Christ Lutheran Community Church
Christ Lutheran Community Church
March 24, 2019 "Blessed Spring"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
Isaiah 55:1-9, Psalm 63:1-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the water.
Imagine a spring flowing out of some rocks on the side of a mountain. The spring is fed by snow melting at the top of the mountain and, as the water seeps through the layers of rock and gravel, all the impurities are filtered out of it, so that by the time it gushes out of the spring it’s cold and delicious and so refreshing.
The water from the spring is available to anyone who wants to come and drink from it, so people from a nearby town bring empty jugs to fill up with water and take to their homes so they can drink all week. Because the water is so pure, the people of the town are all healthy. Diseases like cancer are rare.
Sometimes people line up at the spring and it might take fifteen minutes or so before they can fill their jugs. But there’s enough water for everyone, though, and no one ever leaves with an empty jug. Most people don’t mind waiting in line. It becomes a kind of social event, where people catch up with their friends and neighbors while they’re waiting their turn.
But some of the town muckity mucks get tired of going to the spring and waiting in line for their turn to get the water. They’re important people and their time is valuable. Why should they wait in line with everyone else? So, they call the mayor and the town counsel and convince them to put a fence around the spring. And they hire a guard to stand at the gate to make sure no unauthorized individuals gain access to it. The cost of the fence and the guard will be paid for by a fee that will be charged for each gallon of water that is taken from the spring. From now on, if anyone wants water, they will have to come during the few hours each day when the spring is open to the public. Those who are willing to pay a premium rate for the water, can come to the spring any time of the day or night and fill their jugs without having to wait in line.
This system seems to work pretty well… for those who can afford the premium rate. They can have all the water they want and they’re happy not to have to wait in line. But most people can’t afford the premium rate and if they happen to work during the hours that the spring is open to the public, they never get a chance to go and fill their jugs. And a lot of people in the town can’t even afford the regular rate for the water, so they stop going to the spring altogether.
The alternative if you can’t go to the spring is to get water from the river, the same river that the factories in town use to dump their toxic waste. After the fence is put up, most people in town begin to get their water from the river. Since the water is polluted, many people in the town begin to get sick with diseases that had been previously unknown. The once healthy and happy town becomes sicker and sadder.
God’s grace is like that spring: it’s refreshing and delicious and offered to anyone who wants to come and receive it. Sometimes, though, people try to put a fence around God’s grace and control access to it. Sometimes the church has been guilty of doing this: instead of directing people to the spring of God’s grace and showing them how to get water, the church sets up all kinds of barriers and conditions. You can have God’s grace IF you become a member of our church; IF you worship the way that we do; IF you agree that those other people over there aren’t worthy of drinking from the spring of God’s grace. And when the church does this, people begin to look elsewhere for the meaning, and the purpose, and the sense of belonging that God’s grace gives. They try to find grace in the shopping mall – or, nowadays, at Amazon. They try to find grace in unhealthy relationships. They try to find grace in their national identity or their political party.
There are all kinds of ways we can try to find the meaning and the purpose and the sense of belonging that God offers us, but so many of these ways end up making us sicker and sadder. When this happens, the church needs to get back to its mission of directing people to God’s grace rather than blocking their access to it. That’s called repentance… turning away from the things that prevent us from receiving God grace. That’s what Lent is all about: it’s a time when we tear away the fences that we’ve put up around God’s grace so that all can once again drink freely from the resurrected life that God offers in Jesus Christ.
Today, Hannah Amanuel is coming to the spring, coming to receive the water of eternal life by being joined to Christ in baptism. The Holy Spirit descends upon her and the Father claims her as a beloved daughter. We pray that she, along with all who have been baptized into Christ, may find refreshment and renewal in the life God gives her.