Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pentecost; John's perspective


The lectionary passage from John for the UMC this Sunday is; John 7: 37-39 37On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and 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.’” 39Now 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.

John 20:19-31 is the alternative passage.

What a beautiful image that out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water. This is what Jesus said about the Spirit which believers were to receive. The Acts passage gives us the image of wind and fire. The John passage gives us the image of water. But first Jesus offers for anyone who thirsty come to me. And if you believe drink. So it is the image of having our thirst quenched, and that then from us proceeds these rivers of living waters. This is a possible allusion to several passages from Isaiah (12:3; 44:3; 55:1) and perhaps baptism. But this is a reminder of God giving the children of Israel water from the rock as they journeyed through the desert. Every day during the feast of Tabernacles, water from the pool of Siloam would be taken to the temple as a reminder. Jesus was at the Feast of the Tabernacles(Sukkot in Jerusalem. While there, he went into the Temple and began to teach.

The "great day" of the festival (John 7:37) probably refers to the day of Simchas Torah. In later rabbinic Judaism, this was the day that marked the ending AND the new beginning of the daily readings from Torah, as the final readings from Deuteronomy were completed and Genesis 1 would be taken up immediately to start the new lectionary year. Torah itself was understood to be the "living water" (or flowing stream), as the Psalms often refer to it, beginning with Psalm 1. The words of Jesus in the temple on Simchas Torah were thus incredibly provocative.

Yesterday we were at the park and looking in the ponds. They were stagnant, and full of algae, yet there were fish in them, some geese and turtles. However if some things aren't done, they will be come dead pools of water. They are too hot, and not ariated enough. The Holy Spirit is not a stagnant pool of water. It is not a torrent or a flood or tsunami. Yes it is alive and moving but it won't drown you or overtake you.

Maybe this is what they mean by not quenching the spirit. Maybe by the stagnant nature of so many of our churches we have quenched the spirit. Maybe by stopping the flow of the Holy Spirit in our churches we have quenched the spirit. Maybe by not making sure it is flowing out of us to others we quench the spirit. Maybe the anger, bitterness, hatred, un-forgiveness, clogs the water and makes it stagnant.

Drinking Jesus is the key here (7:38). You want the flowing living water of the Holy Spirit in your life, you have got to drink Jesus. It's like that old commercial "Obey your thirst."

The prophet Ezekiel referred to them in this fashion when he prophesied the coming of the Holy Spirit: I will pour out upon you, God says there, clean waters and will put my spirit in the midst of you [Ez. 36:25-27].

Jan Richardson has an interesting take on Pentecost at her blog "Painted Prayer Book"

we humans are 78% water. 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by water. And of that water, over 97% is as salty as seawater . . . because it is! Which means 3% (or less) is fresh water. And—more wet math!—about 2/3 of that 3% is “fresh frozen” in the polar ice caps. Fresh, drinkable, living H2O is precious

Ways to Enliven Your Pentecost Celebration

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