“Signs of the Times: Jesus Makes a Big Splash”
Rev. Perry Fruhling, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church 16 October 2016
Grace to you and peace...I told our Multimedia Director, Rod Felton, who put that piece together, the only problem is that our people sort of know what the water in that pond is like! Awesome, awesome piece, though. Thanks, Rod and Jason! Jesus is the Water of Life and invites us to come and drink. We’re in this sermon series on John’s Gospel called Signs of the Times as we’re preaching through the Gospels this year to help our congregation become more Biblically literate, acquainted with the stories of Jesus’ life. And we’ve discovered that John’s Gospel is more artsy and filled with symbolism. Everything is connected in deeper ways. And so when Jesus stands up and says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” there’s more going on than meets the eye. We’ve entitled this message, “Jesus Makes a Big Splash” because of the water image and because of what you’re about to learn about the time in which he said. So I brought along this super soaker, loaned to me Andy Brown. And I know what you’re thinking, he’s going to shoot that thing out into the crowd again like last year...and if he does I’m walking out. What you don’t know is that my wife told me I can’t do that so I have another plan. This is a special super soaker...it’s not a stream, it’s a blast. So I’m looking for a volunteer who will get blasted up front here by this thing (just kidding, but I do want a volunteer to help me shoot this thing off, it’s so huge). We’ll shoot it straight up in the air and I just want everyone to watch how awesome this thing is (shoot it)...I want oohs and ahhs! It’s great isn’t it?
Well, Jesus makes a big splash because of the moment he chose to share these words in today’s Gospel Reading. According to John, it’s the last day of the Feast, the Feast of Booths, a festival remembering Israel’s Exodus from Egypt and their dependence on God in the wilderness while they lived in tents. During the seven days of the festival they would read the law/Torah from start to finish and then culminate on the final day with pouring water from the Pool of Siloam over the Altar to signify that it was God who provided water for their sustenance in the wilderness. It’s at that very time as Jesus watches these rituals take place that he stands up and proclaims himself to be living water. The Gospel writer John, Johnny Deep (not Depp) as I like to call him, makes deep connections for us here:
- God walks with you in the wilderness. While the Israelites were in the wilderness, directly after the Exodus from Egypt, the people are thirsty. The people begin to complain that they have no water and God provides: “And the LORD said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus 17:5-6 ESV)
Think of a time when you’ve been so thirsty you were near dehydration (turn to someone and tell them about it). I remember back in the days of high school basketball. These were the days before people collapsed and they can’t get away with it now, but we would run wind sprints over and over again without stopping. Somebody would have to step up to the line and hit four of five free throws or we’d run again. One particular time no one could do it and we just ran and ran and ran. I think I got sick after that practice, but the coach said, “You think you need water? You don’t need water, you need to practice your free throws! On the line again! (whistle blows)”
The truth about our lives is that we are walking in a wilderness. As the people of Israel lived in booths or tents during this weeklong festival they remembered their humble origins. We would do well to remember the broken state of our lives. We live in nice homes, have plenty to eat, drive nice cars, watch 500 television stations, have internet access and cell phones with us at all times, but we are a broken people. We have a longing for deeper relationships, we feel lonely and alone, we hide our feelings of inadequacy behind all of the toys, money, and nice things we secure for ourselves. We know our sin, our sadness, but we thirst for being better than we are, for being whole, for feeling loved and wanted. And the truth is no earthly water can resolve our longing and desire for something deeper or more meaningful. No NFL football victory, no Cubs World Series appearance (although that would be pretty fun), no amount of money in the bank, no new skin product, no amount of votes for homecoming queen, no new boat or car or house can take away the dehydration deep within our souls...
I just continue to be amazed at some of the ministries that are happening through St. Mark’s. There are people in small groups who are overcoming addictions, going through difficulties in marriage relationships and getting help here, people who have never felt connected to God who have gotten plugged into mission trip experiences, youth groups, serving meals to the homeless, putting together 227,000 meals of rice and beans, building a medical clinic in Haiti, and God is active in the midst of people’s journey. On several of the capital appeal visits I have made I’ve had people share with me a trial that they’re facing recently or how they’ve seen God working through the ministries of this place...and I’m amazed. (Every visit that I’ve made, about 8 or 9, have been incredibly powerful) I hope that you’ll receive a visitor in your home because it’s an opportunity to talk about our dreams and desires for what God can do in and through this place for the wilderness that many people are facing in the world. We are God’s feet walking with people in this world in their wilderness.
