You can feel everything heating up, can’t you? The election, geopolitical, and race conversations are heating up, and the likelihood is, these will all only get hotter. Anxiety and uncertainty are heating up because we thought we were getting healthier and now, not so much. Questions about our national identity and competency are heating up since we who are Americans are currently not welcome in most of the world thanks to our Corona virus failure. The temperature of our fears about the future is rising. Even the summer air is heating up. Heat makes us thirsty and the reality is that all these pockets of heat conspire to make us very thirsty. If we don't fix our thirst, we quickly become angry.
Thirst, of course, is our visceral physiological sign that we need to hydrate. “Obey your thirst” is, in general, a good idea. The crux of the matter, though, is the quality of the beverage. There’s nothing better than pure clear water to change the composition of our blood, which eases the work our heart does. But the sad truth is, if you’re a coffee person in the morning and then you wind down at the end of the day with alcohol, though technically you're drinking liquids, they’re drying you out. You need water. Water. Water!!
When the tension, anger, fear, and anxiety in your spirit and soul begin to heat up, I promise you will get thirsty there too, just not in a physiological sense. How many times have we heard longings and frustrations articulated over zoom meetings in the past weeks? We’re thirsty for the race problem in America to finally move toward healing. We’re thirsty to hug our grandchildren. We’re thirsty to gather and sing together. We’re thirsty to fix the Corona mess. We’re thirsty for civility in politics. We’re thirsty for ’better days.'
The good news (which literally is the meaning of the word “gospel”) on this subject is what I want to talk about today...
1. Thirst is a gift. Jesus said, “Happy are those who thirst for righteousness....” Eight minutes and forty-six seconds of hearing “I can’t breathe” twenty times had better make you thirsty for righteousness. So should seeing science politicized. So should the growing income disparity between many of us and the vulnerable ‘essential workers.’ So should the ever-present degradation, disempowerment, and enslavement of women. So should your own longings to redeem the time you’ve been given, and your longings to reconcile with people across the political aisle, and your longings for a world in which ALL God’s people and ALL God’s creatures are given the value they deserve. Your own longings (I hope you have them) to live a life ripe with meaning, aligned with God’s purposes are thirsts - good thirsts.
If your mantra is to kill desire, none of this works - we'll just disengage from our broken world. It’s far better to lean Into our spirit-inspired longings for a better world, because though such longings will lead to pain and grief, they’re essential to the essence of God-implanted thirst. Everything starts there. So if you‘re like this: “I’m good: Working from home. Hanging out with family. No worries,” maybe ask God for a little compassion so that you become thirsty, because the truth of the world is that “when one suffers, all suffer.”
2. Spirit Water is the only valid drink to quench spirit-endowed thirst. Jesus said it this way: “If any person is thirsty, let them come to me and drink“ with the promise being that those who drink from Christ will not only have their thirst satisfied - they will become rivers, filled to overflowing with capacity to become part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem. You’ve met such people. They impart peace, or hope, or generosity, or wisdom, or exhort a movement toward justice, at just the right moment and in just the right time. These are spirit-filled people, displaying the fruit of the spirit of God within them, expressing divine life through them - a rare and desperately needed commodity in times like these.
3. Surrender is what purifies your water. Remember what Jesus said about those who are born of the spirit? He said “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.“ Those who are filled because they’re drinking spirit water find they move from a proactive “set your goals and go after them with gusto” sort of life, to a life of being carried along by the wind of the Spirit. Such carrying is exhilarating, as anyone who sails knows. You’re tapped into a power ‘not your own.’
Unlike sailing though, you don’t set the direction. Paul didn’t set out to be an evangelist throughout the Gentile ancient world. MLK didn’t set out to be the mouthpiece for racial justice. Moses didn’t set out to lead a 40 year backpacking trip through the desert. You didn’t set out to be single, or living in Seattle, or have a child with special needs, or living alone, or becoming a pastor, or an Amazon employee in senior management. It’s spirit water and wind that’s brought you to this moment in time. The question is, will you drink the cup God has for you willingly, or toss it aside in search of a “more comforting beverage” - perhaps alcohol, or drugs, or impersonal sex, or just more money - anything to quench the thirst. AUGH! You can do that, surely, but you can’t do that and “be filled with the spirit,” which is what, as I’ll share Sunday, is to be normative.
Paul is explicit in contrasting excess alcohol with spirit water. He says, "don't get drunk...but rather, be filled with the spirit". In both cases, you're yielding control of your personhood to an outside source. With spirit water, though, you're yielding to the source that leads you on an upward trajectory towards the increasing manifestation of love, joy, peace, patience, wisdom, generosity, and much more that is life giving, both to you and our thirsty world.
None of it happens, though, until we declare our desire to yield control. That's why, on my runs and hikes these days, a little tune I learned in a class I took last fall remains with me:
Come Holy Spirit heal me
Come Holy Spirit free me
Come Holy Spirit guide me
Come Holy Spirit fill me
Please join me in upping your dosage of spirit water through prayer and surrender. You need it. The world needs it. And adventures await you as the wind of the spirit takes you places you'd not otherwise have gone.