Rivers of Living Water

A Homily for the Wednesday after Lent III

Text: St. John 7:14-31, 37-39


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sates our thirst. Amen.

Tonight, we find ourselves back in time: we’re exactly one chapter earlier than we were last Wednesday, when Jesus was confronted by an angry mob preparing to stone a woman caught in adultery. (For more on the relationship between these two episodes, check out last week’s sermon.)

It’s the Feast of Booths, and Jesus is on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, a city packed to overflowing with worshipers flocking to the Temple. In the turmoil of such a crowded city, the religious leaders are on a sharp lookout for anyone who may be stirring up trouble or fomenting insurrection, lest a riot bring about a violent crackdown from the Roman troops. And Jesus, they worry, is exactly that type of dangerous revolutionary.

What we see throughout chapter seven is an extended series of encounters with the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the Temple guards, debating the Law of Moses and the very nature of Truth itself.

And as the holy celebration comes to an end, while pilgrims are bringing pitchers of water from the pool of Siloam to the Temple – part of the ancient festival practice, recalling the miracle of water from the stone during the Exodus – Jesus reprises a theme we heard on Sunday: that God is the source of living water.

Just as our Lord told the Samaritan woman at the well that he would provide living water, and whoever drinks of that water would never thirst, so to today does he invite all who thirst to come to him and drink.

And tonight, he goes a step further, adding a promise: “Out of the believers’ hearts shall flow rivers of living water.”

It is, as Saint John states plainly, a promise that those who believe in Christ are to receive the Holy Spirit. We’re about half-way through Lent and already our attention is turned to the end of the season of Easter, the feast of Pentecost when the Spirit descends upon the apostles.

But this is not merely a promise to disciples who lived a long time ago in an empire far, far away. No, the Holy Spirit is a gift bestowed upon all Christians across time and space in the Sacrament of Baptism. In Baptism, we pray that the Spirit may be “pour[ed] out” and may sustain the newly baptized in the life of faith. This precious gift is “the spirit of wisdom and understanding…counsel and might…knowledge and fear of the Lord…and joy in [God’s presence].”

Yes, when we are baptized, we are made members of the Body of Christ – AND we also receive the Spirit. We enter Christ and the Spirit enters us. We abide in Christ, and the Holy Spirit abides in us, making us holy and keeping us “in the true faith, just as [She] calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian Church….”

So, dear ones, you who have been baptized into Christ have received the Spirit which has become in you “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” And if you have not yet been baptized, come! Receive the Sacrament during the Great Season of Easter! Celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection and join in his everlasting life!

Assured of the salvation given to us in this Sacrament and united to Christ through the outpouring of the Spirit, know that you are set free to live the life God always intended for you: to love God, to love your neighbor, to love even your enemies.

Now, more than ever, the Lord is sending us to issue forth a river of living water as we love and care for our those in our communities.

And as we move toward our Lord’s Passover from death to life, we pour ourselves out, as he did on the cross, in the sure and certain hope that he will bring us to new and everlasting life.

Amen.

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