Wading and Digging Sermon
“Wading and Digging” Sermon for May 26, 2019 at Harbor Church
(1) Now when Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John
(2) (although Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples),
(3) he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.
(4) And it was necessary for him to go through Samaria.
(5) Now he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the piece of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
(6) And Jacob's well was there, so Jesus, because he had become tired from the journey, simply sat down at the well. It was about the sixth hour.
(7) A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me water to drink."
(8) (For his disciples had gone away into the town so that they could buy food.)
(9) So the Samaritan woman said to him, "How do you, being a Jew, ask from me water to drink, since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
(10) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you had known the gift of God and who it is who says to you, 'Give me water to drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."
(11) The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep! From where then do you get this living water?
(12) You are not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, and his sons and his livestock?"
(13) Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.
(14) But whoever drinks of this water which I will give to him will never be thirsty for eternity, but the water which I will give to him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
Water Flowing from the Temple
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east;[a] and the water was coming out on the south side.
3 Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. 5 Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. 6 He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back along the bank of the river. 7 As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. 9 Wherever the river goes,[b] every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. 10 People will stand fishing beside the sea [clamming?!][c] from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
“Wading and Digging” Sermon for May 26, 2019 at Harbor Church
The Temple and the River.
Today’s reading contains a description of a temple and a river flowing from it. Throughout the history of ancient Israel, both the tabernacle and the temple were the focal point of worship for God’s people. The tabernacle which was also called the ‘tent of meeting’ was the portable structure that was used following the Exodus event; it was the campsite meeting place used for ceremonial sacrifice and ceremonial worship during the years of wilderness wandering between the escape from slavery in Egypt and the permanent settlement in Canaan, the promised land. Once the Jewish tribes had settled into their new home, the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple, not a tent but a building that served the same essential function. It was the house of God where God met with the people. But even more permanent structures are temporary constructions that don’t last forever, and eventually the Temple was destroyed in approximately 487 BC when the city of Jerusalem was sacked and its people carried off into exile by the Babylonians. Ezekiel wrote during this period and prophesied the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple. This occurred as he predicted and according to God’s promises, but in 70 AD, again foreign invaders attacked the city and destroyed the temple once and for all. While the building did not endure, it purpose and meaning did. Like our modern churches, which are a reflection of the ancient Jewish temples, they stand as a place for God-seekers to draw near to the Lord for worship and spiritual renewal. While some have understood this passage from the prophet Ezekiel as a literal description of a new temple to be built yet again someday, most modern commentators see this vision as a beautiful metaphor; it is a description of the refreshment that flows from the life-giving presence of the Lord God. So let’s wade into this understanding together for a moment and see what insights we can discover about the spiritual refreshment and renewal that can be ours when we plunge into the life-giving presence of the living God.
Wading in the Water
It’s Memorial Day weekend; the traditional beginning of the summer season. One a day like yesterday when its warm and the sun is shining, the ocean looks awfully tempting doesn’t it? It beckons us to jump right in! It looks inviting, but the water is still cold- diving into 50 degree water a shock to the system, bone-aching and skin tingling experience. So most of us ,with the exception of a few intrepid surfers and brave spirits dressed in wetsuits, will wait a while longer before swimming in the ocean this year. Most of us will wade in gradually to test the waters. This is the picture described by Ezekiel: In the vision, A man or perhaps an angel invites the author to wade into the river. So he steps in, first up to his ankles, then to his knees, then up to his waist. Finally he goes out far enough to swim. Remember, This is a metaphor for wading into the presence of God! If we are unaccustomed to spending time seeking God, to drawing near to the Lord, any attempt can be like jumping into cold water- it’s a shock to the system, because we’re not used to it.
We need to do this gradually, a little bit at a time. Look at the distances described in our story: he waded in 1000 cubits at a time. The cubit, generally taken as equal to 18 -21inches , and was based on the length of the arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. So he walked about 1600 feet to wade in water to his ankles, another 1600 feet til he wa up to his knees, etc. By the time he has waded into water deep enough to swim in, he was over a mile into the river, and we read that the river was wider than this even, ‘too deep to cross’. So these measurements convey two important things to us: first, the river is immense, as is the Spirit of God. Second, immersing ourselves in the life of God’s presence is a very gradual and deliberate process. It takes time, energy and resolve to plunge deeply into a relationship with God. But that is exactly what happens in our metaphor: Finally, he is deeply immersed in this river of the spirit. Finally, The river is carrying him along. He floats along, he swims, he is buoyed up and moved/borne by the current, and experiences the living-giving refreshment that only the Spirit of God can afford. We also read that everywhere that the river flows, it brings life, wholeness, health, healing. If the Spirit of God is this profoundly life-giving, what steps can you and I take to wade in deeper to the presence of God?
Digging/Going to the Well (Clamming in the GSP!)
I was wading in our Great Salt Pond last week. I had my waders on, a clam rake in my hand, a shellfish license around my neck and a clam gauge on my belt. I’m an amateur, a newbie to shell fishing, but I managed to snag more than a few my first couple of times out. Without trying to teach anyone the finer nuances of clamming techniques, I did learn a few things during my initial forays into the water. After digging enthusiastically and practically exhausting myself by dredging up great quantities of dirt and mud and only a very few mollusks, I started to get smarter. I began to rake more lightly, feeling for the telltale ‘tink’ on the tines of the rakes that let me know I’d struck a rock or clam. Then I would dig deeper and more often than not come up with something. To apply this lesson to the idea of spiritual wading into God’s presence, we need to find the practices or techniques that yield results, that produce a harvest. Some of us are readers- so we read spiritual books that feed our souls. Some of us are beach-combers- so we walk along the water’s edge and let the wind and water speak to us of God’s presence and goodness. Some of us are gardeners- so we dig in the dirt, not for clams, but for a connection with the God who causes the vegetables to grow and the flowers to bloom. Some of us are scientists – so we use our minds like clam-gauges, evaluating and measuring our harvest of information as we look for evidence of God’s presence and glory all around us. Whoever you are, and however you are wired, look for ways to wade into the reality of God’s presence in your life.
After all, We here at Harbor Church are Baptists- We get our namesake from the new testament Greek word “Baptidzo”- which literally means ‘immersion in water’. So we ought to be good at this, right?! Have you taken the plunge into the faith symbolized by the waters of your baptism? Have you waded deeply Into the promise of life eternal? Have you made your profession of faith and trust in God? Or, have you made good this profession by continuing to immerse yourself in the Spirit of God? Take the plunge. Get your feet wet.
In our NT reading, Jesus promises spiritual refreshment as well. He tells the woman at the well that whoever comes to him will receive spiritual refreshment that will outlast eternity, that will become a well of water springing up to a life abundant and unending. What are each of us doing to fill ourselves with this kind of water, with this type of spiritual life? Come to my well, says Jesus, and you will find “WELL-ness” for your souls and health for your bodies as well. The summer season is now upon us; what will we do to hold on to our wellness in the midst of our busyness? My prayer for each of us here today, is that we will faithfully and regularly wade into the refreshing life-renewing presence of God, that we will plunge into practices and activities that help us to dig deeply into the spiritual life, harvesting the spiritual food that feeds our souls. So don’t wait- wade right in, keep your balance, Test the waters, and Get your feet wet in the marvelous presence of the Lord! Amen.