What Are You Drinking?
Steve Hollaway, Harbor Church, March 23, 2014, Lent 3
Jesus walks into Club Soda and says to you, Get me a drink.
OK, you say, what do you want?
What are you drinking?
Sam Adams, Boston Lager.
Not bad, but are you really satisfied with that?
What, I should be drinking something darker? More expensive?
No, I mean: Do you think that drink will satisfy you?
Quench my thirst? Yeah.
No, will it satisfy your heart? Will it give you what you’re really thirsty for?
What I’m really thirsty for?
Yeah, you know beer doesn’t stay with you. It goes right through you. I can offer you a drink that satisfies your heart, a tap that never runs dry.
What are you talking about? You don’t own a bar. You’ve got no sample case.
The drink I’m offering is spiritual life. I’m offering you a taste of the life of God. Once you drink that life, it becomes like a fountain inside you and you will never be thirsty again.
So you’re not telling me how to get beer.
No, I’m telling you that what you’re really thirsty for is something that doesn’t come in a glass or a bottle.
How do you know what I’m thirsty for?
You’d be surprised what I know. But if you knew who I was you’d be surprised.
What kind of person would offer me a drink of God?
Who do you think? What are you thirsty for?
It’s nor really you, is it? You’re not somehow God sitting in Club Soda.
But I’m not religious.
That’s why I’m sitting with you.
I thought you didn’t like islanders.
That’s why I’m sitting with you.
I thought I was too far gone, too old to change.
That’s why I’m sitting with you. Come on, have a drink.
A drink of you?
Yes, and of God’s mercy. I know everything you ever did and God loves you. All is forgiven.
I have to think about it.
I don’t think so. I think you just need a drink.
I know you’ve heard the story of the Samaritan woman at the well before, but maybe I shouldn’t assume you are aware of the issues at play:
- In that culture, as in some Islamic societies today, Jesus shouldn’t even be seen talking to a woman.
- Jesus shouldn’t be talking to a Samaritan woman, part of a despised ethnic minority and a cult member.
- Jesus shouldn’t even be in Samaria. Jews avoided it.
- Jesus shouldn’t be talking to a woman the gossips called loose who had five ex-husbands, even though she may be a victim rather than a sinner.
This is Jesus appearing where he is least expected, like Jesus showing up at Club Soda. We could say a lot about the history or a lot about accepting people who are different from you. But the issue I want you to focus on is the issue of your own thirst.
Psalm 62 begins this way:
O God, you are my God, I seek you.
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (62:1 NIV)
One of the first hymn writers, Isaac Watts, wrote 300 years ago:
Lo! all ye hungry, starving souls
That feed upon the wind,
And vainly strive with earthly toys
To fill an empty mind.
Eternal Wisdom has prepared
A soul-reviving feast,
And bids your longing appetites
The rich provision taste. [“Let Every Mortal Ear Attend,” 1707]
Ten years ago a guy named Frank Warren started a blog called PostSecret.com. His idea was to ask people to mail in their deep secrets they couldn’t tell anyone on an anonymous postcard. There is no end to the secrets people mail in. Frank picks out the best each week—some of the cards are custom made and have elaborate graphics, while others are nothing but writing on the back of a store-bought postcard—and he posts them every Sunday. Listen to some of this week’s secrets on the blog, listening for what it says about our deep thirst and hunger:
- I always opt out of the naked scanner at the airport because I enjoy being patted down!
- I’m going into psychology so I can diagnose my own problems.
- Sometimes when I am driving I pretend a famous person is sitting in the passenger seat having a great time with me.
- Every day I wonder, What is my purpose in life? And every day the answer is different.
- I used to seek meaningful relationships, but now I drink.
- I believe there is a better way of life waiting for us to wake up and embrace.
My mother began her book about Japan telling about her shock at reading a headline in the Tokyo paper that said “Young Couple Die in Suicide Pact.”
Two university students had fallen in love and—as was the custom—asked permission of both their families to be married. Permission was denied because the girl was from royal blood and the boy was a commoner. The union would have embarrassed either family.
Eventually the two lovers decided to run away to the Amagi Mountains south of Tokyo. They rented a room and planned to consummate their relationship without a wedding, but they could not bring themselves to lower their traditional moral standards. They felt it would tarnish their love.
So they saw only one solution. If they could not live together, they would die together. They bought medicine to take in their hotel room. On their last day on earth they decided to hike in the beautiful mountains. As it happens, the Japanese Baptists have a camp in the Amagi Mountains (one I used to go to every year as a kid), and this couple passed the camp. Near the entrance to the camp is a small fountain for drinking, created from a crystal-clear mountain spring that was walled up with native stone. Carved on the stone are the words Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
We know that the couple saw the fountain because the last thing the girl did on earth was to write in her diary. She expressed her frustration and despair, explained why they reached the decision to die, and she talked about their final walk together. She told about seeing the fountain, and one of the last things she wrote was “What could it have meant, ‘the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life’?” [Ida Nelle Hollaway, Punching Holes in the Darkness, Broadman, 1978]
What could it have meant? What could it mean to you? I believe that one purpose of worship is to slow us down so that we can feel what’s going on inside us. When we just stop and meditate on what life is all about, we get a sense of what is lacking. Unless we stop doing, doing, doing, and focus on being we lose touch with out deepest thirsts and hungers. It’s an appropriate exercise for Lent to take a personal inventory of when we feel thirsty and when we feel refreshed, to make a list of what we’ve been drinking and whether it works to quench our spiritual thirsts. What do you really want? What do you really need?
We are all bombarded by messages telling us what we need. We are manipulated by people who make money off our appetites. We think we need sodas and sweets, cars and trucks, medication and youthfulness, great investments and a plan if we live forever. At least that’s what TV commercials are telling us. But what do you really need? What will really satisfy?
Let’s pause for a moment to let you think about that….
It is poignant to me that the ladies of the WCTU, including the lady that gave us this hotel building, placed a fountain out in front of the church. They intended the figure of Rebecca carrying a water-pot for Isaac to say to those who were thirsty and arriving on the island, “Come and drink. We have fresh water for you. You have a thirst that liquor cannot satisfy.” Now the water of that fountain no longer flows, and upon examination even the figure of Rebecca has been redefined as a representative of the Roman culture of alcohol. But the thirst in those who pass the statue has not disappeared.
Jesus is sitting next to you telling you that if you ask him he can satisfy your thirst. He can give you the water of life. When he puts his life in you—when you take into yourself the gift of his love and forgiveness shown on the cross—the water is not something that refreshes for a moment and you have to get a refill next week. That life in you becomes a spring bubbling up with fresh water all the time. The Spirit of Christ in you is a self-replenishing fountain. Not only will you never be thirsty, you will overflow.
That life is not far from you. It is as near as your heart and your mouth. The living water of eternal life surrounds you at every moment if you will acknowledge your thirst and take a drink.
In the days of the Portuguese exploration of South America one of their ships was becalmed in the waters of the South Atlantic, not going anywhere. They were near the equator, in constant heat. The sailors began to run out of water, but there was no wind to carry them to fresh water. The crew was going to die of thirst. Then a small vessel appeared coming toward them from the mainland. When it came close the captain shouted to them “We have no water!” The men on the little bark shouted back, “Here is water,” scooping up water from the side of the boat. What the thirsty sailors did not know was that the power of the Amazon River is so great that a hundred miles out into the ocean the water is fresh. All the time they were thirsting the sailors were sitting in an ocean of fresh water. All who are thirsty, come to the waters of God’s mercy and drink.
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Block Island, RI 02807