Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Passiontide and Easter 2002

 

"The water that I shall give will be a spring of water within ... welling up and bringing eternal life" (John 4:14. New Revised English Bible)

 

My grandmother once operated a small store on one of the main streets of our town. Long after the business closed, the store window provided me with a childhood view on the rail road workings across the street. I had a front row seat as the large steam locomotives rolled in to be re-supplied with coal and water. The water tower was a most interesting operation. One of the rail crew stood on top of the locomotive coal tender, lowered the huge spout into place, and a gusher of water poured into the tender. It was amazing to think that this water, rising up as steam inside the locomotive, was able to power such a huge heavy piece of equipment along with an entire freight train. It was as if someone had captured a huge water geyser and put it to work inside the engine. Water can be an extremely powerful force. Properly channelled it works to the advantage of human community.

 

There is an important shade of meaning in Jesus' offer of living water. The rainy season produces copious amounts of running water. Its usefulness is in the way in which it is made to work for humankind. It spills rapidly and dangerously through ravines and gorges. It wells up and becomes life giving in a dry and thirsty land. Living water, for Jesus, was fresh water which was channelled into wells and cisterns. Living water, so understood, is a symbol of the life of the new age rising within us.

 

Grief, resentment, anger, joy, compassion, love, all these pour powerfully into human experience. We know what it is like to have either anger or joy welling up within us. We know what it is like to be in the presence of someone as either anger or joy rises within them. When we are in such situations we are in the presence of great power. Channelling or directing such power in a constructive and life giving way, so that we might be more genuinely human gives us a foretaste of resurrection and rebirth. Grief, for example, may haunt us and lead to despair. Grief may also heal in us and open us up to others in need. Joy may allow us to celebrate life in all its fullness, provided, we have a community in which to express our joy with others. Much depends upon our ability to see ourselves as human vessels in which Christ's gift of living water may well up to eternal life.

 

Lent is intended to create within us a thirst for a life of wholeness in communion with both God and others. The thirst is a good thing. It signals that some part or other of our life, spiritual, emotional, physical, communal, is being hollowed out in anticipation of the arrival of the water of life. We prayed for this with the collect on the third Sunday of Lent this year: "Almighty God, whose son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life, may we always thirst for you, the spring of life and source of goodness ... " Easter makes it possible for us to pray such a prayer with confidence and faith.

 

Archdeacon Rod Gillis