Cool, Clear, Water
Pentecost is the festival that marks the ascended Jesus pouring out the Holy Spirit on His Church to give Him to the world. There are such contrasting metaphors connected with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is fire; the Spirit is water. This year Hes water: cool, clear, water.
To appreciate water you need to know thirst. Luther said, Unless the word is preached to the thirsty it is more despised than accepted. Do you appreciate thirst? You people should. Even though the Austin area has an average annual rainfall around 32 inches, any given year we might get half of that or less. You know what it means for the land to be thirsty for water. Youve heard the grass crackling under your feet. Youve seen huge trees with dusty leaves and drooping limbs weeping for water. Youve seen ponds dry up and water run away from the banks of Lake Travis. You know a thirsty land.
You personally know thirst as well. How many of you have been in the hospital dried out by medication and a lack of fluids thirsting for the tiniest amount of cool, clear, water. Youve worked outside on a hot, humid day, and found yourself dehydrated. Youve gone Christmas caroling and even in the cold how thirsty you became! Yes, you appreciate thirst personally.
Now translate that physical thirst into religious terms. Stand with Ezekiel in the valley and see bones that are very dry. Lament with the sons of Korah in Psalm 42, As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Cry with David in Psalm 32 that your sins have left you parched. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Luther describes a thirsty soul as a distressed, wretched, terrified, and aroused conscience, a despondent and frightened heart which longs to know on what terms it is with God. Are you thirsty for the cool, clear, waters of God?
You appreciate physical thirst, but do you appreciate what it means to have an abundance of water? This may be hard for you if youre from here. When you think abundance of water, you think flood, destruction, too much water. Austins average rainfall may be around 32 inches, but in September 1921, 15 of those inches fell in 24 hours. When you hear abundance of water, I dont want you to think flood but well watered.
Think of a land where there are no wet-weather creeks, but year round creeks. Think of a land where there is no such oxymoron as Dry Creek. No, every creek is a stream of clear, cool, water, and every creek has fish in it. The ground doesnt crack from lack of rain, and the trees dont weep for water but bud, grow, and spread their limbs heavy with deep green leaves. Thats a land with an abundance of water.
You might not know a land like that, but you personally should know what having plenty of cool, clear, water is like. Dont think of water fountains on every corner; think of always having a water bottle with you, or better yet, think of those camel packs bicyclists wear on their backs. At the slightest hint of thirst, the water is right there for the drinking.
Now translate having an abundance of water to religion. You know those times when your soul feels dusty and dry, when prayers to God taste like ashes? An abundance of spiritual water washes away the dusty ashes. You know when you feel like your sins have dried you out? Plenty of Gods cool, clear, water makes your skin pink, plump, and loose. An abundance of spiritual water is Eden out of which a river flowed big enough to branch out and form 4 more, where there was no destructive rain but a mist came up from the ground to water everything, and where God walked with man.
You know thirst; you know abundance. Youll take abundance. But where does cool, clear, water flow from? Here misreading the text can plunge you into deep water out of which you will not get. If you only hear the promise of Jesus, Streams of living water will flow from within, welcome to the worlds religion. Religious truth, power, certainty comes from within you. Look inside, drill deep within you for the water of life. But if you put the emphasis on whoever believes in Me, welcome to faith healers, Disney movies, and the power of positive thinking. Your believing makes the Spirit flow. Try that on a well gone dry, an empty water bottle, or a withered tree. See if by believing you can make a well wet, a bottle full, or a tree watered.
The cool, clear, water that you need to be rescued from the valley of dry bones starts with Jesus. Johns Gospel, the Gospel of water, shows this. Only John tells you Jesus made water into wine; told Nicodemus he must be born again by water and the Spirit; promised to give the woman at the well living water; and healed a man by His Word who wasnt healed by the water of Bethesda. Only John has our text with Jesus at the Feast which centered on a solemn pouring out of water on the last day. Only John tells you Jesus poured out water to wash the disciples feet, and only John tells you that water came out of Jesus pierced side.
