What Is This Living Water?

Pentecost SundayA, June 4, 2017

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church,San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” [John 7:37, 38]

Why does the church set aside and remember the Pentecost experience, which is so beautifully presented in all three of our readings? Is it because God wants to create in Christians a desire to speak in strange tongues? Is it because God wants us to notice that there are everyday Christians and then there are super Christians who have these miraculous gifts of the Spirit? Or maybe God wants to remind us how far the church has fallen from the position that He desires it to be in? Well, the answer to all three of those questions is a resounding “No!” The true reason for remembering the Pentecost experience can be found in our gospel reading in Jesus own Words. Listen: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” [Jn 7:37b, 38] Let’s look at these Words a little closer and allow God to teach us what we are both to remember and celebrate during these next 23 weeks of Pentecost.

What we learn first is that if any of us are ever to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, we must first perceive a need for Him; we must have a thirst for His presence and His power!

How are we to be given such a thirst? Through the power of God’s Word, specifically His Law that shows us how much we need His forgiving love! This is a forgiveness that we can never earn or achieve through our own efforts.

Sadly, many preachers today are simply leading their congregations deeper and deeper into thirst by telling them what they need to do, in order to know happiness, peace, and success. You see, telling someone what they need to do doesn’t ever give them the ability to do it! And to confront this truth, along comes Jesus with a teaching that is completely different. The truth is, Jesus actually does offer you a way to quench your spiritual thirst; a way to know God’s loving and kind heart! And where do you think He directs you to find this thirst-quenching drink? To Himself that’s where!

Jesus is telling us that all other sermons that preachers preach are simply the fancies of a sinful mind. He is telling us that there really is no way to be right with God except by coming to Him! Except by coming to Jesus through faith, there really is no way to bring peace to a conscience that knows it sins every day against God! Our sinful consciences long for one thing more than anything else; they long to hear, “Your sin is forgiven!” When we can hear these Words and believe them, then and only then will our spiritual thirst be quenched!
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” In these words Jesus is telling us that outside of His message of gospel peace we will not find even one single drop of comfort, comfort that can satisfy our thirst! Outside of this invitation to come to Him and drink and rest there is only more thirsting and tormenting of our guilty conscience; a conscience that is really dying of thirst!

But what happens after we drink? What happens after we simply receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ? Well Jesus says that “Whoever believes in Him, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” You see, because you have turned to Jesus, He assures you that as long as you keep coming to Him and His Words of life, you will have streams of living water coming out of you! He is assuring you that because you come to Him, He will equip you to not only have your thirst quenched but to also help bring others to the same living water so that they too can be satisfied! And now we are beginning to see the true miracle of Pentecost!

Through the Living Word of God, Jesus is promising to you that not only will He satisfy your own thirst, but He will use you to help satisfy the thirst for forgiveness that others have! And all of this is done through the Word of God, through the gospel! The longer the gospel is preached and shared, the more effectively it goes out satisfying your thirst and the thirst of others.

How can simply sharing God’s Word and forgiveness of sins do all of this? Because behind the Word is the power of the Holy Spirit! When Jesus was speaking these Word’s the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet been poured out on all those who believed in Him. Certainly the Holy Spirit was present, but His power to build the church and propel it out into a sinful world hadn’t yet been demonstrated. But make no mistake, where God’s Word is there is also His power; but it is His power, and we must remember that He uses it when, where, and how He determines. As Jesus spoke that day, the people whose hearts were prepared by the Holy Spirit began to experience a great quenching of their spiritual thirst! And as we are listening this morning, our thirst for God’s forgiveness is also being quenched! But how can this great work of quenching spiritual thirst, of forgiving sins be continued in a mighty way throughout history and across the entire face of the earth? Only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. And that is the reason the great day of Pentecost is worth remembering and observing!

In our reading from Acts [2:1-21], we can make a couple of noteworthy observations.

First we see that everyone was equally filled with the Holy Spirit. That means men, women, and children; each was equally filled and equipped for the task that was given to them. There was no need for one person to desire the gifts of the other; they were equal. So the prayer of Moses in our Old Testament reading, that asked “that all the Lord’s people (would be) prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them” was answered! [Numbers 11:29] Second, we see that the Spirit gave them utterance, or maybe a better way to say this is that the Spirit gave them the Words they were to speak! And now the real question is not how did they speak, but what did they speak!

You see, if you let your focus be only on the fact that they were able to speak in foreign tongues, well then you are missing the whole desire and will of God! And what is the will and desire of God? That all sinful men and women would repent, turn to Jesus Christ and be saved! That all of us would come to Jesus and drink of His life giving waters! That was the message that each one of the disciples were speaking that day and that is the message that God would have you share with your neighbors within this very community as He gives you the opportunity. And how are you to speak and what are you to say? Should you have some scripture memorized? What if your nervous; what if, what if, what if!

Look, if you let your worries and fears get in the way, then you are actually taking the focus off of the giver of the gift and looking at what kind of gift you want instead. Remember, God fills each of us equally. The Spirit fills every single believer in the church and He uses every one of us according to His desire and not ours. Our Heavenly Father is inviting you to simply rest in the truth that the day of Pentecost has raised each of us to the same level. Just as the Holy Spirit loosened the tongues of the disciples to praise God in the way He desired on that day, so He does for us today! Like them, our hearts shall overflow with grace and power, and our tongues will speak of that grace and power! Each of us have been equipped by the same Spirit to confess our faith, to pray and praise God’s name… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! This is our testimony to Christ’s thirst quenching and life giving waters!

So why don’t you and I have the ability like the early disciples to speak in strange tongues? Well I suppose it’s simply because the Holy Spirit doesn’t desire us to! Back then, He determined that great signs and wonders were needed to propel the church throughout the world, all so that everyone who was dying of spiritual thirst could be quenched! I would say that He’s done a pretty good job of growing the church. Can you think of a single country where Jesus has not been preached? I can’t! But just because the Holy Spirit has changed the external way He works, doesn’t mean that He isn’t working!

In Holy Baptism, where you received the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, you too have been given the gift of faith so that you can understand the teachings of Jesus, teachings that have been handed down to you by the Apostles through the work of that same Spirit.

By the Holy Spirit, you’ve been given faith that clings to the promises of Jesus; promises, which assure you that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. By the same Spirit you are given boldness to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the One who was crucified carrying the burden of your sins and the sins of your neighbor!

You have been given boldness to declare the He is the One who rose again, bringing you to life again with Him. By this faith which is yours from the Holy Spirit, you receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ-a gift that also gives you forgiveness for all of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.

What is your message that God the Holy Sprit had equipped you to proclaim this Pentecost season?

Simply this, through Christ God has provided the only way for the entire sinful world to know true and complete forgiveness of sins. This is the life giving water that Jesus first gave to you, and it is the very thing He desires to give to your neighbor through you! When each of us gathers to hear the Word of forgiveness and receive the sacraments which both give faith in this forgiveness and then strengthen that faith, we are being given the power of the Holy Spirit to go out and share these very same things. And when we do this, we see the body of Christ growing; this is the true miracle of Pentecost! It is a symphony of confession, testimony, prayer and praise that rises up to the Holy throne of Jesus Christ in every language across this sinful world. This is the desire and will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and it is the very mission that He has equipped you for! May God continue to do His Pentecost work within each of our hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

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