27 May 2016

Homily for Floor Committee Weekend

[Text: John 7]

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

For the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, a priest would march down to the pool of Siloam, where the waters of the Gihon spring gathered, and dip in a great golden pitcher, gather up the water and take it in solemn procession back up to the gate of the temple where it would be ceremoniously poured out, the choir singing "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." They were liturgically enacting the prophesy from Ezekiel 47, where the trickle of water that would flow from the altar and turn into an ever growing stream, starting in low and starting to grow, life erupting wherever it went and healing all in its path. And what happened but smack dab in the middle of this solemn rite, up stands the upstart from Nazareth and shouts out, disrupting the liturgy! You can hear the hush, sense the uneasiness. "What's the fellow up to NOW?" mutter the priests.

"Look, anyone who is thirsty needs to come to me; and whoever believes in me can drink it up. For as the Scripture says: from His heart will flow rivers of living water." 

John makes sure we understand exactly what this is all about: Jesus, the evangelist says, spoke about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive, for the Spirit had not yet showed up, since Jesus was not yet glorified.

If anyone is thirsty. You are thirsty. And it's a thirst that water can't quench. You're thirsty for love. Real love. God's kind of love. No fallen human being can quench that thirst, because every human love will let you down, and when it does, it will only drive home the pain of your thirst all the more. So you try to find ways to medicate the pain of the never ending thirst. Alcohol. Porn. Making an idol of your spouse. Your kids. Your church. 

And through it all, you're restless. How well did St. Augustine capture this when he said we're like people trying to sleep in too small a spot, turning this way and that and unable to get comfortable no matter what posture we assume. We need a bigger place, a place where we can stretch out. This is what the thirst for love does to a person: because no human loves can satisfy it. All our love is broken, tainted with self-interest, and it always ends up wounding our hearts further. And even the most blessed of human loves, end up wounding us in death. "It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch." No, we're thirsting for a love, bigger, more spacious, in which we can truly stretch out, rest, never lose and enjoy forever! We thirst for it.

"Thou hast made us for us Thyself and our souls are restless until they rest in Thee." Only from the Spirit that flows from the heart of Jesus can we know and taste a real and true human love that finally and fully and joyously satisfies the thirst of the human heart. For only from the heart of Jesus will you find a love that will hold you tight no matter what comes, a love that is without conditions and limitations, and boundaries. Not a "I'll stay with you so long as I love you," not even a love as strong as death, but far stronger! A love you can't screw up, because this love runs over from the pure fountain of Love Himself. And the Spirit, He comes to bring this love into your wounded heart. He comes to convince you that you have been loved by such a love, the gift of your heavenly Father in the sending of His Son and the Son's sending of the Spirit.

John is at pains in his Gospel to make sure you know that the body of Jesus is the temple of God. In the prolog: "And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us." Early, already in chapter 2, the words ring out: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." We're told He spoke of the temple of His body. In tonight's passage, He puts His heart as the very temple from which the living water Ezekiel saw would spring up and overflow. His heart. And so in John 19, you have His heart pierced, His side opened. It's John's version of the tearing of the temple veil. Not just so you can look in and see the Father's heart. The Father's heart comes gushing out toward you in a stream of blood and water. 

So the hymn has it all wrong (sorry, Vieker). You don't need to come to Calvary's holy mountain, sinners ruined by the fall, precisely because there a pure and healing fountain that flows out for you, for me, for all, in a full, perpetual tide, opened when our Savior died. You don't need to go to Calvary, because that pure and healing fountain brings the love of Calvary right to you, bridging all time and distance. The Spirit's great joy and task is to bring the love of Christ, the love with which His Father has loved Him from before the ages began, home to you, to reveal to you that THIS love is yours. That YOU have been loved in the Son. Forever. Eternally. We sing it aright in another hymn: Almighty Father, in Your Son, You loved us when not yet begun was this old earth's foundations. The Spirit does this through Christ's Words, through His Sacraments. The trickle of Calvary becomes after Easter and Pentecost the torrent of Baptism, the ocean of the Eucharist. His love coming at you, filling you, drowning you with overflowing joy.

Pietism lives in the terror that His love isn't really a fountain, but a faucet. That it can be turned off. And so fear. Will he turn it off? Have I angered so much with my sin that's ready to turn the handle and leave me dry and parched? Have we? Only perfect love can cast out that fear, and perfect love is what Christ reaches you. His love for you, not yours for Him. That's what casts out all fear. A perfect love that flows unendingly from the stricken rock with streaming side, from the very Altar of the Temple, the Cross where He bled to cover over your every sin and hush your every fear and pour out on you and into you a love that endures all things, hopes all things, believes all things, that never fails, and it won't fail you for it hangs not in the least upon you and your doings. It's the only love that can finally begin to heal the human heart; it's the love we thirst for. It's the love that cries out in your heart: I am His and He is mine, Abba, dear Father!

And He calls you to come and drink of that Spirit love richly. Drink up, beloved! It's heady stuff. As you begin your work this weekend, I pray you do so as those who know that you are people loved by God. And I further pray that every action you recommend to the Synod be shaped in that love, in the service of that love, and for the sake of sharing that love with the poor souls who do not know yet that the love for which they thirst actually is and is for them.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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