The first three days of this past work week I and many other priests were at the Diocesan Priests Conference. The conference speaker was the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina.
He focused on the gospel of Matthew with some work in the gospel of John. Over and over again, he said we must always look to the context to get the best understanding for your interpretation.
As today is the Feast of Pentecost in addition to Mothers’ Day, our gospel, though short, is packed with meaning important to the day.
Let me set the stage. Jesus has just spoken of his being the living bread that has come down from heaven and gone on to say that only those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will be raised up on the last day.
This highly symbolic language of which I think today’s church has a much clearer grasp causes a major defection among his followers, leaving the 12 who pledge to stay with him because , as Peter says “You have the words of eternal life.”
Jesus tells his brothers (not his remaining disciples) that he will not be going to Jerusalem for the festival of Booths (Succoth) was near but that they should go by themselves.
Jesus then travels secretly to Jerusalem and begins to teach in the temple. He creates a furor among the Jews—a code word for the religious elites) and many citizens of the City begin to wonder aloud if he might be the Messiah.
Efforts are made to arrest him but the crowd won’t permit it. Finally on the last day of the festival he issues the pronouncement we have. According to modern Jewish observance, the 9th day of Sukkot is called Simchat Torah, the Joy of Torah, and is the day that one annual cycle of Torah reading is completed and the new cycle begins.
If this was also the ancient tradition then Jesus is making his invitation to anyone who is thirsty to come and drink from the living waters coming from his, the believer’s heart within that context.
The former cycle is complete and Jesus is presenting a new and radical premise: his living waters for all who believe will open the person to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Now his hearers did not know about the coming of the Holy Spirit as it did on that Day of Pentecost.
But many must of thought that he was offering life giving water for them to drink just as he did with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, recorded in Chapter 4.
When we look at that encounter we find important information: “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
This is the promise of Jesus—that through him all may come to eternal life and in this part of life enjoy a joy that resembles a gushing flow.
We are talking about the enhanced life—as John comments, believers were to receive—and I believe on this Pentecost Sunday, this is a message to share.
In a few minutes we will be renewing our baptismal promises in lieu of the Nicene Creed. We will be reminded that we have promised to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Yesterday I was thinking about our outreach after a spirited discussion during the Vestry meeting and a renewal song from my past came to mind: It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up to its glowing. That how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it: you spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on. The third verse is “I wish for you, my friend, this happiness that I’ve found. You can depend on him. It matters not where you’re bound. I’ll shout it from the mountain top. I want my world to know. The Lord of love has come to me. I want to pass it on.”
I find myself wondering who has this happiness that flows from Jesus in our midst. And why it seems that in this day and age when so many are seeking just one good relationship outside the family that the gospel is one of our best-kept secrets.
How many here grew up being told that religion was a private, very personal affair? I know I heard that often. That belief can result in not sharing with friends—not even sharing with family.
Today is Mothers’ Day. I think many of us are proud of those we call our mothers. Mine has gone on to the heavenly dwelling places but I have a mother-in-law of whom I can be proud.
She makes no secret of how happy and welcome she has become, having become a member of this faith family. She wants to pass it on. She often tells others about this faith community although I think she sometimes brags about her son-in-law too much
That is at the core of the message of today’s reading from Acts. This vitality that the disciples experience at the first Pentecost frees them, compels them to share the joy that they have found—such joy that the first observers think they might be drunk. Are we drunk on the love of God? Maybe we should show it.