In our gospel reading for today, we hear Jesus make an invitation:
Drink of the living waters. Never again experience thirst.
Surely this is intriguing, but is this what we truly desire? We are a thirsty people – desiring to overcome, to improve, to gain, to achieve, to grow. Who are we without our constant craving tugging us onward? What remains of our identity if we cease to want? Even the most banal activity has the power to command our attention, to distract us, if only it plays on our desire.
This is where the prophet finds the calling.
The voice of the prophet arrives in our midst and unsettles us with a singular message distilled from many variations from many mouths:
Your hearts have strayed.
Our thirst returned, and wanting went awry. Our faith in promise waned, and the prophet’s indictment confronts us with our desire for cheap certitude. This indictment requires a peculiar posture for the prophet. To know hearts have strayed requires the memory of a time in which hearts were attuned to life infused by the Spirit.
Jesus, filled with the life of the Spirit, offers the crowd this same Spirit. His call includes the provision of life without thirst, because those who drink of the Spirit and believe will be filled with the Spirit’s life and be transformed themselves into springs of living waters, leaving thirst behind. Those filled with living water live as water, live with the Spirit within and within the Spirit. Its flow is one that spans time: reaching back to times when hearts yearned for God alone; reaching ahead to the ashen lands left by judgment and destruction. The one filled with living waters sees in such a way, and in this the mind of the prophet is made. Again, is this what we want?
Instead of stepping forward to Jesus, eager to drink, do we reply as the crowd echoing the Pharisees and look to question the legitimacy of his claims? Do we call for his arrest? Does a prophet hail from Galilee? Would we prefer to hear a more oblique message? Do we marvel with those who marvel, but then nothing more?
Still, the prophet is more than one who sees the good of the past and the ruin ahead. The prophet, filled with the Spirit, grieves with the Spirit, perhaps even thirsts for the time when all will be reconciled to God and one another. The prophet dips a finger in to the ashes of destruction and wears them as a sign on the forehead: a sign of our common mortality. The prophet does not ascend beyond humanity, or feign an air of piety – Jesus himself claims no entitlement or ownership of the Spirit. Instead, the prophet is the ultimate servant, one who has cast aside all selfish ambition and cast oneself into the living waters of the Spirit; who speaks with the Spirit’s voice; who hears with the Spirit’s ears; who sees with the Spirit’s eyes; who works with the Spirit’s hands. Again, is this what we want?
May we be full of your living water
May we desire rightly
May we live as prophets
Always holding in tension
The world we see and the world we know
That could be
As we share the message of your kingdom
With those around us
May we do so in a way
That always embodies
The message within the method