- Jesus quenches your thirst. Here’s the good news: God sent Jesus to give us hope in our sadness. John proclaims him the Word made flesh. We have access to life-giving water. “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.” (John 7:37ESV) Imagine the moment as the crowds are gathered for the ritual of the pouring of water on the altar. The priest is dipping water out of this pool that’s very near to the Temple and ceremonially walking with it toward the altar and Jesus stands up and says, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. It’s about a relationship with the one who gives living water, the one who is the Living Word, John reminds us not some ritual that we perform before him. They had been reading the Torah throughout the week, but it’s about a life-giving drink from the One who kept the law perfectly that we need to stand righteous before God. What great news that is for sinners, for the broken, for the thirsty...
I want to invite children and all young at heart to come forward and we’re going to form a kazoo band. It’s a fun, out of the ordinary day and I wanted to set the world’s record for largest kazoo band but I saw that it was set with 3910 people in 2011 in London, so we’re going to have to settle for second or third largest. And here’s what we’re going to do...because there is so much joy in experiencing forgiveness on the cross for sin, because there is so much hope in knowing that when we stand before God it’s not because I am righteous in and of myself, because we have such a powerful love in the love of Christ, I want us to kazoo “Jesus Loves Me.” Everybody got your kazoos?
That was pretty awesome...I hope this was just crazy enough for you to remember how crazy God is about you. Turn to someone and say, “God’s crazy about you!” God’s not mad at you, He’s mad about you. The sins of your past have been overcome by the power of the cross. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
- The Holy Spirit overflows in you. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive...” (John 7:38-39a ESV) When Jesus quenches your thirst, when you experience the hope of the Gospel, that’s just the beginning of the amazing things God has in store for your life.
Today we’re kicking off the EVERY.ONE. Capital Appeal. Where that motto comes from is a verse from John 13:34-35, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” We’re talking about how EVERYONE is important to God and that as a church there is need to reach out with the love of Christ...one at a time (not a Billy Graham crusade), but sharing Jesus in smaller settings, often over a cup of coffee, at a ballgame, with our neighbors, as we serve with others. When we receive the great gift of God’s grace, there is hope that flows through us...
I’d like to bring forward Tony Von Alexander, who’s been attending St. Mark’s for a while now and has been involved in our Alpha Anamosa program that we’ve started this fall. This spring we brought Alpha to Keystone Cedars Assisted Living Center and this fall we’ve expanded it to the Anamosa State Penitentiary. 1) Tony, what’s been your experience bringing Alpha to those who are imprisoned? Tony talks about how he and the team have had a phenomenal experience sharing Alpha. They are imprisoned but have a great joy as they hear about Jesus, etc. 2) Why do you think there’s so much excitement for these inmates to receive our team and the good news of Christ? Tony shares how the Alpha program is designed to share the basics and puts it together in a way they haven’t had it before – they’ve had Bible studies, but the way it’s put together, the discussions have been powerful. 3) You’ve also had a faith transformation in your life, tell us about it. Tony talks about how faith has moved from a head knowledge when he was a younger Christian – knowing a Bible verse, etc, to knowing Christ in his heart. 4) Jesus talked about those who believe in him will have out of their hearts flowing rivers of living water...how have you seen that in Alpha Anamosa? Tony shares how guys there are just spirit-filled and shares from the letter sent this week about how guys continue to share Scripture, fellowship, etc. after they leave and how people are sharing like never before, even a non-believer who is now in God’s Word and experiencing what others already know: Jesus’ love. Let’s thank Tony for coming up (applause).
Jesus said in Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'” What’s awesome to see is that this team is giving the thirsty the very gift of Jesus that they need and fulfilling Jesus’ call for us to visit the sick and imprisoned. I can tell you I never thought St. Mark’s would have a ministry this expansive in prison. What God continues to do through the power of his Holy Spirit when believers make themselves available to God’s kingdom works. The Holy Spirit overflows within us when we trust in Christ for our salvation and to lead us in reaching out with the hope of the world.
EVERY.ONE. is important to God. And it will take everyone of us to fulfill God’s kingdom plan for this church in the outreach that God has planned. You have a purpose! God walks with us in the wilderness, quenches our thirst and gives us a fountain of the Holy Spirit overflowing in us to love in Christ’s name. Let’s bow our heads...