About Thirst in a Life Surrounded by Cup Holders and Coasters

Wednesday Eucharist – March 6, 2013
Preacher: Henry J. Langknecht, Guest Professor of Homiletics

Isaiah 55:1-9
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
7let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the LORD,
that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Psalm 63:1-8
1O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;
     my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
     as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,
     that I might behold your power and your glory.
3For your steadfast love is better than life itself;
     my lips shall give you praise.
4So will I bless you as long as I live
     and lift up my hands in your name.
5My spirit is content, as with the richest of foods,
     and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
6when I remember you upon my bed,
     and meditate on you in the night watches.
7For you have been my helper,
     and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
8My whole being clings to you;
     your right hand holds me fast.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
 

Luke 13:1-9
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them — do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable:
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’
8He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”


In my life I am surrounded …
… by cup holders and coasters.

hank.jpgAt home:
I have a coaster on my desk upstairs …
And another one
on the computer desk downstairs …
There is one on the piano …
One on my bedside table …
And one by the chair where
I read the paper …

I have one on my desk at work …
And two on the work table in my office …

My car has six cup-holders built in …
But that wasn’t enough so we bought a device that slides in along the seat that has two more.

Each of my bicycles has two
water bottle cages …
But I also wear
a water pouch on my back when I go riding.


The exercise bikes at the Y
have two cup holders each …
… and every two or three minutes Amy, the spinning class instructor helpfully
chirps at us,

“Don’t forget to hydrate!”

I am surrounded.
 … by cup holders and coasters.
… and I use them … all … all the time.


I have a drinking probl …
well I don’t think it’s exactly a problem …

But I have a drinking … THING.

I am never without something to drink.

Never.

It’s not so much a chemical addiction
(most of it is decaffeinated)

I read somewhere that my “thing”
This “thing” where I always have a
glass of water or
a mug of herbal tea or
a can of Pepsi Max
close at hand …

I read that it’s an “ad-junctive behavior.”

Whatever.

The point is.

I AM NEVER THIRSTY.

I am never even remotely thirsty.

Because I am drinking something
nearly every minute of the day.

In my life I am surrounded by cup holders
 and I know how to use them


And so, of course,
 I’m assigned to preach in chapel during the third week in Lent.

Because in the Bible readings for
the third week in Lent …
everyone is thirsty.

We heard on Monday that
the woman at the well is thirsty.
The psalmist on Sunday was thirsty …
O God, you are my God;
eagerly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Today we heard Isaiah issue the invitation:
“Hey … everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters …”

On Monday we sang Psalm 42
Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum.
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.

In the third week in Lent
even the wildlife is thirsty …

But not me.


And you’re thinking …
“But all these references to
thirst are metaphorical.”


Yeah, I got that.

What they are really thirsty for is …

Well … what?

To what does the metaphorical “thirst” refer?

This “thirst” that floods all
the lessons of the third week of Lent …

What is it a metaphor for?

What is Isaiah really offering?
What is Jesus really pouring out of his jug?
What is that deer really
lapping up from that stream?


We’d probably say it’s something like:
a sense of meaning,
or a narrative that rings true,
or a compelling Gospel story that will
lift us out of our arid existence.


At the well in John 4
Jesus asks a couple of questions and
draws out of that woman her life story
Her tragedy …
Her hurt …
Her shame …
Her sorrow …
Her confusion …

And she makes it clear that
She’s looking for answers
She’s looking for a better story.
She thirsts for the Messiah …
The Messiah … who will, she says:
“proclaim all things to us.”


Those unnamed followers in
today’s reading from Luke ask
Jesus about the Galileans whom
Pilate killed.

What did that mean?
What’s the story there?

And then Jesus comes right back at them:
You know those folks who
got crushed by that tower?

You think you’ve got that story straight?

 Even the fig tree is going to get a new story.

Fruitless for three years with
the vineyard owner channeling
John the Baptist on the one hand:

“Lay the ax to the root of that tree!
Cut it down!”

And on the other hand,
… the gardener of second chances:

 “Just a little more fertilizer
a little digging around the root …  and
one more year.”

The real thirst
underlying these readings for the
third week in Lent is
for something like:
a sense of meaning,
or a narrative that rings true,
or a compelling story that will
lift us out of our arid existence.

But I’m not really thirsty for that either.

I am even more glutted with
stories and meanings
than I am with cup holders.

Our television is on less than
the 34 hours-per-week national average
… but it’s still on a lot.

And every show …
Every newscast …
Every commercial is telling a story
about what it all means.

I know that most of those stories are
manipulative and self-serving …

And I still lap them up.

Shirla, my wife, and I are movie lovers …
We probably average
a movie and a half per week …

Every movie tells a story
about what it all means.

(And every theatre has
cup holders in the armrests …
So if Jesus returns
while I’m at the movies …

Sorry Jesus,
I’ve already got a story … and a beverage.)

Every newspaper article …
Every sermon …
Every novel …
Every segment of This American Life …

I am drowning in stories.

And I am drowning in iced tea.

And so in this Third Week in Lent
I find that what I’m really thirsty for …

… is thirst.

I am thirsty for thirst.

When Isaiah cries out,
“Hey … everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.”


I want to be one of those who is so dry
That I turn to that invitation and say,

“Oh, thank God!”

I don’t envy the woman at the well
… for her hard and tragic life.

I envy her thirst.

Jesus says to her,
“Everyone who drinks of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again.”

And without missing a beat she says
“Sir, give me this water,
so that I may never be thirsty again.”

And … I would kill to be that credulous
… that naïve
… that needy

I would kill to be that thirsty.

But what God seems to want to know is
Would I die to be that credulous?
That naïve?
That needy?
That thirsty?

Would I die to be that thirsty?

I don’t know.

I’m just an overwatered,
overstoried
overnarrated
barren fig tree.

Living between a sea of voices
channeling John the Baptist on the one hand:

If he can’t do a better job than this …

Put an ax to him!
Cut him down!


I live between a sea of voices
channeling John the Baptist on the one hand:

And on the other hand this
Amazing
Patient
Merciful
Gardener … digging around my roots
Nourishing me
And giving me one more year.


I am thirsty for thirst.
I am thirsty for the thirst that
leaves me so dry
That when the invitation to drink,
All I can do is turn and say,

“Oh, thank God!”


And this is Jesus’s gift to me this Lent.

I am an ironic fig tree.
Overfed, overwatered, overstoried …
… and yet still too often barren.

Fully aware of the
danger from the ax on one side.

But fully enthralled on the other side by
The one kneeling at my roots,
Attending to me,
Caring for me,
The one who knows
what it means to have a
sponge of wine offered for
his thirst.
The one who gives me one more year.

For this over-narrated, over-storied,
saturated man who never thirsts …

The gift of Lent is to be fully enthralled by
The one kneeling at my roots,
Attending to me,
Caring for me,
Offering my his thirst …
… the thirst that can lead only to utter fruitfulness and faith.

Amen.
 

Posted: 3/6/2013 2:24:48 PM by John Spangler | with 0 comments


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