Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on John 7:37-39
Dear people who thirst for living water: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The province of Saskatchewan is susceptible to drought. The famous “dust bowl” conditions of the 1930s resulted in one of the most destructive prairie drought periods of that century. 1961 and 1988 were also years of drought, with the driest parts of the province receiving less than half of the average precipitation. The most recent drought period was from 2000-2003, with 2001 being the driest year in more than a century.
Most of you know very well the consequences that drought has on the province because of your involvement in farming or even just in living in the province through these times. Wetlands and wildlife are threatened. Municipal water supplies are diminished. The risk of forest fires is heightened. Livestock production is disrupted and crop yields are devastated. Drought has resulted in billions of dollars of losses to Saskatchewan agriculture (source: The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan).
You know what thirsty land is like, and you also know what it’s like when you yourself are thirsty. After exercise or working outside in the hot sun, you have found yourself dehydrated. After spending time in the hospital, dried out by medication and lack of fluids you may have found yourself very thirsty. After farming dry land in the hot sun, the grass crackling under your feet as you walk around dried up sloughs, your own tongue has also craved cold, refreshing, clear water, as the land has.
We can also speak of thirst in spiritual terms. David confesses in Psalm 32 that his sins left him parched. When he kept silent and did not confess his sin, he writes that his bones wasted away through his groaning all day long, for day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him; his strength was dried up as by the heat of the summer. A thirsty soul is one that is distressed because of sin and terrified over evil committed. A thirsty soul longs for the cold, refreshing, and clear water of forgiveness from God. Thus, Psalm 42 says, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Also, Jesus says in today’s Gospel lesson, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus gives living water that becomes a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:10,14).
If we do not recognize our thirst, however, we have no desire for living water from Jesus. The preached Word is despised by those who are not thirsty for it; by those who do not recognize their own sinfulness; by those who turn inwardly to look to themselves to quench spiritual thirst.
But just as you cannot turn inwardly to look within yourself for water to hydrate you when you are physically thirsty, so you cannot look within yourself for living water to hydrate you when you are spiritually thirsty. You must get water from outside yourself. You must go to the fridge, to the well, to the water cooler to get a drink of water when you are physically thirsty. When you are spiritually thirsty, you must go to where Jesus gives living water: to the waters of Holy Baptism, to the spoken word of Absolution, to the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
You have undoubtedly heard the advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. We may not truly require quite that much, but water is very helpful in preventing fatigue, flushing out toxins, boosting the immune system, and so on. Drinking water regularly prevents you from getting to the point that you are parched.
There is no set rule for how much spiritual water you should drink each day. The Psalms speak of devotional time in the morning, noon, and evening (e.g. 55:17). Certainly, Sundays are the day of the Lord, for receiving living water from Jesus in the Divine Service.
Just as physical water is good for us physically, spiritual water is good for us spiritually. It is helpful in preventing spiritual fatigue and indifference. Spiritual water flushes out the toxins of sin and false belief, and boosts faith, our spiritual immune system which keeps us spiritually alive.
Because of our sinful flesh, we have cravings to drink all kinds of things that aren’t good for us spiritually. We seek contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure from all kinds of things in this world that will never give any of these things even though they promise to do so. We chase after worldly success, worldly pleasure, worldly mammon, worldly praise, but none of these things will quench our spiritual thirst. Rather, they make us even more thirsty, even if we don’t realize it.
Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus gives living water in the water of Baptism, the word of Absolution, and the bread and water of Holy Communion. Not because the water used in Baptism comes from heaven, but because the water is included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. Not because Absolution is spoken by a sinless man, but because Christ Himself has commanded repentant sinners to be absolved in His name. Not because the bread and wine of Holy Communion are special in and of themselves, but because Christ Himself instituted the Sacrament of the Altar to give us His true body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all our sins.
Through these means of grace, Jesus gives us living water. It is living water because it brings us to eternal life. It is living water because Jesus died for us to give us eternal life.
The more we drink the living water that Jesus gives, the more our thirst is quenched. Not so that we would not need living water any more, but that we would desire it more and more. Living water quenches our thirst so that we are turned away from seeking contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure from drinking the waters of the world; those waters that will never give any of these things even though they promise to do so. Living water turns us away from chasing after worldly success, worldly pleasure, worldly mammon, worldly praise.
All of this happens from drinking the living water that Jesus gives, because through the living water, the Holy Spirit is received. “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.” ’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The Holy Spirit is received in the living water of the means of grace. The Holy Spirit creates faith in you and also works in you to turn you away from drinking those things that are harmful to your salvation. He quenches your thirst through the forgiveness of sins so that you are content and satisfied. He gives you living water to the point that out of your heart will flow rivers of living water. Living water from Jesus fills you to the point that the living water flows from you to others, so that you yourself become a conduit of Jesus’ love and forgiveness to others.
In our lives, we may experience physical thirst and drought, but we need never experience spiritual drought because Jesus freely gives us living water that quenches our spiritual thirst. Through the living water, the Holy Spirit is received who forgives our sin, brings us to eternal life, and causes us our hearts to flow with living water. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.