Water brings life- as signs around our valley say, food grows where water flows- another sign on the 198 coming back from the sequoia national park says it in 3 languages- Water is Life
And remember this word wind, air, Spirit is all one word for the ancient languages: Spirit brings life – while we are alive, we are breathing.
Water and air mixing is the beginning of life- in the theory of evolution it is there on the water’s surface where it kisses the air- and in the creation story the Spirit moves over the water as creation is about to spring forth.
In the ancient understanding, Water and spirit go together, are the life-bringing entwined forces.
Where Jesus lived when he walked this earth is an arid place, that would tend to have long dry spells, the people often longed for rain, kind of like here, it seemed like the very earth longed for rain, for the times when the rivers would be full and the plants green.
John tells us that one time, Jesus stood up and shouted in the middle of a festival. It was a festival where the people prayed for rain. Where they would read the stories of Moses striking a rock in the desert when the people had no water and were complaining of their thirst, and God provided water by a miracle. They heard the prophets speak about how God would make the dry land sprout. They prayed for rain, just like we do. And on the last day of the festival the priest would pour out a libation on the altar of the temple, jars and jars of water they had previously gathered, and it would run down the altar and onto the floor and spread and run and they would keep pouring and the river of water would bathe the whole temple and out onto the steps outside where the people were gathered- the people couldn’t go all the way inside only the priest could but they could see the effect of what was going on in there- water everywhere. Spilling over the steps in riverlets like when it rains and the gutters are full.
Jesus stood up in the middle of everyone while this water splashed down the steps, it was a festival so people gathered for it- and compared this longing for water to our longing for the Spirit. A longing to be quenched, a longing to be filled, a longing to know God loves us, a longing for purpose and meaning and encouragement and comfort, all the things the Spirit would come to do.
Jesus wants to quench our thirst in all those ways like living water, flowing abundant water.
Come to me, Jesus called out that day, and he was echoing Wisdom personified from the proverbs, who goes out in the streets and tries to teach people- know me. Live by me, have fullness of life because my way is your way and I live in you and you live in me, Jesus shouted out to the people outside the temple that day, if you thirst, if you long for this, come to me. Be my disciple in this life-giving way.
Quincy and Jessica today are heeding Jesus’ call to come to him, to know the goodness of God, to live in his ways, to have the spirit within them guiding and teaching and comforting them, leading them in the ways of life.
These two young people Have heard Jesus’ call because they are a part of this church, today they will become full members of this church.
We represent these words of Jesus to one another- both the longing for God, and the fulfilling of that longing, we find it in Christian community, church, all the ways that exists- small groups Sunday school fellowship Bible study, the reading of the word and the sermons, however we gather in person or online- all of it.
Yes personal prayer time important, it’s one important way for me to be filled with the living water, the spirit of God, yet I Only know the depths of personal prayer because of other people in my life. Yes, bible study or devotions on your own is important. It’s also important to learn about God from one another I’m not here to pretend that church is always perfect- we are all sinners and we will mess up. Churches aren’t perfect- but through the church is a really important way that God works in our world.
But I want to be real about something today with you all, as we celebrate the promises that Jessica and Quincy will take on for themselves today, as we celebrate the faith we have- we know it’s true that many young people face a crisis of faith sometime in their teen or young adult years- they learn something that doesn’t fit with what they were taught growing up- they face a situation and look in the Bible for an answer but they can’t find what they’re looking for in the Bible about their particular situation- and they try to struggle through alone, and can’t, and leave the church. Or maybe they do bring their questions to the church but find the church doesn’t want their questions, only can repeat the same answers. There’s a longing and sometimes we fail to point one another to the true source- because, we forget sometimes that it’s living water.
Beloved, It’s living water. It’s not stagnant water. It’s not all sealed up in a box somewhere and we dole it out in droplets. You get one today and that’s it. The living water Jesus was standing in the middle of, was symbolic of forceful water that washes, that changes the landscape, that erodes but also creates. Water that brings life, spirit that brings life. Living water, bringing life, the fullness of life God wants us to have.
And the water and the spirit are key to our baptism, that rite when we acknowledge the promises of God for every person- you belong to God, you are beloved. We speak words about what God has said about us and those words with the water and Spirit that is always mixed in- seal us as God’s beloved forever, we set a seal of the Holy Spirit on the baptized baby with oil sometimes.
And we make promises, too, the parents the godparents and the whole congregation promises to do their best to speak the love of Jesus to the child, to act out God’s love, to live what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus on this way Jesus showed, to share what Jesus can be for us, the stream of living water within to not weigh us down or hold us back but bring us always to fullness of life.
Now Jessica and Quincy take on these promises for themselves. They will be the examples, they will be leaders for others as we all follow Jesus. Those of us who are already full members are not off the hook- we continue to all be examples, but now with Jessica and Quincy, it will be mutual. We can look to them for leadership. To be an example for us as we are all an example for one another as we all seek to follow Jesus. Today they will each share a faith statement they have prepared- right now, what they believe about God. That is to be an encouragement to all of us.
But this faith statement you make today, Jessica and Quincy- does not have to be etched in stone and never revised. Questioning your faith is good and healthy. And maybe you will decide to change your mind someday- maybe your doubts or questions will be faith crises- I just want you to know, everyone here to know- in baptism God makes a promise and that promise can’t be undone. God will always call you beloved, whether you can accept it or not; Jesus will still be calling out, come to me, because he wants you to have the source of the spirit flowing from him to you to others. The Spirit will always be there, ready to refresh you, bring you new life- but not just you alone- this church, but not just this church, the whole capital C Church on earth, the whole company of saints that we talked about a couple of weeks ago- we are all in this faith thing together, this discipleship thing, together. And if we are all receiving from the living water of the Spirit, we can attend carefully to the questions, the doubts, the crises, not with pat answers but with love and careful listening and affirmation that no matter what, God loves you still.
And we are all part of this- that is why, in a minute when we ask the Jessica and Quincy and their mentors and families to come forward, we will pour water, Jessica and Quincy will touch the water for themselves- and I will ask them to sprinkle all of us. None of this is re-baptism, but it is a remembering of our baptism. The river of living water, the Spirit that we have and we share with each other.
We will get wet because We all need to be refreshed, renewed in our commitment and reminded of God’s promises to us. This is not a graduation, this is a second initiation ceremony. You, Quincy and Jessica, have always been important to us, as all the children are, but now you can vote in any decision the congregation votes on; now your ideas about how to be church are just as important as anyone else’s here. You could be nominated to leadership positions, and yes you are invited to give of yourselves to this body, your prayers and presence, your gifts, service and witness, so this project of being Christ’s body on earth, the church can continue on.
We are all so proud of you, so thrilled that you are deciding to take this step- but most of all we love you. you know Jesus because of this church, and your families. Your faith may change shape, it probably will at some point in your lives. This I say to Quincy and Jessica but to everyone here- your faith can change shape, That is a good thing. But stay connected to the source, and not only on your own, but by sharing that spirit with others.
We all can experience a longing for God is like the dry earth longs for the rain. A longing to be quenched, a longing to be filled, a longing to know God loves us a longing for purpose and meaning and encouragement and comfort, all the things the Spirit does in us.
I believe this is true about that: The more Jesus’ love by the Spirit flows into you, the more it flows out, and the more it flows out, the more it flows right back in. the spirit flows with living water. Thanks be to God that we can Come to Jesus and quench that thirst, with the living water, Amen.