Monday, June 1, 2020

Living Water

Sermon for the Pentecost Vigil, preached on Saturday, May 30, 2020.

    Water figures large in the story of Scripture.  From the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep waters in the first lines of Genesis to the river of life in the last chapters of Revelation, water is not a minor detail.  This water is more often a good thing, a blessing, a gift.  But sometimes it is an agent of God’s judgment and wrath.  The flood comes to mind here.  But it is amazing how often water is the very image of God, the shape of His promise, and the fruit of His redeeming work.

    Zechariah the prophet speaks of those who have forsaken the fountain of living water, the Lord, and who are subject to His judgment until they repent of their sins.  It is a call to hope in the Lord.  And there is a promise hidden there in the prophet’s oracle:  In that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, in all the seasons of life, and the Lord will be their only God and His name the only name of salvation.

    Isaiah the mighty prophet speaks the invitation and promise of God.  “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the living waters.”  The prophet speaks of the day when God will provide not just water but living water to quench the heart thirsty for righteousness and the desire for new and everlasting life.

    Jesus had this in mind when He met the Samaritan woman at the well and promised the water that will be come a well of water springing up to eternal life in all who drink of it.  Well, tonight we meet our Lord at the fountain of life, in the waters of Holy Baptism, where the Holy Spirit dwells and does His work.  And in the shadow of Pentecost, we gather to witness the promise given long ago and yet ever fresh:  If any is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, from his heart will flow rivers of living water.

    We so often speak of things like this as if they were but symbols.  They are surely signs and symbols but they are so much more.  They convey the very reality of that which they speak.  In other words, living water is not an image for the mind but the feel of water splashed upon the head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  This is not a sentiment or a word picture but a place where the words are given life and that life flows to release the sinner from his sins and restore the lost to the family of God and fill the empty with the Spirit and faith.  That is what we are here for and what we have witnessed with our own eyes.
    Pentecost is usually thought of as a day of unique miracles – of tongues of fire on the heads of the apostles and languages that flow from the mouth without having been learned by the head and thousands brought to repentance by one single sermon.  And not to deny the uniqueness of that day, the works of Pentecost are not unique and continue in the Church just as they did on that first day.
    The fire of the Holy Spirit fills the minds and hearts of all who believe.  It burns with the brightness of Christ’s light in the once dead hearts and minds of those condemned by their sins to death.  This fire of the Holy Spirit cleanses the heart and mind and directs them to know and love God’s Word and to obey it with the obedience born of desire and not of fear.  This fire of the Holy Spirit burns so that the believer may shine with the brightness of Christ’s Light in words of witness and in good works to God’s glory.

    The mouth learns to speak a new language – the language of God’s Word and faith.  We might think that the worst that comes from our mouths are curse words or vulgarities but the worst that comes from our mouth is unbelief.  The rejection of God, of God’s Word, and of God’s saving work is the most vile thing that proceeds from the lips of mankind.  This is the unforgivable sin.  All our hearts were once condemned to speak from unbelief until the Holy Spirit came to teach us a new language not learned with the mind but taught by the Spirit.  This is the language of faith.  Every time someone comes to faith, the miracle of Pentecost is revealed among us again and again and again.  Every time baptismal water claims the lost for God’s family, the Pentecost miracle is revealed among us again and again and again.

    Though we live in a culture which presumes repentance to be what we must do in order to be approved by God, repentance is not a precondition placed upon God’s favor but the fruit of His love, work, and power in us.  Repentance happens every Sunday when God’s people confess their sin, own up to responsibility for all that they have thought, said, and done, and plead the mercy of Jesus Christ for forgiveness.  Repentance happens when the sinner is brought to the water of baptism and to the question “Do you wish to be baptized?” answers “I do.”  Repentance is what happens at the rail when people kneel before the Lord of life and receive into their mouths the body and blood of Christ.

    And just as living water brought you into God’s kingdom, living water flows through you to others.  Every Christian life is a life of witness.  Every one.  It is not a matter of choice but who you are and what you desire and what you say and what you do.  This is the living water flowing in you and now flowing out to all those around you.  Witness is not a matter of learning a speech or rehearsing a sales pitch or selling a product.  Witness is a matter of being who you are.  You are a child of God by baptism and faith.  The living water does not find a dam to keep it contained within you but lives and flows through you.  Imperfectly, yes.  Within the frailty of our lives still lived in the world where sin still afflicts us, yes.  But flow it does.  We cannot make it happen.  We can only impede its flow by refusing the prompting of the Spirit.  So tonight we pray not only for the living water that has claimed in us in baptism but that we may learn to cooperate with and live in obedience to the Spirit as He teaches us the new ways of life as a child of God.

    And when this is all done, where shall we be?  According to Revelation, we shall be with the saints, whose have been guided through tribulation, trouble, and trial to the water of life.  According to Revelation, God will give us thirsty the spring of living water whose price has already been paid by Christ and from which no temptation or doubt or fear will trouble us anymore.  According to Revelation, we shall gather at the river, just as the old Gospel song says, where God will guide us to the river of the water or life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, around which the fruits of all the promises of God shall be fulfilled forever more.

    That is what you saw tonight, in the promise of water fulfilled, in Pentecost sign kept again in the Word placed in water, and in the voices added to our own in confession of Christ.  And on that day the prophets will rejoice to see us living out their vision of living water, of springs that flow without end, of fresh water without impurity, and of pure water that satisfies our thirst forever.  God make it so.  Amen.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for an edifying sermon on the subject of water and the Holy Spirit.

I was happy to see your quoting of Isaiah 55. I think these words are almost meant to go with my favorite saying by our Lord on this topic, John 7:37-39, " 37Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart