Lent Wednesday 1A, Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Preached by Anna C. Haugen, Saint Luke Lutheran Church, Bloomsburg, PA
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
On Sunday, we heard in our Gospel lesson about the Samaritan woman at the well, to whom Jesus offered living water. Now, in tonight’s reading from Jeremiah we hear again about living water: about how the people of Israel have forsaken their God, the fountain of living water. No one can live without water. Thirst will kill you far more quickly than starvation, and dirty water can be almost as dangerous as no water at all. In our world today, more than 1.2 billion people lack access to safe water. Each year a lack of clean water kills between 2 and 5 million people. 5,000 children die each day from diseases passed through dirty water. Lack of water undermines everything else in a community: food production, health care, education, political and economic stability. Even here in Pennsylvania, a land blessed with an abundance of water, and the wealth to keep it clean and deliver it right to peoples’ homes, industries such as gas mining can contaminate clean water supplies if they are not careful.
Water is a big deal, and people who feel its lack know that far better than anyone else. It’s pretty obvious why God’s nourishment of our souls is called “living water.” Without that nourishment our souls quickly become parched. I have been through times when I felt spiritually dry, when I didn’t have much time to spend on God and my relationships with my church family, and worshipping and prayer and Bible reading didn’t seem to help me feel connected to the love of God. Let me tell you, it was hard—every trouble seemed so much bigger, overwhelming. When finally I could taste that living water again, I knew just how great a gift it was. And just as physical water can be contaminated with disease or poisons, so can spiritual water. Some people try to fill that thirst with material possessions, or with food or drink, or with political ideology, or prejudice, or with entertainment, or with other things. Yet none of those can fill our need for God’s love and saving grace, and our experience of being part of the body of Christ. So why do we turn away from the living water to those cracked cisterns that hold no water?
In one of his Nooma videos, Rob Bell talks about a bumper sticker he saw, “God Bless America.” As Bell points out, God has blessed America. Like the people of Israel, we live in a plentiful land and eat its fruits and good things, all of them given to us by God. Yet like the people of Israel, we turn away. We think we’re entitled to always have our own way, no matter what “our own way” is or what its consequences might be. We go after things that we want, but that aren’t good for us. Or we go after things that are good for us within reason, but we gorge ourselves on them to the exclusion of the things we need most. We call good things bad and bad things good. We forget all the things that God has done for us. We forget or can’t imagine what life is like without those blessings. We take them for granted. We convince ourselves that we have earned all that we have on our own merit, that we can do what we want, that some of the things that draw us away from God don’t matter and that others can actually replace our relationships with God and one another. We forsake the fountain of living water to dig cracked cisterns that can hold no water, and try to convince ourselves that it satisfies our thirst. And so we live in a land flowing with milk and honey and all good things, surrounded by streams of living water, and our souls are parched.
We have turned away from God. We are broken cisterns that can hold no water without God’s saving grace. But if we return to God, if we confess our sin and brokenness, God will fill us with his own living water. That water flows from the cross of Christ, who suffered and died that we might be made whole and saved from our sins. No matter how far we go astray, no matter how often we misuse the blessings that God has given us, no matter how much we hurt ourselves and others with our broken sinfulness, we are still God’s beloved children. When we return to the cross, and realize just how much we need God’s loving care, we are forgiven, washed clean, and given the living water that is the only thing that can truly satisfy our thirst.