roman spear thrust and a sudden flow of blood and water. Here now is the true River of Life, crushed and cursed by the sin of your life and mine.
Now it all comes together! Now it all makes sense! Later, in John’s first letter, he writes “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (1 John 5:7-8, ESV). At Pentecost, at the font on your Baptismal day, the Holy Spirit (7:39) was given; the one given to us by faith, the One who empowers us to say that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3), the One who makes us aware that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins and by the power of His resurrection, he gives us the promise of life everlasting. The Holy Spirit, the water, the blood: they are all connected to us for our life: for our faithful, forgiven living.
In the church year there are 3 great festivals: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Christmas and Easter fill the pews, but Pentecost? Not so much. Why not!! Pentecost is a big deal! It is the day that we receive what Jesus promised. He had said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” It is in this way that the Living Water also gives us the Water for Living.
God graciously gives us just the right amount of Living Water: He never drowns us out and never dries us up (1 Corinthians 10:13). Instead, He nurtures you, loves you, He forgives us, sustains us, and gives you exactly what you need to live. He gives us the Living Water that we might have water for living, but not to grow grass, pineapples or oranges. Okay. What is it that God wants to grow from you? That’s easy.
(Jesus said) “Love one another” (John 15:17). And, building upon that encouragement from Christ, John also says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:16, 18, 23-24, NIV). Additionally, Paul adds that because we have the Holy Spirit, and because we have been nurtured and watered by the Living Water, we now produce the fruits of the Spirit: not bananas or mangos, but love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV). That is what the Christian faith looks like lived out especially in our at-times flooded and drought-filled world.
It took great courage on the part of Jesus to make that bold statement in front of everyone that day, and it takes great courage on our part as well to come to Him and receive the gift of Living Water and then confess Him in this world by our words and deeds. But He makes that possible by giving us His Spirit that we might now have living water for our living and for others. I pray that you are willing to share; to share Christ with those whom you know so that they too would have hearts flowing with rivers of living water.