Are we a cynical people by nature? Do we get suspicious about guarantees and free offers we hear all the time? I love this one commercial where a woman says, ‘Yeah, they can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true,’ and then she walks off with someone who was suppose to be a French model but clearly wasn’t, yet he had posted this as his occupation on the internet so according to this woman, it had to be true. I think we would consider this person a bit naïve. Sometimes wisdom is hard-learned after getting burned a number of times over lies and ½ truths that are most prominent in our society.
Then we turn to scripture and read words from the prophet Isaiah who seems to be saying something similar when he says, “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!” Imagine that – inviting those with no money to come, buy and eat. It sounds silly really. No merchant that wants to stay in business long would offer food and drink for free. Yet the prophet goes on to explain there are more kinds of food than the physical, and there are more types of nourishment than just of the body. Come to the waters – cleanse your souls and walk with God. Feed your spiritual being as well as your physical.
Some of these words should sound very familiar. Water is hugely symbolic throughout the scriptures. Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38). Come to the waters – find rest and refreshment within the word of God. Find peace for your soul in the midst of turmoil.
I remember a time when I was traveling in Upstate New York for my work. I was uncomfortable traveling alone but that was part of my job at the time. I always hated eating alone as well, but I decided to eat at the hotel restaurant instead of just grabbing a bite in my room. This particular hotel happened to sit on Lake Champlain, and I found myself literally mesmerized by the water. It was a calm, sunny evening, and the repetition of the waves with the sun setting gave me a real sense of peace, even though I was alone, uncomfortable, and far from home. Come to the waters – find rest for your souls.
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman took place at a well – a source of water. Daily, women would come with water jars to fill for the day’s use, but normally they would come early in the morning to draw water for the day. This particular woman came at mid-day because she had a reputation and would not have been welcomed by the other women. [John 4:7-15: ]
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
The woman asks Jesus to give her the living water, and in turn she becomes the first evangelist to a shunned people. Suddenly it became evident that the living water was a feast for her thirsty soul and she was included within the household of God. She did not need to meet minimum qualifications or pass a test. She did not need to have been born to privilege or have a spotless reputation – in fact, she was known to have a pretty bad reputation, yet she too was to find rest for her soul. The Messiah was offering her living water to feed her soul and quench her spiritual thirst so that she would never thirst again. ‘All you who are thirsty, come to the waters.’
Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life. He was making people aware of their spiritual hunger, but he was also providing food in the form of hope that they so desperately needed. Times were difficult. Despair was rampant. Roman soldiers were always in sight, making sure everyone knew the penalty for stepping out of line for any reason. People were routinely beaten or killed – they were in essence prisoners in their own land. Hope was virtually non-existent. People simply didn’t have much hope in anything except trying to survive another day.
Then we have this man from Galilee telling people that there is hope; that God cares for them, that he had come as the Messiah to take away the sins of the world. John chapter 6:32-35 says,
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”
Jesus was reminding everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, that spiritual food was available in abundance. Jesus was telling people to come to him and ease their burdens. In the midst of despair, Jesus shined as the light in a dark world. Even in the darkest times, joy can spring forth as we remember to feed our spiritual selves. ‘You that have no money, come buy and eat.’
There’s an old spiritual tune, found in The Faith We Sing (pg. 2145,) that goes like this:
I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river,
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.
I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river.
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.
Then it goes on to say I’ve got joy and love also like a river. Think of the qualities of a river for a moment. Many rivers are a series of contrasts. You have calm shores and rocky rapids, deep waters and shallow hazards. At times the river seems to be barely a trickle of water, or may dry up completely. Other times, the water is raging with such power you simple stand in awe. Yet we are given the assurance of peace, even in the raging rapids or deep waters of the river. Even when we are weak and vulnerable, we are told to come buy and eat. No money or means? No problem. If you are thirsty, come to the waters.
What are you thirsty for today? Are you experience the rocky rapids that are just pulling you in all directions? Maybe you feel you have no time for God – after all you are running at the speed of sound already. The needs of family and work have left you with absolutely no physical energy, but I would also note that your spiritual batteries are probably worn down as well. Maybe it seems a little like this.
We come to church because we feel as if the world has sapped all our positive energy. We are completely empty and we need to come to the waters to get refueled in order to face the days ahead. So we leave from here recharged and a full vessel, only to have the pressures and trials of everyday life seeming to empty us again. So we come back next week to get refilled again – to find a moment’s peace for our souls.
But what if we viewed God’s message of love and spiritual fulfillment a little differently? What if we come together on Sunday and experience God’s love that is so rich and so joyful we cannot help but share that love with others? And what if in spite of the love we are pouring out to others, we find ourselves continually overflowing with God’s grace and nourishment for our souls? What if? What if? (Illustration used during BWC Annual Conference 2012)
Come to the waters. All you who are thirsty, come to the waters. You that have no money, come, buy and eat. I wanted to close with this video from the Rhett Walker Band that has some beautiful images and a wonderful message of the difference between a thirst for ourselves versus a thirst for God.
All you who are thirsty, come to the waters. Here these words from the prophet Jeremiah 17:7-8 (which happens to be on the cover of the flyer for the women’s retreat for this year.)
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (NIV) Amen.