Musings On the Holy Spirit, Water, and Sacrament

It’s thunder-storming this afternoon. I love thunderstorms, especially when they come after a week of oppressive summer heat. As water droplets rain down from the silver sky, greens are more vivid in their wetness–almost glowing. The landscape outside my office window is soaked by the gentle downpour; everything seems fresher, cleaner. And my heart is so full of the Holy Spirit it’s difficult to articulate. Today, I can’t help but think of the Lord Jesus and all the ways in which water reminds me of Him.

Several months ago, a sweet friend remarked to me, “Isn’t it something when God gives us a theme week?” That comment has stuck with me, because I realized in that moment how often, in the past two years, the Holy Spirit has gotten my attention through themes—some subtle and some blatant. One of the more significant ones has been water. There’s a long backstory about this that begins with the rainy summer afternoon a couple of years ago when I was walking through my neighborhood Kroger parking lot. In one of those rare, preternaturally clear moments, I received my first indication that my family and I were meant to visit the local Anglican church. Much, much more Holy Spirit craziness happened in the months following to confirm this direction. The interesting thing is, the major themes leading up to that dramatic transition have continued.

Today was one more installment in the ongoing theme of water.

This morning, the worship at my church opened with a song I’ve loved since it came out several years ago. The lyrics compare God’s love with the most violent rainstorm, a hurricane.

Water

I was standing at the very end of a row, singing the words; to the right of me, in the center aisle stood the baptismal font. My eyes were particularly drawn to it during the song, to the consecrated water glistening among the sleek river stones in the white scallop-shell basin.  I stared for a moment, pondering the sacramental cleansing of baptism.

Water

Each week, after the time of song, the Anglican liturgy includes a reading from the Gospel, and today it was the story of Jesus’ encounter with the solitary woman at the water well:

John 4

When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria, so He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

“Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food.

“How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

11 “Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.”

13 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.14 But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

Water, water, water.

What strikes me about this passage is that it speaks of baptismal water, drinking water, and the living water of salvation all within a few verses. I wondered: How could anyone, after having read this account, ever look at water in the same way again?

Jesus’ relationship to water, in his life and in his teaching, was profound. The water He turned into the finest of all wine at Cana; the Holy Spirit descending upon Him at His baptism; the water imagery in his words, such as his conversation with the Samaritan woman; His calming of the sea; His walking on water; His washing of the Disciples’ feet; the water that flowed from his side after He died on the cross. I understand Christ’s use of the simple, everyday things of human existence as a clear sign of the sacramental nature of the Christian life–the tangibles, like water, that the Holy Spirit uses as “outward signs of inward grace” as we Anglicans like to phrase it.

Following the sermon (which, by the way, was not about water) we proceeded, as usual, into the Eucharistic Liturgy. After my turn at the table, I returned to my seat on the end of the row. I love watching my brothers and sisters going forward in single file to receive the elements; nothing makes me feel as integrated with the body of believers as joining them in this precious weekly sacrament. Today, I watched as some reached into the font as they passed by and then made the sign of the cross—a physical prayer with fingertips wet with the consecrated water.

Water

And finally, in what was a novel occurrence (at least for me), our Bishop then announced that a woman from the congregation had been given a word from the Holy Spirit and was going to be permitted to speak it out to us.

It was all about…water.

About how the Lord desires us to ask Him to pour his Holy Spirit refreshment on us. She used the illustration of the Israelites thirsting in the desert, the image of parched mouths and dry, rocky ground. And she echoed my thoughts about the Gospel reading from earlier in the morning.

Water, water, everywhere, and so very much to drink. 

 

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