Ole Chr M Kvarme, Oslo domkirke 16.mai 2016
LIVING WATER FOR THIRSTY PEOPLE
John 7, 37-39
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ”If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
Beloved sister and brother!
Pentecost is here, and I wish you a blessed Pentecost with the grace and peace of God, our Father, and Jesus Christ! Amen.
I can think of no better way to celebrate Pentecost in Oslo today than in this fellowship of people from various church traditions and from different cultures and languages. This is what Pentecost is all about: a people of many ethnic backgrounds, united in their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, and empowered by the Spirit to serve their surroundings with the mercy of God.
We have just listened to the words of Jesus. Today he speaks to us about thirst and living water, and he speaks of the Holy Spirit. We know what it is to be thirsty, and we can imagine living and running water. It is more difficult to grasp the Holy Spirit.
We say that we believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Again we can imagine a Father and a Son. Today Jesus gives us two images to get a glimpse of the Holy Spirit and the way the Spirit operates: thirst and living water.
You are right if you here sense a tension: Thirst is related to dryness: thirsty ground, dry tongues and dryness in our bodies. Living water is the opposite. The surprise of Jesus is that the Holy Spirit is at work both in our thirst and as flowing, living water.
In our city there is a pub called “Thirst”, and we immediately know why. Daily we watch commercials for various kinds of drink to quell our thirst and give us new energy. In our fridge we even have one with the name “Energy”. However, we immediately understand that Jesus speaks to us on a different level, about our basic thirst for life, for meaning and fellowship.
I would be surprised if this thirst is not a longing that we share. There is a thirst among us for life itself, a longing towards the source of life and for a love that transcends our daily rhythm. The surprise of Jesus is that the Holy Spirit is present and at work in this thirst and longing, also among people in our city, in you and me. If you wonder about the Holy Spirit, this is what Jesus tells you: The Holy Spirit is at work where people long for meaning and mercy, in your thirst and longing.
At the same time, the Holy Spirit gives direction to our thirst and longing. Jesus says: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus is the source and fountain of life from which we may drink and receive love and mercy. He is the one who has conquered death to forgive our sins and renew our lives. In him our thirst and longings are quenched, and at the same time constantly renewed. Every day we are thirsty and longing, every day we need to drink from this fountain of life.
Again you may ask: How do I sense the Holy Spirit in my life? Paul says that God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, and he cries in us: “Abba, Father”. When you don´t know how to pray, Paul admonishes us to thank God that with we are his children and then simply cry out: “Abba, Father in Heaven”. And you may continue with the prayer that Jesus taught us. Then you shall know that the Holy Spirit is at work in you and embraces you with the mercy of God and the love of Christ.
But it does not stop there. Jesus gives us another image for the Holy Spirit and his work in us: living water. He says: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” With our thirst and longing the Spirit leads us to Jesus Christ, and then he sends us out into our lives and surroundings in this city: as living water on thirsty land, as streams on dry ground.
What is the opposite of living water? Years ago I lived with my family in Jerusalem. From our apartment we had a beautiful view down to the Dead Sea, 1200 hundred meters below us. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, 400 meters below sea level, and surrounded by desert. It is full of minerals, but you better not drink its water or get it in your eyes, it may harm your health. The Dead Sea receives water from the river of Jordan, but there are no rivers running out from this sea. It is enclosed in itself; there is no movement out of it.
Living water on the other hand is always flowing on, we may drink it, and it gives grass, flowers and trees to the soil where it runs. The work of Holy Spirit is not to enclose us in ourselves and make us an introvert community. On the contrary, the Spirit sets us in motion so that our lives with Christ may flow and renew our surroundings.
Paul speaks about the fruits of the Spirit: love and joy, peace and patience, goodness and gentleness. Where these fruits are present, the Holy Spirit is at work, not only in you and me, but also around us. The presence of God and the work of His Spirit are always greater than what we as individuals and communities are able to accomplish. The Book of Psalms says: “You send your Spirit, it creates life and renews the face of the earth.”
This brings me back to Pentecost Day in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. What happened when the Spirit fell on the disciples? What was the movement caused by the Spirit then? How did they become living water on dry and thirsty land? This is what happened:
- They were filled with joy and began to witness to others about the resurrection of Jesus, that he is our Saviour and Lord.
- They were united in a new fellowship across cultural and linguistic barriers - with one heart and mind.
- They shared what they had, with a particular concern for the poor, the strangers and the suffering in their surroundings.
This is also the desire and the work of the Holy Spirit among us in this city. He wants to fill us with the joy of Christ’s resurrection so that we share His love with those around us. He wants to bind us together, so that our unity in heart and mind is stronger than all our differences and disagreements. With all that we have, he wants us to share the mercy of God with the poor, the suffering and the refugees among us. This will be living water on dry and thirsty ground in the streets of Oslo.
When our eastern orthodox friends celebrate Pentecost, they speak of the Holy Spirit as the joy of Christ´s resurrection among us. Two thousand years ago this joy seized the city of Jerusalem. Let us today pray that our city Oslo also will be seized by the same joy: in our thirst and longing and as living water when we together are set in motion by the mercy of God!