While a pastor in South Dakota four of us adults took twelve youth canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota. On a hot, long day of paddling our guide lead us to a life-giving spring of water. What a wonderful joy to drink of cool, refreshing water while paddling in the hot sun. It seems to me that today we desperately need to drink of the cool, refreshing Water of Life, for we live in a day of turbid heat and hatred, life-sucking activity and demands, and intellectual, economic, cultural and spiritual, empty promises.
Such life-giving water is counter-cultural, for it commences with DONE, not do, LOVED, not love. In other words such a life originates in God, not in us and our machinations or accomplishments or even in our efforts to love and to serve others. How often have I heard, even from the pulpits of Christian churches, the admonition to become better people. Such urgings are pure garbage and belong in the rubbish heap for they lead only to more defeat or a greater sense of internal pride and arrogance and place us on the outer edge of a tree limb that is about to be sawed off, for our own efforts lead us to futility.
The springs of Life-Giving water do not flow from the words or the actions of become, do, accomplish, achieve or even love, serve and believe. The water we need for the deserts of life flow from the well called LOVED. Even on that hot day in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, the cool, refreshing water penetrated and renewed my entire being. Such water did not simply refresh my thoughts, nor did it simply stimulate my emotions or rejuvenate only my tired muscles. No, the water on that day somehow changed my thoughts, my emotions, and even my tired body. It touched all of me, and so does the life-giving water of God.
Where can we see such a fountain of water? Where can we drink of such life-renewing strength? Since every Sunday School child knows that the answer to every question is “Jesus” so he must be the answer to my questions also, but it is a little more complicated than Sunday School level, rote answers.
We do not simply see life giving water in the healings of Jesus, in the miracles of Jesus, in the teachings of Jesus. These are all sign posts leading us to a hill called Calvary and an empty tomb. It is in the death of Jesus, the utter humiliation and defeat of Jesus that we see and experience the depths of God’s ferocious love for us. How could the Almighty God become so defeated, so victimized for us, so brutalized for us? All out of LOVE.
There is nothing like being ferociously, but tenderly loved and God does not love us when we become better people or understand all that we need to know or when we serve and love him, he loves us when we are still hiding from him in the dark closets of our lives. He knows us as cracked pots, and he loves us into wholeness.
That is counter-cultural, opposite of all political and economic logic. It is counter-cultural, opposite all our efforts to look good, look put together, look like we are “good” people. This is Love, just as we are. This is love that penetrates, captivates, motivates, transforms and empowers all that we are. What a wonder!