Pentecost 15, 2016, Bunker Hill, Jeremiah 2:4-13
2:13 for my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns.
On the way up here Becky and I cross the Mississippi once and Cahokia Creek at least five times. We pass by water filled borrow pits along 255 and moats around warehouses. Water is much in the news these days, too much in some places; too little elsewhere as fires ravage the landscape; schools testing for lead, it’s not only in Flint, Mich.
The bible is filled with water stories. “Let the waters…be gathered…Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures.” So says God on third and fifth days of creation. Mist watered the earth and four rivers flowed from the Garden. And it was good, very good. But it was bad, very bad when water poured down from the heavens and gushed up from the earth destroying all save for Noah and those in his salvation boat. At a well, Abraham’s servant met a pretty girl named Rebekah. She helped him water his camels. She became Isaac’s wife. Isaac and Rebekah’s, son, Jacob, met lovely Rachel at a well. He helped water her flocks. God sent a sea faring creature to return Jonah to the road to Nineveh. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the heavens opened and the Spirit descended upon him. The way to heaven was opened for us at our baptism as the Holy Trinity descended upon us. As the bible begins so it ends with a vision of the river – of life – giving water flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, watering the tree of life with its abundance of fruit. Will there be water in the next life? I don’t know.
I do know, we cannot live without water, nor without God, the Water of Life. David cried out, “I search for You! O, My God! My whole being thirsts for you! My body desires you in a dry and tired land, no water anywhere.” (Ps. 63:1) Another psalmist calls out, “As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God. I thirst for God, the Living-God.” Preaching on the mountain Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” God satisfies our thirst with the gift of water and in Jesus, God satisfies our thirst for the Water of Life.
When the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, the Lord said, “My people have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.” How stupid, how foolish could people be? If you were outdoors on a hot day and needed something to drink, would you scoop up some stagnant warm water left standing in a mud hole when cool refreshing water was at hand to slake your thirst?
But his own people had chosen to quench their thirst with that which cannot satisfy. And God is puzzled. God asks, “What fault did your fathers find in me that they went so far astray, and went after worthless idols and became worthless.” God had chosen them to be his very own people. He had given them a pathway through the water of the Red Sea. When they were thirsty in the wilderness God caused water to gush forth from a rock. He had brought them up from a land of deserts and gave them a good land that they might enjoy the fruits of the land and the Lord’s goodness. The Lord had been so near to them and they to him, like newlyweds who couldn’t spend enough time together. But now his bride had strayed away seeking other husbands.
A Pastor tells of a next-door neighbor who was very shy and bashful. When in high school, he had a crush on one particular girl. He finally worked up the courage to ask her to go to a dance at the school and she accepted. The night of the dance he got all dressed up and took her flowers. Once they arrived at the dance he asked if she wanted something to drink, and he went to get each of them a Coke. When came back with the drinks, she was kissing another guy. She forgot, she abandoned the one who brought her to the dance. The young man was so hurt that the pastor thought he would never get over it.
God loved and treasured his people but they forgot who brought them to the dance. They forgot the story of their salvation. The priests no longer knew the Word of the Lord. The kings no longer cared for the people. The prophets spoke in the name of Baal. God was good enough for them when he brought them out of slavery and accompanied them 24/7 for forty years through the wilderness. But once they crossed the Jordan they abandoned their Savior God and found new gods in their new land. Perhaps they were embarrassed by their wilderness God. They followed gods who were powerless to help, gods who were not gods.
The granddaughter of a pastor friend will be attending an excellent college in her field of study this fall, but he and his wife are concerned about how she will fare as a Christian in an atmosphere where living in Christ is often ignored, regarded as irrelevant and even scorned. There will be new gods which will seek to attract her. But we don’t have to go away from home to be lured by new gods of our own creating. Other gods beckon to be placed before the God who died on the cross for us, who while we were still enemies reached out to make us his friends. Therefore, we do well to examine our lives. What is it during the next week that will loom more important, demand more attention, cause us to go against what God has said is the way to treat and talk about other people? What or whom might we count on in our daily life above god our creator, preserver and savior? Because nothing, no matter how much it promises to change our life and no one, no matter how much they promise to take care of our problems, can even come near what God is able to do and has done. Everything else, everyone else, does not hold the water of life. And in the end will leave us as empty as their empty promises. Our epistle tells us, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
Therefore, God speaks of himself as the fountain of living water. In a story remindful of Isaac and Jacob, one noon day Jesus met a woman at well. In fact, it was known as Jacob’s well. She had come to draw water. Her water jar was empty, but so was her life. Jesus struck up a conversation with her. He wasn’t supposed to do that because this woman was a Samaritan, a woman automatically to be dismissed as immoral and unclean. He even asked for a drink of water. When she asked why he would ask her for water, Jesus turned the table on her. If she knew who was asking for a drink of H2O, she would ask him for a drink of the living water. Because the water from Jacob’s well would only quench her thirst today. Tomorrow she would have to be back for more. But the water Jesus would give her would become in her a spring of water that would bubble up into eternal life. For that living water was Jesus himself. She unworthy as she was, believed in him. Then she brought out the whole village to quench their thirst on this eternal water who had come to visit them, unworthy Samaritans though they were. It’s a marvelous story. A story that befuddled his disciples. A story that tells us that God puts no preconditions on his grace, only believe and you will be saved and let the Holy Spirit do the changing.
This week take that story of the living water, carry it with you every day and when something or someone threatens to become more important than God in your life, tap into the spring of living water within you, for that spring is none other than the eternal, thirst quenching water of life, Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forevermore. Then share it, that others might have their longing for God satisfied.