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June 4, 2017

 

   

6.4.17                              Pentecost                          - John 7:37-39ESV
 
 
 
37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
 
 
CHRISTIANS ARE CONDUITS OF CHRIST
 
 
In 1880 a young boy playing on the ledges of Old Jerusalem made an exciting discovery.  It was an inscription on the wall of a long tunnel that led from a pool of water to a spring higher up the craggy slope.  For many years it had been known that this water channel existed.  In fact, some thought that David captured the city from the Jebusites by sneaking his men into their fortress through a vertical shaft that opens above the spring.  Later on, the Bible says, King Hezekiah lengthened the passageway so that the spring, which was outside the city walls, could send its water underground to a pool inside the city walls, protected from enemy attack.   But some 2500 years later no one was sure how this tunnel had been cut through solid rock, until that etched writing was found by that curious boy.  “The Siloam Inscription,” as it became known, with its ancient mineral-encrusted letters, was deciphered by linguistic experts.  The message revealed how the tunnel was dug.  Two groups of diggers, starting from opposite ends, chiseled and carved their way with picks and shovels until they heard the sound of their counterparts close by through the limestone rock.   Then they connected the two tunnels which amazingly were only a few feet off even though they began 1780 feet apart.  Without the aid of modern survey equipment, archaeologists still wonder how they did it.  Having walked through “Hezekiah’s Tunnel,” as it’s named, which to this day carries water to the pool of Siloam from the Gihon spring down a gradual grade, I can tell you that it’s a remarkable feat of engineering.  Some of you can attest to that.
 
 
What’s this got to do with the sermon?  It’s quite possible that Jesus was referring to this water conduit when He spoke about “living water” in our text.  For the temple area where He was preaching was not far away.  In fact, each morning a priest would dip a large golden pitcher into the Pool of Siloam and carry it in procession to the altar in the courtyard of the temple.  There he poured it into two bowls as an offering to God, while the people sang this verse from Isaiah: “With joy you will draw water out of the wells of salvation.”  It was a ritual reminder of God’s miraculous provision of water out of a rock during the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness which saved them from physical death, part of the “feast day,” John tells us, they were observing.
 
 
Now Jesus picked up on this metaphor and brought the image to reality by saying: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”  And so we are talking about conduits of Christ today, and we’ll see that as the water of life has flowed to you, so through you it can flow to others.  Indeed, CHRISTIANS ARE CONDUITS OF CHRIST.
 
 
Thirst is a universal experience.  When the fluids of your body run low from perspiration and evaporation, the brain sends a message that it needs liquids.  Your throat gets dry, so you say, “I’m thirsty.”  You need to “wet your whistle.”  Prolonged lack of water, we know, can be fatal because of dehydration.  So thirst is a divine-design warning signal that you need to replenish the H2O that keeps you alive physically.  
 
 
Of course, Jesus had another kind of thirst in mind – the need to have one’s guilt removed.  Your brain senses this craving, too.  Each wrong thing you do or say or think pricks your conscience which feels at least a twinge of pain.  The memories of the moment may come back to haunt you, intensifying like a migraine until it becomes unbearable.  Unresolved guilt drives people to extreme, paranoid, even self-destructive behavior.
 
 
But that sensory device was implanted in our head by God to record and play back these painful impulses for a good purpose.  It makes us thirsty for His mercy.  I’m sure everyone here has heard that little voice accusing: it’s wrong to curse and swear; it’s wrong to neglect worship; it’s wrong to be disrespectful, hateful, lustful, wasteful, untruthful.  And when you hit the play back button, you wish all that negative data could be erased.  Or using the illustration of Jesus again, you feel so thirsty, you’d beg for just a drop of water to soothe your parched tongue.  Measuring the level of our righteousness reservoir with God’s dipstick, we find ourselves woefully low. 
 
 
It will do no good to numb your conscience by redefining God’s commandments as old-fashioned rules that no longer apply – though lots of people try.  It will do no good to callous your conscience by indulging sinful appetites until it doesn’t bother you any more – though lots of people try.  It will do no good to salve your conscience by doing a few charitable deeds to sort of balance the scales – through lots of people try.  None of these attempts at self-righteousness can be an oasis to quench your thirst; it’s only a mirage. 
 
 
Thank God, there is a solution to quench our thirsty, guilt-ridden conscience.  Jesus invites: “Come to me and drink.”  The attraction of Jesus is in His Word which draws us to Him like the sound of a bubbling brook.  He promises the forgiveness of sins, the elimination of guilt, the water of life.  To the sinful woman at the well Jesus declared: “Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4)
 
 
Yes, dear ones, come to Jesus and drink His living water.  In other words, repent of those sins, admit you were wrong, be sorry for them, then trust in Jesus for pardon and gulp down His remission with a believing heart.  His love pours into our lives through the conduits of Christ, the means of grace, the Holy Spirit’s pipeline of word and sacrament. 
 
 
On Pentecost we remember the Holy Spirit’s role in all of this.  He is the power that pumps the water of life through the gospel we hear and read in the Scriptures, we touch and taste in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  This is how He hydrates us, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1:12:13): “We were all baptized by one Spirt into one body – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”  How blessed we are to know that the Holy Spirit has been poured out on us in the water of life that comes to us through the conduits of Christ in the church. 
 
 
And just as water naturally spreads, seeking its own level, so does this living water Jesus gives:  “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  The writer John explains that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit who came after Jesus was glorified in heaven, in a special way on Pentecost in Jerusalem.  We heard about it again today: Filled with the Holy Spirit, disciples began boldly sharing the wonderful works of God with others.  They spoke in foreign languages because there were so many visitors from different countries in the city at the time. This was God’s grace for every race.  About 3000 people were baptized and added to the church that day.  The floodgates were opened and nothing could stop the surging stream.  From Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria it cascaded, soon to wash up on the shores of the Mediterranean; and then to the ends of the earth the tidal wave of the gospel still ripple-effects through many lands though not at tsunami speed.  The same living water, the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of the world, is saturating the dust bowl we call earth. 
 
 
You know what?  You and I are part of the plumbing.  We are conduits of Christ today.  If we believe in Him, rivers of living water will flow from us, too.  For we have been thirsty and guilty, but by God’s grace we have been refreshed and relieved.  Now the living water flows through us to others who are dying of thirst but don’t know where to go or what to drink.  It’s like this bottle of purified water – some prefer mineral or spring water over city water (they say, the nitrate levels are rising in Mankato).  Likewise, we need to know that the “water” we’re getting from a church today has not been contaminated or polluted by false teaching.  
 
 
Outside on the front lawn, you’ve seen a black plastic hose.  Most of you know it’s the sump pump discharge line for the ground water beneath the elevator shaft.  A lot of water goes through it.  The gutter is always running down the street to the storm sewer drain.  When it comes to sharing the water of life with our community, we can do better than that haphazard watering; we must be more personal, more directional.  We need to invite people to come, drink to your heart’s content the living water of Jesus Christ.  No matter how checkered your past, no matter how stained your life, the love of God will wash it all away.  “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, purifies us from all sin,” the Bible says (1 Jn 1:7).
 
 
Wherever you live in the land of 10,000 lakes, you can see water.  Often it’s just a small pond or a catch basin.  You know that if the water sits there without motion it will become green-slime, algae- covered, swamp.  Don’t let the living water that has flowed into your life become stagnant.  Keep it moving!   Remember, Christians are conduits of Christ.  Stay hooked up and turned on to Him, and then let the good news flow!   Amen.