Are You Thirsty?

John 4:5-42

”Come and see the a man who told me every thing I have ever done!”

Talk about burying a lead!

But maybe not. Maybe receiving this kind of good news is too much to take right after hello. But maybe its not as complicated and not as onerous as we think. Maybe it is a simple as taking a drink.

Have you ever been thirsty before? I don’t mean you could use something to “wet your whistle” but I mean the kind of thirst that survivalists talk about when they say you can go three days without water. I know I’ve felt that way before in my life, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a place where lack of fluids put my life in harm.

Maybe you have thirsted before, but it wasn’t for something to drink, but you’ve thirsted for the dignity that comes with steady, honest work. Or maybe you craved a way out of isolation and longed for deep connections and relationships. Maybe you have been rendered parched by the way elected officials seem to ignore the thirst being articulated by the people. Have you ever thirsted for a faith… or maybe faith is not even the right word…but you longed for a connection to something that was deeper, more significant. Have you ever been thirsty?

This woman at the well was thirsty. She was thirsty on a very basic level in that she was coming to the well to drink—That daily need to replenish herself as well as her water stores for cooking, cleaning. In that very mundane action, she experienced something she had not planned, she had a different kind of thirst quenched.

It is said that the average American walks around just a little bit dehydrated… not so much so as to cause confusion or for our bodies to start doing things like imagining that sand is water. But neither do we go around functioning as well as we could.

So the research goes, we go about our days drinking enough fluids each day but we drink the wrong kind. Either we go one way: soft drinks, beer and wine, or powdered drinks. But we forget that chemicals like caffein and alcohol works against the hydration process. And we forget that there are studies proving that the body metabolizes certain sugar substitutes that are supposed to be zero calories but actually your body treats in some ways as real sugar. So we’re not really hydrating, even though we think we are.

Have you ever been involved with something you thought was life-giving and it turned out to not be healthy at all? Maybe a job or a relationship. Maybe there was part of your faith journey that was not pointing you to life.

Or we go the other way, thinking that we need to have all these sports drinks that offer electrolytes, salt, even energy replenishment when the only people those drinks really help are folk like professionals or the folk who ran the marathon today. For most of us regular folk, water will do. And we do even need to water from the South Pacific, water that has gone through reverse osmosis or even water from a coconut. All we need is simply, water.

Have you ever been thirsty, even though you thought you were doing what you needed to and the thirst abided—it didn’t go away?

I wonder sometimes—and maybe this is just me—if with our evolved sensibilities we make things more complicated than we should. Have you ever wondered about that? I don’t mean that we need to force our faith into something that is simplistic or two-dimensional, something that ignores context, nuance, science, or history. Rather, I wonder if sometimes we need to remember that what are about is a relationship, its about having Jesus stand in front of us, too at the well, telling us everything about ourselves… him doing that with a sense of grace and invitation—not spite, wrath or judgement—and being invited to consider our lives in ways we never have before?

Simple? I would hope so. Difficult? Most definitely.

One of the stories I love to share about just this thing is a story from I think Florida. Imagine, if you will, it being summer time. Locked away in the basement of the church was a really great youth room with, among a bunch of other cool things, was a pool table. Like many youth spaces, this room was only used on a Sunday.

And so these two neighborhood middle school boys would perennially try and succeed in finding their ways into the church and the youth room to play pool. I can imagine that that church was not that different from ours and many others where, despite all best attempts, there’s no 100% way to ensure that our building is 100% secure all the time.

Well, one day, the pastor of the church finds the two boys playing pool in the basement. Instead of throwing them out, instead of calling the police, instead of giving the boys a lecture about respect of private property, what does he do? He gives them the keys to the church and tells the boys that they can come play pool any time they want. I’m not sure that would pass muster today, especially given child safe-guarding procesdures. But I think it proves a point about sometimes we “err” on the side of grace. And you know what? One of those two boys grew up to become a United Methodist clergy.

Have you ever been so thirsty that you’d soon defy convention just to drink?

Yes, I thirst for a church and a faith that is a little more intuitive, a little more trusting, a little more hope-filled and not so much caught up in helping everyone live into the letter of our polity—and that’s saying something coming from someone who is a rule-follower, like myself. And you know what, I think that most of us are like that, too. We go about our days, doing our daily ritual and all we really want is for that moment of cognition, of being known to someone.

I thirst for a church that calls for a return to something that we all seem to know—community built around the table, nurture that is rooted in the study and exploration of Scripture, and service to the world that puts the vision of the Reign of God before anything else. I’m sure that the slick ministry plans, timely title sequences with video production that would make Spielerg jealous, and exquisite lighting and smoke machines provides some body with a glimpse of how God desires the world to be, how God wants the church—the people of God—to be. I’m just not entirely sure I know who the are. That’s not to downplay technology, but which is in service to which? What’s primary?

Maybe a better question, given the day, is what’s in the water we’re drinking.

But I think that a better sense would be what happens here in Scripture. Here, this woman, as soon as she is offered this gift from Jesus and she turns and goes to share the news—the good news. Meals are shared, stories are told, people believe. People come into relationship with God and each other.

