A Sermon for Series A Day of Pentecost 2017 “The Great Thirst”

 

Old Testament Lesson Numbers 11:24-30

Second Lesson  Acts 2:1-21

Gospel Lesson  John 7:37-39 

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [John 7:37-39]

The Gospel reading today starts out with: On the last day of the feast, the great day.  I’m sure our Confirmands can relate to that today.  Finally, we’re done.  The last day of the feast is here, the great day.  Hours and hours of studying Luther’s Small Catechism; memorizing verses, answering pastor’s questions; it’s all done.  We’re done and the great day is here.

You don’t want to hear this, but it’s only beginning.  It is a great feast day and there is good reason for celebration, but what you’ve heard so far today are only the first few words of the Gospel lesson, just the beginning.  On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ “

Jesus waited for the last day of the feast to make his big announcement.  He waited for the last day to make his proclamation … not about the end, but about the beginning, about the future, your future.

You’ve come to Jesus and drank in the water he offers.  You have rivers of living water flowing from your heart, right now!  Oh, how I’ve longed for water; and living water would’ve been even more than I could’ve imagined.  To look at me now, you’d probably never guess that at one time I was an avid runner.  I was one of those guys who live to run, not run to live.  And, Patricia and I ran in a lot of races; 5K’s, 10K’s half marathons, even a marathon in 1999.

Probably the single most important thing we learned about running, in all kinds of weather; but especially in hot, sunny weather, was to stay hydrated.  We always ran with bottles of water in our hands, even when water stations were promised all along the track.

That really came in handy on the Kole Kole Pass Half Marathon; a thirteen and a half mile race that started on the rainy, shaded side of a mountain pass in Hawaii and ended in the shadeless, scorching sun.  In the Kole Kole half marathon, half of your run is up to the top of the pass, and then down the other side.  The run up is in the shade.  The run down is in the full sun.  You run surrounded by cacti and yucca.

After a long dark winter and a cold wet spring, most of us would welcome the sun; but when you’re in the seventh or eighth mile of a thirteen and a half mile race, with the sun beating down on you and your mouth feels like cotton because it’s so parched, you wish you were still running in the shade.

Normally there’d be plenty of water stations along the way, but on the day we ran this race, there’d been a gross miscommunication, and none of the water tankers showed up.  We were some of the few who had water, and there were some really hurting people out there, people who could’ve literally been dying of thirst.  We found ourselves sharing the little water we had with some of these people in need; and as I read Jesus’ words in the gospel lesson today, that whole experience came flooding back.

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” So often, when we thirst, what we drink is meant to satisfy our personal thirst alone.  We may share what we have with people who’re desperate, but more often we hold on to our own; afraid we’ll run out, afraid we’ll be lacking ourselves.

Other times we see those desperately thirsting, but their desperation makes us stand back, afraid to get too close to these outcasts from society, and so again we keep our water to ourselves.  We drink in what we receive, but we don’t pour out what our thirsting neighbors need.

Even in spiritual needs, we often live lives focused on ourselves or at best focused on those closest to us.  We worship together because we need the fellowship, not because we’re eager to give it away.  We study God’s word to strengthen our own faith.  We drink in his word for personal gain, not to prepare ourselves to pour out what we’ve learned as we teach others about Christ.  Without Christ running ahead of us, leading us, no matter how much we drink in, our thirst always returns, and we drink in only for ourselves.

But, when Christ sends his Holy Spirit, and he works in us through his word, we receive the living water only he can give; and his living water not only satisfies our thirst, it changes us forever; changing us from takers to givers.  The more we drink in his living water, the more we become the source of living water; rivers of living water, as the Holy Spirit uses our lives to satisfy the great thirst of those he surrounds us with in our lives.  That’s what we celebrate today.

We celebrate that the Holy Spirit has entered your hearts, and we remember that he’s entered our hearts; dwelling there, with the living water that quenches our thirst and keeps us alive in Christ; so alive, so filled with life, that it bursts out of us in streams of living water, rivers of living water, that flow to those who have a great thirst for salvation, but don’t know where to get their thirst quenched.

This is not the end of the feast.  It’s the beginning of the miracle the Spirit performs in your lives, and in our lives: he pours living water into us through his holy Word, and out of us comes rivers of that self same water, living water cascading out of our hearts and satisfying the thirst for salvation that those around us have.  In our lives, in our vocations as Christians, the Spirit uses us to show Christ to those around us, quenching their thirst as the Spirit pours out his water of life through his holy Word.

First he creates faith in us so that we believe and live, and then he multiplies this living water within us so that it becomes a spring of life for others as the good news is spread.  Good news that salvation has come in God’s own Son, Jesus Christ; good news that our days of thirsting are over.

Christ spoke the words we heard today to encourage the people of Israel, to encourage a people whose thirst was great; thirst for the restoration of their nation, Israel, thirst for relief from hunger and sickness and oppression, thirst for refreshment and comfort from the world.

But, Christ offered them much more than they could ever imagine; and he does the same for you and me.  He offers never ending comfort and refreshment, never ending peace, the peace of God, his never ending forgiveness.  He offers living water that brings eternal restoration for all who believe.

And so, in Christ, we’re able to run the race of life, even though the race is long.  At times the race of life is easy and we run downhill in shade … but other times it seems like the up hill grind will never end, and the sun and the heat beats us down.  We thirst!  We thirst for restoration with our God.  We thirst for his forgiveness.

Jesus gives us the living water we need; he gives us his forgiveness; he gives us the way of life.  Jesus gives his Spirit to you; a Spirit that’s alive; a Spirit that makes all in whom he dwells alive.  He gives living water … rivers of living water … bubbling, flowing, gushing from your heart.  Not just on the last day of the feast; not just on that one great day, but every day for the rest of your lives.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle