Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Living water. . .

Sermon for Lent 3A, preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, March 19, 2017.

What do you need to survive? Luther says we need: “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, and the like.” If you’d ask a teenager, they may add a cell phone to this list. We need many things to survive; we need food, clothing, shelter, and relationships, but there’s one thing that’s foundational to life. It’s so basic that if we don’t have it we’d quickly die...and that’s water.

We need water to survive. If we don’t get it, if we don’t drink enough of it, we become dehydrated and die. This great need for water is seen in our readings today.

The Israelites needed water. They were in the desert, walking in the heat of the sun, on their way to the Promised Land, and they made camp at Rephidim. Most of the time you camp where there’s water that you can drink, but there wasn’t any water there. God had led His people to a place that had no drinking water.

Quickly the people grew thirsty and agitated. They complained and quarreled against Moses and God. They came to Moses demanding him to give them water, but what was he supposed to do, there wasn’t any water to give. The people grumbled saying, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (Ex 17:3). The people complained and wished they were back in Egypt. They would’ve rather been slaves in Egypt than thirsty in the desert. They were so upset with Moses that they were even ready to stone him, to kill him.

So Moses cried out to the LORD, asking what he should do; and the Lord told him. Moses was to take his staff, go before the elders of the people of Israel and strike the rock at Horeb. God told Moses to go and hit a rock with stick, and when he did, water flowed from that rock. God provided the thing that His people needed, just as He said He would.

The people of Israel were upset, they accused God of abandoning them in the desert, even though all of God’s actions showed otherwise. God mightily freed them from slavery in Egypt, leading them to safety across the Red Sea on dry ground, and He promised to take care of them on their journey to the Promised Land, and He kept that promise. Just two chapters before this, He made bitter water sweet so the people could drink it. And then in the next chapter, God gave the people bread from heaven, manna to eat when they had no food. Did the Israelites forget these might acts? Probably not. Even though they saw God’s miraculous care for them, they still grumbled against Him when they were thirsty because that’s what we do.

We grumble against God when we don’t get what we need, or when we don’t get what we think we need. “It’s not fair that I have to battle cancer. God should give me a miraculous healing because I’ve lived a life full of good works.” “I’m a faithful Christian who goes to church every Sunday, I shouldn’t have to deal with marital problems.” “I shouldn’t have to struggle with finances, to pay the bills and keep a full pantry because I believe in Christ for salvation.”

We think we deserve a care free, struggle free life. We want an easy life, a prosperous one. We want God to give us the things we want, the things that we think will give us an easy, struggle free, enjoyable life. Our desire is for God to give us the immediate things of this earthly life rather than the eternal things of everlasting life. Our minds are focused on this life. This is what we think about the most. This is what the woman at the well was concerned with.

Jesus was in a town of Samaria, and tired from His travels, He sat down near a well about the sixth hour, noon by our clocks. There He met a woman who came to the well to draw water, because she needed water. Jesus spoke to her, asking for a drink. The woman was surprised because Jews didn’t interact with Samaritans. She asked Jesus why He spoke to her. Jesus’ response was somewhat strange. He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink;’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10). Hearing this, the woman was confused. How was Jesus going to give her water when He had no way to get water from the well, and what was this living water any ways? Jesus continued, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:13-14).

Hearing this the woman wanted the water that Jesus spoke of because she was thinking about the water she needed for her earthly life. How great would it be to never be thirsty again, to never need water again? But this isn’t the water Christ was speaking of.

The water we need for this earthly life, the H2O required to keep our bodies going doesn’t give us everlasting life. Even if we drank 8 glasses of it a day, at some point we’ll still die because of our sin. What we need is a water that washes away our sin. We need water from a well of salvation that’s deeper than our sin. We need the water that always flows from the rock of salvation. We need the living water of Christ and faith in Him.

You’ve heard me say before that all of the Bible is about Jesus. It’s all about Him, it all points to His saving sacrifice on the cross, and today’s readings are no different.

Jesus is the well of salvation, He’s the rock that was struck. He was struck on the cross at the sixth hour, at the very same time He told the Samaritan woman about the living water that He gives. At noon, our Lord was led away to Golgotha, and on that hill He was crucified, He died for the ungodly, for us, while we were still sinners, while we still complain and grumble against God, just as the Israelites did. Christ Jesus died for you so that you might be forgiven, cleansed with the blood and the water that flowed from His body.

When the Roman soldier pierced Christ’s side with a spear, blood and water flowed. The water flows into the font where you’re baptized into the Triune name, where your sins are washed away, where you are connected to Christ in His death and resurrection, where the Holy Spirit gives you faith, faith that trusts and holds on to Jesus for salvation. Christ’s blood flows into the cup of His Holy Supper, where you eat and drink your Savior’s body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins, where you received that forgiveness, and where God strengthens and nourishes the gift of faith He’s given you.

In these Sacraments, and in the Word of God read and preached, you receive the Holy Spirit and the faith He creates. You receive the spring of living water that gathers and pools and wells up inside of you, and you receive everlasting life, a life that will continue even though you die.

You’re justified by faith and you’ve been given peace in Christ Jesus. Through Him you’ve been granted God’s grace and in faith you live in that grace, rejoicing in the hope of God’s glory, in the glory of His mercy and everlasting life. Because of this confident hope in that everlasting life you also can rejoice in your sufferings, in the struggles of this life. When you’re battling cancer, when there’s strife in your relationships, when the bills are greater than your bank balance, in faith, you can still rejoice because your Savior has given you what you need: the living water of everlasting life. And absolutely nothing can take that gift away from you.

We need water to live. Without it, we’d die. But the water of this earth can’t give us everlasting life, because it isn’t living water. Only Christ gives this water. This is the water that flowed from His side, this is the water of Baptism. With this water you won’t die. With this living water you have everlasting life. In Jesus name...Amen.

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