Are you thirsty? Are you thirsty for a church like that? Are you thirsty for a people like that? I am.

Let’s go to the well. Let’s go to the well and drink, Let’s go to the well and find out who is there waiting to tell us everything about ourselves.

Are you thirsty?

Lent 2014: Connect Week 1

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Note: Ezekiel is the Old Testament Lesson associate with the 5th Week in Lent. Because of the rhythm of the school year and a project where different groups creatively present the Scripture in worship during Lent, we are “flipping” the texts for Lent 1 and Lent 5 this year.

Have you ever experienced an injury, say an ankle injury, and had to go to the doctor? Upon inspection the doctor looks up at you, begins explaining the long, slow process of rehabilitation, talking about the long time and makes the observation,  “you know sometimes, its better to break an ankle than to sprain it.” I understand that what is implied in that observation is that ligaments stretch and sometimes fray, that joint stability is sometimes very difficult to obtain after a connective tissue injury. Sometimes things gets out of joint and its very difficult to get back to full strength or snug, much less back in alignment.

I believe that we all have places that are quite right in each of our lives and could use a little strengthening, snugging up, or alignment. Going back to the orthopedic analogy. Maybe something is not quite right, not ideal, and maybe something is really askew, has been for quite some time. Many times we can put things back right by ourselves, although sometimes it can be painful (like Mel Gibson’s should in the Lethal Weapon series!).

Sometimes we need help. One time I dislocated my shoulder skiing. There was no way I was getting up by myself, much less getting down to the bottom of the hill on my own volition. I needed someone’s help, in this case I volunteer.  Sometimes we need a professional.

Sometimes when things aren’t quite right in our lives, we can try force things back and go about our lives. Many times we do this and it usually works, though sometimes it can hurt. Other times we need help and there are plenty of resources to which we can turn. And other times we have places in our life where we know they are utterly broken, there’s nothing to be done. Maybe time has passed, so much time that we feel like those areas of our lives never healed, they are just the dry, disjointed bones of our life that might have crumbled to the point where we cannot remember what it was… or maybe who we were then.

But friends, I tell you, there can be new life. The dry bones of life can become new life.

One of the reasons I love institutions like Murphy Harpst in Rockmart, a United Methodist Women’s institution, is that they step into the juvenile justice system and stand, almost literally, between teenagers and jail. They take children whom the court system has worked with and are about to say there’s nothing to be done but put them in jail. Murphy Harpst believes that new life can happen in the lives of these teens.

Intown Collaborative Ministries has a key focus that we hold out to all whom we come in contact with that there can be a better way forward. You do not have to be abandoned to your current situation. For the folk we work with at Intown, we say “God doesn’t want anyone to be hungry, anyone to be homeless”

There can be renewal. There can be new life.

During Lent, we shift into a different season of the church and a different way of being in the world. I believe we approach this time with a little more introspection, a little more contemplation. Maybe part of that is to spend time appraising that which is our life, look at the places where we are confident in our all the various parts and pieces that makes up our life.

  • Maybe with a different rhythm we will see—maybe for the first time, maybe reminded anew—that there is something that is just not right.
  • maybe we can spend this season of Lent finding a new rhythm that will put right what is wrong
  • maybe we find something in our life, in our relationships where we could use a hand
  • And maybe, just maybe, we stumble across something that has been robbed of life and tossed asunder for so long, that we have abandoned all hope or forgot that part of our live.

Into all of this we proclaim the promise of Ezekiel’s vision: there can be new life. Ezekiel’s message to those who were exiled and thought that the promises made to them by God held no claim was this: that contrary to all evidence, God’s will restore life, God will bring new life.

  • Today in Sunday School we began looking at the plight of the Palestinian Christian community and that community’s cry for recognition, for help. The truth is, there are no easy answers. Nonetheless, we hold true to God’s vision of the possibility of new life.
  • I think that part of who we are as a Christian Community at Druid Hills is we are a place for folks to connect to the story of Jesus when they have given up on church, given up on God. Here, this community is not just a harbinger of new life, and incubator of new life, but we as a community of faith ARE new life.

This is hope, this is the good news embedded in Ezekiel’s vision:

  • Nothing can be rendered unsalvageable.
  • Nothing can rob life so as to render it unable to be restored by God.

The journey of Lent is not just one of solemn introspection. It is one that goes to Jerusalem, and yes to the cross, but also to the empty tomb. And, ultimately the story is one of new life.

This Lenten season, we are using the theme of “Connect”. Over this season, much of what we do be it worship, our learning opportunities, or even our wednesday night activities, we’ll be offering different ways to connect, connect to your own journey in a new way, connect to each other, and connect to God. It is our hope that in all we do, we will connect with this story, this hope, this promise.

Today, we are reminded that we are not left alone, we are not left desolate, we are not rendered to the valley of dry bones. God comes to us in Jesus, not only offering the idea of hope but infusing new life to our common life and individual lives in a fashion that knits us together, that connects us in such a fashion that we are once again whole as individuals, whole as a body of people who follow Jesus, and whole with God.

Amen.