From today’s readings, I was especially drawn to the first paragraph of the lesson from John:
“On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”Initially these words sounded pretty familiar. Thirsty people invited to turn to God, to Jesus, for sustenance and satisfaction of their physical and spiritual thirst, for “living waters.” Similar imagery is found in the psalm for today, where it says, “He split the hard rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as from the great deep. He brought streams out of the cliff, and the waters gushed out like rivers.”
It took me awhile to notice a curious disconnect between what I was thinking I was reading, and the words on the page. Jesus invites the thirsty to come to Him and drink. But when He talks about the flowing rivers of living water He describes them as flowing “out of the believer’s heart.” When I actually noticed this, I was surprised. I would have thought the metaphor would have referred to these waters flowing from the heart of God, from Jesus’ heart. And of course that is their source. But what does it mean to say that the one who is thirsty, the believer “hoping against hope” as Abraham is described in the reading from Romans for today, comes, drinks, and then finds living waters flowing from his/her own heart?
The next verse of the paragraph from John says that Jesus was referring to the Spirit, which believers would receive after Jesus had been glorified. So, the Spirit, in the guise of living waters, flowing from God, from Jesus, to believers’ hearts, and then still flowing, gushing out like rivers to a thirsty world, pouring out to thirsty women and men and children everywhere, overflowing and uncontained. How beautiful. How unexpected.
“Come Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing. . . .”
— Karen Mawyer