Acts 2:1-21 & John 7:37-39

Are you thirsty?

What is it about kids and water? That day when they come home from nursery and tell you that they’d done something really special that day. They’d had the water guns out. But there was one rule. No squirting people. They’d cleaned the garden furniture, sprayed the walls of the shed and watered the plants, but no squirting people! As summer comes the plea for the paddling pool is heard once again, on every possible occasion. Kids seem to instinctively know something, that water is one of the most exciting things in the whole of the world.

Water is essential to life as we know it. It has a starring role in the first chapter of the Bible, central to the Creation of all that is, and it is also important in the last chapter, part of the description of the way in which the new creation will be. In between we find it again and again and again. It is one of the most potent images that we have for life and for the life giving nature of God.
When God had called the people of God out of captivity and oppression in Egypt, they were led by Moses out in to the desert. As they travelled the horrors of the slavery, the murder of their sons, the forced labour began to fade in their memories and they began to focus on the difficulties of the journey and their fears overtook them. They missed the pomegranates and figs. They were thirsty and saw no source of water. In their lack of faith they rebelled against Moses.

Moses went to God, crying out on behalf of the people he led and asked what he should do. God told him to strike a rock, that water would flow from it, bringing life to the people. Moses did as God told him, struck the rock and water flowed out, rescuing the people from their thirst.

Centuries passed for the people of God. They went into the promised land. They received it, but they did not remain faithful to the God who had rescued them. So, they were taken again into exile, into captivity.

Eventually some of them returned to the land, to Jerusalem. They returned determined never to be exiled again. They returned determined to remember all that God had done.

So that they would never forget, they wove the stories of the events of God’s rescue into the annual feasts and celebrations of the community. At one of the harvest festivals, the feast of the Tabernacles, they remembered the provision of water, by God, in the desert. On each of the seven days of the festival, at daybreak, the priests would go out from the Temple to the pool of Siloam. There they would draw water and process back to the Temple. As they returned, trumpets would sound with joy, heralding the coming of water to the Temple. The water was then offered with the wine of the normal daily sacrifice, to God, at the altar of the Temple as the people praised God, with Psalms and Alleluias.

Until one year something really odd happened. A dusty northern rabbi who had been causing controversy all week, stood up in the Temple, on the last day of the festival, and interrupted everything, crying out, ”Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”

Bit of a show stopper, that one. But he doesn’t stop, he goes on about living water flowing, not from a rock, but from a person. The people in the Temple really do not have a clue what he is going on about. Some of them think that he is claiming to take the place of God in the rescue story. As God provided water in the desert, so this bloke is going to provide the water that rescues now. They are thirsty for release from the oppressive occupation of the Romans. Perhaps he is God’s rescue plan now, maybe he is the Messiah? Others argued against this and wanted to arrest him. But he slips away from them all, because his time has not yet come.

We are in a privileged position compared to the people who saw and heard this live. When he wrote this up, John added in a bit of explanation for his readers, that the water refers to the Spirit. The Spirit that was to be given to all who believed in Jesus. The Spirit we heard read about in Acts. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I just want to backtrack a bit. Jesus talks about, “water flowing from within.” In a physical sense water flows from Jesus side as he is crucified. It is the demonstration that he is actually dead. As the heart stops the blood separates in the chambers of the heart, and when it is pierced with the spear, it looks like there is blood and water flowing out.

It is as that water flows from the side of the crucified God that Jesus’ glory is revealed. The glory that takes our shame and broken relationships, and holds them until the power they have over us is dead. The reality of this glory is further shown in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is there that we are shown that death is no more and that we can know our loving God, the one who made us, the one who rescues us and the one who transforms us. Once that glory is revealed, the water of the Holy Spirit is released into God’s people to comfort us, guide us, and equip us to work for the coming of the Kingdom. And so, the water that flows from Jesus to us begins to flow out from us, to the world.

And it has to flow, because water that is not moving is pretty useless. Having water in this jug is great, but unless I pour it into this glass and then drink it, it isn’t going to do me any good. In the same way, water that sits in a lake or a pond, with no inflow or outflow goes bad pretty quickly. The oxygen in it is used up, fish can’t live there, algae grows over the surface and it begins to reek. Stagnant water is really unpleasant, and can kill you if you drink it.

When I started thinking about these passages, I was thinking about the dramatic nature of it all. And there is no denying that the images are awesome. Roaring winds, tongues of fire, torrents of water.

I don’t want to lose sight of these things, they are strong reminder to us that God is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, that the Holy Spirit is power and might for our Christian lives. I want to leave open the possibility, and indeed likelihood that as we open ourselves up to God’s work in our lives and communities that we will see powerful things happening.

But this stuff does rather scare me. It doesn’t seem to match what I do see happening, and I often struggle to see a way in to understanding and experiencing the equipping that God provides for us in the Holy Spirit.

So back to my glass of water.

When Jesus is speaking to his disciples in Matthew’s account of his life, towards the end of his ministry he tells them a parable about the sheep and the goats. It’s about judgement, and the way in which the King will judge people at the last times. None of the things that form the basis of the judgement are difficult things and here is one of them, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” The story goes on that the people did not remember giving the King a drink, so he goes on to say, “Whatever you did for one of the least of my family, you did for me”

So what? Where’s this going? Well, I would like to suggest that one of the most significant signs that the Holy Spirit is working is that people are offering something to drink to other people who are thirsty. And also, that to offer someone something to drink is not that scary.

And so, we come to Peter. He had worked on water his whole life. He’d even tried walking on water. Now he has water to give to people who are thirsty. The babbling brook of the first disciples declaring how fantastic God is in many languages that they had not learnt has faded away. The crowd has been drawn in, and they are thirsty with curiosity. Peter has water for them, but not big works of power, not at this stage. He gives them something to drink, he engages with their wonder and astonishment at what has just happened.

Peter starts by explaining that the Spirit of God, that was promised long ago by the prophet, has been poured out on all these different kinds of people. The Spirit has been poured out on young people, on old people, on men, on women. Why has this happened? What is the purpose? Peter tells us in final sentences of his introduction.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”

This is why the Spirit has been poured out, and is poured out, and will be poured out. So that the name of the Lord Jesus will be known and through it everyone who believes shall be rescued. By the time Peter has finished speaking, three thousand people have moved from being thirsty with curiosity to being thirsty for rescue, have believed in Jesus and have had their thirst quenched by the living water.

Over the centuries the message that Peter preached on that day has been repeated and retold. Many millions of thirsty people have been rescued. Those of us here who have believed in Jesus have also been rescued, and the Spirit has been poured out on us. We are now the ones who have that story to tell.

It may be that you are sitting here this morning feeling thirsty. That there are parts of your life that just feel dry. You want to know Jesus’ living water cleansing you, renewing you, refreshing you. This water is flowing today. Ask and receive.

It may be that you know other people who are thirsty, and you want to be offer them something to drink, but you’re not sure how, or you’re scared by the thought of it. It feels like there is a blockage, or a dam, that is stopping the living water flowing out of you, and it needs clearing. Ask and receive.

During communion, and after the service, there will be people (wearing green lanyards) who would love to pray with you about these things. Don’t leave here thirsty.

Lord God, who bought water from rock to rescue your people and water from Jesus’ side to rescue more people, pour out the water of your Holy Spirit on us again today, so that our thirst is satisfied, and so that we can offer those around us living water to drink. Amen.


  • Barbara Morris wrote:

    As it’s difficult for Reg and me to attend services these days your sermons on Facebook are much appreciated Tim.

  • Hi Barbara, I’m glad you’re finding them encouraging. Every blessing, Tim

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