Water does great things in the Gospel of John, but its not the water itself but Jesus. He makes it wine, living, full of the Spirit, healing, and cleansing by His Word. As the man at the pool of Bethesda shows, water without the Word of Jesus does nothing. The Word of Jesus is what really counts, and whatever He joins His Word to becomes powerful, forgiving, living whether that is Bread and Wine, a mans voice, or the Water of a baptismal font.
The Person and Work of Jesus are what makes water Spirit-filled and saving to fallen man. Apart from Jesus water from God floods, roars, and thunders. It drowns, frightens, and threatens. Go town to Mansfield damn at flood stage. Do you want anything to do with that mighty rush of water? Would you want it diverted to your home, your garden, your neighborhood? No, but that flooding, roaring, thundering stream is where the water in your faucet comes from which is useable for drinking, watering, washing.
Jesus is the Faucet. As true God, Jesus always had the Holy Spirit, but as True Man Jesus received the Spirit. At His Baptism, He was anointed with the Spirit. Then He lived a perfect life, so that there was no reason for the Spirit to leave Him as He had us dry, dead, bones. The lustful thoughts you cant go a day without Jesus never had. The worried thoughts that plague you; the unbelief you know well; the apathy for things Spiritual, Jesus never had. O He was tempted by them all, but unlike you He never sinned.
As True Man Jesus was given the Spirit and never sinned against Him driving Him out, and He wants to give you dry, dusty, dead bones His Spirit, but how can He? You are dead in your transgressions and sins, and no dove lands on dead bodies. Dead bodies are for vultures. The Spirit landed on Jesus, and He won the right to give dried up sinners like us the Spirit by satisfying Gods wrath against us. He died as a man without the Spirit should. He died tortured by man and abandoned by God. John, the Water Gospel, is the only one that records Jesus saying, I thirst. Jesus died as you should sinner: thirsty, so He might pour on you the Spirit as water.
Wait a minute. How did we go from talking about lack of water, to abundance of water, to the Spirit? We simply followed the path of Jesus as John relates it. Jesus says, If anyone is thirsty.. Youre thirsty arent you? Dried up by your sins; parched from your lusts; withered from lack of water. Jesus says, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Jesus says He has plenty of water for you. He won a flood of forgiveness to wash away the most stubborn of sins. From the cross flowed enough water to give drink to a whole world of parched ground. Just one drop of His water brings back not just a withered tree but a dead one.
But how do we get from water to the Spirit? Jesus says He is drink for the thirsty. Then He goes on to say, Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water will flow from within him. Then John explains, By this He meant the Spirit. From thirst, to clear, cool, water, to the Spirit. As lack of water kills physical life, so lack of the Sprit kills spiritual life. As too much water drowns physical life, so too much Spirit kills spiritual life. You get to much Spirit when you try to get Him apart from Jesus. Thats like drying to get a drink from a floodgate of the Mansfield damn. The only safe place to drink the Spirit is through Jesus the Faucet.
But whats this about those who get the Spirit from Jesus having the Spirit stream from them? Havent you see what rain does to a dry garden? Dont you know how a drink can revive a dehydrated person? If a safe amount of water cant but cause a garden to produce, if the right amount of water cant but revive a thirsty man, how much more will the Spirit from Jesus do in us?
From a man forgiven by Jesus flows the Sprit of forgiveness. From a woman brought to life by Jesus flows the Spirit of life. Jesus didnt win guilt but forgiveness, not worry but faith, not lust but love, not sadness but joy. So what Jesus gives by Word and Sacraments to eye, ear, hand, mouth, nose, and faith is the Spirit of forgiveness not guilt, the Spirit of faith not worry, the Spirit of love not lust, and the Spirit of joy not sadness. And this cool, clear, living water streams from us for others parched by guilt, dried up by worry, withered by lust, and dried out by sadness. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Day of Pentecost (20090531); John 7: 37-39a