ďRenewing WaterĒ

Ezekiel 36:22-28

Titus 3:3-7

March 28, 2004

 

What is odorless, tasteless, and transparent, but without it life would not be possible?What makes up 75% of the earth, but only 1% of it is actually usable by us? What makes up over 70% of our body, but without it we would die in a few days?What do we use to cook with, clean with, and play with, but too much of it can cause death and disease and too little of it can cause drought and famine?What is this simple substance that is so important for us?It's water.

In a society that uses over 100 gallons of water per person each day, 7 gallons every time we flush, 2 gallons every time we brush our teeth, 35 galloons every time we take just a five-minute shower, we easily forget about how dependent we are on water.

Just how important is water to our bodies?Our body needs about 3 quarts of water a day to operate efficiently.Just a 5% drop in body fluids will cause a 25%-30% drop in energy in the average person.Even the smallest reduction in water intake can cause daytime fatigue, slower metabolism, and short-term memory loss.

Water is our body's natural cooling agent, and without it's lubricating properties, our joints and muscles would grind and creak like unused parts of some old rusty machinery.Water aids in proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and it is the body's only means of flushing out toxins.†† It is water that renews, sustains, and helps to keep our physical bodies alive and healthy.And yet, we are more dependent on water than we even know.

††††††††† From the beginning, water has played an important role in God's life creating, sustaining, and covenantal work for Godís people.It was over the waters of creation that the Spirit swept, dividing and restraining the formless and void earth so that land could appear.It was the rivers of Eden that watered the garden where man and woman were created.It was the waters of the flood where God again dealt with chaos and renewed the world.

Through the waters of the sea, the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, and as they journeyed through the wilderness, water was brought forth from the rock to quench their thirst, and it was through the waters of the Jordan that Godís people entered the Promised Land.

The prophets called for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.And when the grace of God appeared in Jesus Christ, it was water that became the symbol of grace and rebirth, cleansing and regeneration, adoption and new life in the self-offering of the One who gave himself as a gift of living water.

Even at the end of the age, when Christ comes again, the New Jerusalem will have the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.It is water that is for us the sign and symbol of Godís regenerating, renewing and sustaining grace of and for Godís people.

On this last Sunday of our four-week series we lift up our two final words: renewal and baptism.We saved these two words for the end for two reasons.First, these words remind us that all we have talked about and worked on over these last three weeks is only possible because of Godís direct intervention in the lives of Godís people.

It is Godís promise to the people of Israel that God will not just cleanse them outwardly, but will renew and change them inwardly by giving them a new heart and a new spirit, not just any spirit, but Godís own Spirit.And it is Godís promise to us that this same Spirit, through the waters of new birth and renewal, has been richly poured out on us as well through Jesus Christ.

It is only through Godís direct intervention in the lives of Godís people that makes it even possible for us to consider the devotion and discipline of our faith, because without Godís direct intervention in our lives there would be no faith.

The second reason why we have chosen to lift up the words renewal and baptism last, is because we are about to enter Holy week, and for the church of Jesus Christ, this is the single most important week of our faith.

These last three weeks have again reminded me just how much I am unable, on my own, to be completely devoted, perfectly disciplined, and totally forgiving apart from the grace, mercy, and love of God that comes to us in the life-giving, cleansing and renewing waters of the Spirit of the living Christ.But maybe that is the point of Lent in the first place: to remind us of our total dependence upon the grace, mercy, and love of God in Jesus Christ for our very faith and for our very salvation.

††††††††† Over this last week, I have been listening to news reports about the case over the Pledge of Allegiance that is before the Supreme Court.California atheist Michael Newdow is arguing before the Supreme Court that the words ďunder GodĒ is unconstitutional and should be taken out of the Pledge, because as he said in an interview, ďthis country doesnít believe in God.ĒSome supporters of the California father, who demonstrated outside the Supreme Court, were seen carrying some signs with the slogan "Democracy Not Theocracy."

††††††††† Brothers and sisters, the reality is that even though, unfortunately, a court will decide the outcome of this case, this court will not decide the outcome of the conviction of our faith, a conviction that says we, as Christians, do indeed believe in God, not just any god, but in the God that appeared in Jesus Christ.

We, Christians, may be in the world, but we are not of the world, and our true citizenship is in heaven, and the kingdom of heaven is not a democracy, it is a theocracy.God is the center of our faith, our life, and of our world.God alone is the one who saved us according to his mercy, the one who justified us by his grace, and the one who indeed gives us the assurance of our inclusion, not only in Christís atoning, justifying act upon the cross, but also in the promise that we will become heirs according to the hope of eternal life in his resurrection.

It is the events of Holy Week that proclaims to the world, that in Jesus Christ God has directly intervened in human history, and reminds us that it is only in Jesus that we are reborn and renewed and baptized through the power of the Holy Spirit.

††††††††† Over the course of the last 27 days of Lent we have traveled through the dry, barren wilderness, been tried and tested, having honestly and seriously examined our faithfulness to the gospel.Our journey through the wilderness of Lent is almost at the end, but we are not there yet.There are thirteen more days to go.I don't know about you, but I'm thirsty and tired, my body is weak, my mind is slow, and Iím dirty from the journey, but we have several more stops to make along the way: Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.

Let us prepare ourselves for what lies ahead, let us be faithful in our observance of Holy Week so that we might witness to the world what we believe, and let us rest and rejoice in the knowledge that God has already cleansed us, refreshed us, and restored us with the renewing waters of the blood of the living Christ.†† Amen.

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