I awoke this morning to a cup of coffee, around 6:00. The coffee was made in my coffee maker, believe it or not, and this coffee maker was filled with water from our tap. I simply lifted a lever, and out flowed water good enough to drink. It started off a bit cool, but then warmed as it filled our Keurig.
Imagine the infrastructure necessary for that to take place. All we do as a family is pay our water bill on time every month (truth be told, it's set up for auto-pay), and we have access to clear, fluoridated water.
This luxury is new, in comparison with the history of mankind. In discussing Jeremiah 2, Robert Kellemen mentions the role fresh water played in the life of Israel's patriarchs:
In the wilderness lands of the ancient Near East, water was a constant problem -- a life-threatening issue. There were two primary sources of water. One was a spring of water -- pure, fresh, running water from the ground. This was the preferred source and the reason why Abraham and the other patriarchs settled near springs. Here they had access to clean, cool, flowing underground water bubbling up like a modern-day artesian spring.
The other source of water was the cistern, and it was much less desirable. If you could find no spring, or if a spring ran dry, then you had to dig a cistern. A cistern was a crude well that was not fed by underground water, but by collecting runoff water or rain. You'd dig a hole, line it with clay, and pray that the water running off from roofs, from the camel-dung-filled streets, and from the sandy, dusty hills would collect in the cistern and sit, stagnating in the hot sun. Because of this, cisterns often cracked, allowing the putrid, but life-sustaining water to escape. - Gospel-Centered Counseling, pages 144-145
Jeremiah was in the process of displaying Israel's turning from the Lord, lamenting that they are the only nation that has changed gods (Jeremiah 2:11), that they had forsaken the true God and fountain of living water for other gods, for broken cisterns that hold no water. Rather than remaining faithful to the covenant, they had turned to the gods of the nations around them. The curses of breaking the covenant (Leviticus 26:14-46) would play out in exile to Assyria and Babylon. God's faithfulness would remain upon a remnant of those exiled (Micah 2:12) and he would remain faithful to the covenant he had cut.
Fast forward to the New Covenant, where Jesus Christ is put forth as Living Water (John 4:13-14), the One who fulfilled the law in every way, shape, and form. As those made alive with Christ, we are grafted into this remnant of God's redeemed people (Romans 11:17), we are counted as Abraham's children (Galatians 4:28), and are united to Christ as his Bride.
Like the woman at the well, we have drank of this Living Water, we have found that which fully satisfies. And in us, a spring of water welling up to eternal life has formed. What overflows out of our own hearts is now the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done. We truly have something to offer those around us, something that satisfies and quenches one's thirst. Not water from a broken cistern, but pure and fresh and satisfying truth.
Those around us apart from faith in Christ have been drinking all of their lives from broken cisterns, they've been drinking water that does not satisfy. Their thirsty souls are forced to quench their thirst in small doses, with water than is dirty and gross, putrid even. And the truth is that they love it, they haven't known anything else and they believe themselves to be quite satisfied by the water accessible to them.
The woman at the well in John 4 was quenching her thirst in various relationships. The rich young ruler from Luke 18 sought refreshment in his riches. I have sought refreshment in the favorable opinion of others, a broken cistern indeed that may fill with some water from time-to-time, but inevitably runs out. So I have to go and try to fill it again through people pleasing, through serving others with the hopes of receiving their favor in return. This form of the hydrological cycle needs to repeat itself over and over again, so that I do not go thirsty. And it's a horrible cycle that apart from resting in my justification and eternal approval of the Father will never stop.
This is what we battle, but as we take sips of Living Water on a regular basis, we will be satisfied. We will not be thirsty for the things of old. We will forsake the broken cisterns for the clear, pure, and fresh living water of the gospel, informing who we are and Whose we are.
Therefore, we look at our Missional Communities as springs of Living Water. Places where the thirsty soul can come for refreshment, for satisfaction.
Discussion is crucial as it is the time when we can get specific about the broken cisterns that we continue trying to fill. It is a time when we can not only see the ugliness that is the water of this world, but we can see the purity and the quality of that which is from above.
The hope is that our groups are wells where Samaritan women from John 4 can come to meet Jesus. Where they can be challenged in their pursuit of putrid water, but at the same time be offered Living Water that satisfies.
Jesus goes on in John 4 to make it clear to the disciples that the fields are white for harvest. There are those who are thirsty and who are ready to receive pure refreshment in Christ. "'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." (John 4:37b-38)
Lord willing, each of the Missional Communities at River City Church will be access points to the pure and satisfying Living Water. What this means is that our time together is marked not only by surface-level discussion, but we get to know the people who walk through the door.
We learn information, and we learn interpretation. What is their story? What was it like to grow up in their hometown? Where do they work, do they enjoy it there? Why or why not? What brings them to River City, or this Missional Community? What are they hoping for? What are they looking for?
As we learn their story, and how they are responding to their story, we have opportunities like Jesus did to offer specific refreshment. He knew the Samaritan woman had multiple relationships with men outside the marriage covenant. She changed the subject. But he went with her, and despite her status amongst the Jews as an outsider, he shared with her the hope of the gospel.
As Jesus went after her heart, she brought things back to the surface. That will happen as we learn information, as we delve deeper into their interpretation of life. But as springs of living water well up within us, we overflow in love and concern for others, inviting them into our lives where we can be refreshed together.
Having tasted Living Water, who in your life is thirsty? Who do you know that is frantically filling their broken cisterns with that which does not satisfy? What does it look like for you to bring them a cup of fresh, cool, truth? Pray that as you think about these things, the Spirit is already at work and that at the right time you can be there to share something good and meaningful and soul-saving. The fields are white for harvest, what an honor it is to labor in these fields.