Thirst-Quenching Grace for Each Day

Dear Brothers,

The essence of our public ministry vocation is offering the water of life that alone satisfies perfectly and forever thirsty human hearts.

Logic would suggest that those who dispense the water of life should never struggle with trying to substitute lesser thirst-quenchers for the water of life.  But logic would be wrong.

“Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.”  (“You have fashioned us for yourself [O Lord] and restless is our heart until it rests in you.”)

So spoke Augustine in his Confessions.   Ever since the fall into sin, human beings try to answer the thirst of their hearts for peace and contentment by seeking satisfaction in the Creator’s gifts rather than in the Creator.  This hopeless endeavor ends in parched thirst that lasts forever.

In Sunday’s gospel (John 4:5-26) we have exhibit A of a restless heart vainly seeking in God’s gifts what can only be sought in God.  To any other tired traveler, the Samaritan woman who approached Jacob’s well might have seemed like just another person in the work-a-day world seeking water for herself or others dependent on her.  But the Lord Jesus, who always sees the reality of our hearts, saw much more.  He saw someone whose heart was thirsty and whose life was a sad commentary on how futilely sinful human nature seeks to answer that thirst.

She lived among a people who vainly sought to worship a God they did not know in a way of their own choosing.  Is it any surprise her life provided abundant evidence of a thirsty heart?  Jesus patiently led the conversation from matters of satisfying the thirst of the body to that which revealed the thirst of her soul.  She had spent her life seeking to answer the thirst of her heart in one husband after the next, none of whom, in a pitiful combination of their sinful weakness and her own, had brought peace to her heart.  Now, in what we might consider a very contemporary twist, she continued to seek the answer to her thirst in a man in her life while giving up on the concept of “husband.” Spoiler alert:  even without a marriage license, he would soon enough disappoint her and she him!

Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.

Brothers, I do not mean to unfairly equate us with this unbelieving Samaritan.  I do not doubt that you believe what you preach to others:  that Jesus is the giver of living water that alone can satisfy the heart fully and forever.

But because we remain simul justus et peccator, what was a chronic condition in her unbelieving heart still comes our way in acute daily attacks that seek to destroy faith.  What is so clear in sermon manuscripts and Bible class outlines about the only living water that can satisfy, gets a bit fuzzy in the thirst-causing realities of daily life and daily public ministry.  As the sinful hearts of others join our own in making us thirsty yet again, we can struggle to remember that only the living water Jesus provides can quiet our heart’s thirst!

There is not one of us for whom our personal chasing after the wrong things to quench the restlessness of our hearts does not remain a struggle.  What might such fruitless trips to satisfy our heart-thirst look like?

Perhaps its unwinding from a frustrating church council meeting by losing ourselves in mindless no-demands-on-us travels through the vast universe of the Internet, perhaps even visiting some sectors of that universe that we hope no search history ever reveals!  Perhaps it looks like dealing with another frustrating day in the church militant by emptying the contents of the Doritos bag or draining an embarrassingly large part of a six pack.  Maybe its losing ourselves in a few hours of binging on ESPN, numbing our disappointment with the family of God or our own family, while, of course, simultaneously deadening the painful reality of what our own sinful hearts have contributed to the situation.  Maybe it looks like trying to deal with things that didn’t go right by assuring ourselves that if we just work harder or smarter or longer we will find what answers our thirst for peace and satisfaction.  Or maybe we are drawn to the other extreme, convincing ourselves that the answer to what parches our hearts is allowing cynicism to take root as we begin to convince ourselves that our version of a twisted ecclesiastical Murphy’s Law is the equivalent of the biblical theology of the cross.

Unique to all of us are the exact ways we are tempted to mask or numb our heart’s thirst.  All are futile.  All leave our hearts thirstier than when we began.

Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.

Fortunately for that woman at Jacob’s well, her Creator, clothed in flesh and blood simply had it as a necessity on his calendar to meet her that day.  She was found by the One who, although he knew everything about her, neither divorced her or abandoned her, but sought to unite her to himself in faith.  In his merciful seeking love, he poured out living water that transformed her into a well of living water bubbling up to eternal life!

Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.

So too Jesus comes with determination into the midst of our daily thirst exacerbating temptations.  His saving will for each of us it to turn us from all our thirst-worsening ways of coping with the sins of our own lives and the sins of others.    Even with the bitter taste of that which does not satisfy still wet on our lips, he says to us: “Ask of me, and I will give you living water!”  Instead of running to that which does not satisfy, he bids us bring to him whatever it is that burdens our hearts, whatever it is that is making us thirsty.   It does not matter if it is the disappointment of where trust in other people or other things has let us down, or the even deeper thirst creating reality of confessing that what troubles us most of all are the sins of our own hearts.   He declares without fear of contradiction in any and every situation: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This Lenten season rejoice at the privilege of being a Spirit-dug well of living water bubbling over to quench the souls of those in your care.   But, my brothers, enjoy first the refreshing draught of that living water that wins us day by day from running to that which cannot satisfy.

Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.