Readings: Psalm 81, Jeremiah 2:4-13, John 7:14-31, 37-39
God’s Goodness and Israel’s Waywardness
Daily droughts, toxic waters, lands made desolate by human hands are in the news. Droughts in the Southwest and California and toxins in water supplies in nearby West Virginia are spoiling the plentiful land our God had delivered our ancestors to. History is repeating itself; the Fertile Crescent to the desert. As the Prophet Jeremiah says: “Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” To be without water is truly appalling in the desert and not to have a way to collect what little falls is truly a great horror. So the passage illustrates in both a scientific and poetic way the life giving properties of water.
Jeremiah, the prophet, brings gloom but not doom, for God still calls Israel ‘my people’ despite a multitude of sins of omission and commission. God will not give up on Israel; there is hope for the nation, rooted in the nature of the divine that will not fail. Hope that encourages humanity, individually and collectively, to embrace God no matter what, as Jesus cries out in John 7 “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Yet in our time we have the Holy Spirit with us, Jesus has been glorified. In John we have the story of Jesus at the temple where so much effort was expended executing rituals perfectly and maintaining purity. But matters of the heart – forgiveness, avarice, lust for power, love for all those in need, etc. were a secondary focus. When we look around the church today, we see the exact same thing, arguments about what prayer, what song, are we pure enough?
Complicated theories about atonement, church, worship, salvation, etc., mean little when we ignore the living water, the nature of humanity’s relationship with God. The complexity of worship styles mean little in the desert. We are in a desert of partisanship and separation and need the Holy Spirit now. So what is the story we can take from the bible and church history of how God works with us? What is our responsibility towards ourselves, each other and our planet? How do I live as if I was building a cistern in the desert, as if it was blessed to be poor, or meek, or …?
What matters is to worship as the Psalm says: Sing aloud unto God our strength, make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee……I proved thee at the waters of Mer’ibah.
Dear God, deliver us from the desert of separation from you and each other and strengthen us with your living water. Amen