John 7:37-39 NRSV On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
What do you find comforting? People sheltering at home during our pandemic are rediscovering comfort in various forms. The simple comfort of a jigsaw puzzle or a good book or an old TV show. Sitting down to a hobby you haven’t had time for lately. Maybe cuddling a dog or a cat. Comfort food is big right now. Sit down restaurants are out so grilling is popular. Propane grill tank sales are up 300%. Breadmaking exploits are filling the internet, so flour is flying off grocery shelves and yeast sales are up 400%! Where do you find comfort these days? Water is comforting. We Minnesotans almost take water for granted- we have some of the most abundant fresh water on the planet. We play on it, in it, pull fish out of it and even walk on it in winter. But water in the Middle East is different. For one thing, it’s rarer. We Minnesotans think of thirst as a minor inconvenience. In Israel, having water can mean the difference between life and death. When Jesus mentioned thirst in today’s gospel the crowd’s throats would have tightened up. Every listener of Jesus would have experienced great thirst at particular day because the people had gathered for a Jewish festival which used water. The Festival of Booths reminded folks how God had taken care of them in the wilderness after they left Egypt. Water ceremonies were an important part of this festival, because God had saved the Israelites from dying of thirst in the wilderness. Jesus says living water, the Holy Spirit, flows out of people’s hearts. In the era of COVID-19, Jesus might use the concept of ‘herd immunity’ In herd immunity, there aren’t enough people to spread that illness. If enough people have had gotten sick and are immune, then the rest of the population will remain disease free. How does ‘herd immunity’ work with the Holy Spirit? Let’s say evil is like a virus and the Holy spirit is immunity from it. If you believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit can live in your heart and no evil can take hold of you. You become immune to evil. If the Spirit lives in your heart, good things will naturally flow out. Your thoughts, words and deeds will be inspired by the Spirit. What you do and say will help others. More people will come to believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit will live in their hearts, too. Before long, if anyone tries something evil, there are enough good people to prevent that evil from spreading evefrwhere. So if enough people have the Holy Spirit, we will be immune to evil, we will have a just society. That’s an important thing to think about in these crazy, unsettled times. The same sort of herd immunity for our church. If we strengthen our belief in and trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts more. We all get anxious from time to time. But if we have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will help us navigate stressful times and keep us from making others anxious That same Spirit will keep any anxious people in our church from “infecting” the rest of us. Our church as a whole will remain calm. So if we trust Jesus more our church will be stronger. Our church will be immune to most internal AND external stress. The living water of the Holy Spirit Jesus offers us is our Christian heritage and our comfort. The living water Jesus offers us can transform our hearts, our church and our country. That is a great comfort at any time, but especially during the fear that surrounds COVID-19 and our damaged economy. Come to Jesus! Trust Jesus! Be Comforted! Be filled with the Spirit and be immune to evil! Let the Holy Spirit touch others through you! Be good. Do good. Transform your world! Amen.