In the opening weeks of Lent, we explored the hunger Jesus had after spending 40 days fasting in the wilderness. Jesus’ hunger is for our salvation, for our spiritual growth, for us to be reconciled to God. We look at our own hungers and how we need to turn our hunger back to God. Today we focus on another need just as powerful- if not more so – thirst. Jesus says we must both hunger and thirst for righteousness. One of the painful encounters of the cross Jesus was the acute pain of dehydration – one of Jesus’ final cries is “I thirst.” Jesus joined the pain of thousands of thirsty people worldwide.
Somewhere in the world at this moment, instead of joyful, playing children, there are listless children: perhaps a bit fussy, with sunken eyes, dry skin, low blood pressure, a feeble pulse. These are thirsty children but may become too weak to even sip life-giving fluids. 900 of these children will die today due to lack of safe water and poor sanitation which contaminates the water available, leading to disease and death. The World Economic Forum calls this a world crisis: It is estimated within eight years more than half of the world’s population will face a growing water-based vulnerability.
The irony is that water is all around us. 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, and the human body is between 55 and 78 percent water, depending upon body size. We need to take in about eight glasses of water a day to stay well hydrated. It doesn’t happen automatically. We must seek out clean water if we are to stay healthy keep our bodies in balance.
We are all thirsty people. Every day we thirst. Every day we must drink water to survive. We can go up to three weeks without food. We typically cannot survive more than 3-4 days without water.
Just as urgent is the spiritual thirst crisis. Some of us are lost on the inside. Some of our lives are out of joint, we lack peace, our capacity to have compassion and to love is stunted. People languish spiritually as surely a dehydrated person lingers between life and death. The clear, clean thirst for God has been contaminated by materialism, greed and selfishness, among other pollutants, that masks deeper spiritual needs. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” The prophet Isaiah asks us.
Like water, God’s Spirit is the fundamental building block of life. Our spiritual lives require its 8 glasses a day – we need that glassful of scripture. We need several glasses of prayer. We need to drink in acts of service to our neighbor. Mostly we need gallons of Living Water. Jesus says, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:37-39
Spiritual sustenance depends on relationship – with God and with each other. So, a healthy, balanced, spirit-infused life of living water is one characterized by gratitude. Today Jesus gives us examples of spiritually-deprived lives, thirsty lives that seek other avenues to be fed. Luke records that there were some people talking to Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Such spiritual dehydration reflects a sadistic act of the Roman Prefect, a spiritually bereft man - who we will meet personally at Jesus’ trial on the day and be the bureaucrat responsible for Jesus’ death.
It is a spiritually deficient heart, a spiritually thirsty heart, that would blame these victims and look for signs of sin in their lives for their terrible fate. No Jesus says. Just like those 18 people upon whom the tower of Siloam fell – another tragedy – that people sought to blame the victim – Jesus says there was no particularly evil thing these poor people did to cause their deaths. A spiritually parched heart would locate blame and guilt on others, or some sick sense of enjoyment or vindication. A spiritually hydrated heart – instead would feel compassion for the victims and their families. A hydrated heart acknowledges the various ways that we need to repent to get right with God.
For this reason, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree that hasn’t bloomed in three years, despite the expense, time and effort involved. A spiritually thirsty heart would say enough is enough! Three years is adequate time, and most would agree with this assessment. It is a spiritually evolved heart, filled to the brim with living water, spirit and love, that says give it one more year. That willingly invests extra time and effort, that pull out the stops, and will not give up on someone in need.
A spiritually well- hydrated person builds bridges, makes connections, forges relationships, and invests time in others. This is what Jesus is teaching us in Luke. We see suffering people and ask, “how can we help,” not wonder what they did wrong, how I can avoid their mishap, or remove what is problematic from my sight. Filled with living water, well-hydrated, we automatically overflow with compassion, kindness, forbearance and patience.
The same is true for our spirits. How many of us are aware of a thirst for God? Do we yearn for God as much as we do for rain when we’re in the middle of a drought? Do we long for God the way we long for glass water when we’re very thirsty? The psalmist describes it perfectly (Ps 61), “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; My soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
We are usually aware when we are physically dehydrated. Our body literally screams for water. Our throats are parched; our mouth and skin are dry. Are we attuned to our spirit and its’ needs to be replenished?
The Lenten season is a time for us to become awaken to our need for God and Living water. We are called to Lenten disciple to awaken ourselves to our fundamental thirst for God; to deepen our awareness of our need for Jesus, our living water. Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Lent awakens in us the life God envisions for us, as Isaiah so richly records: “You shall go out with joy and led back in peace.” Such is a spiritually full life.
So today let us choose to stay hydrated – thanking God for clean water, but for the many ways we can hydrate our Spirit – through recommitting our hearts to Jesus, drawing closer to him through Lenten practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Let us rediscover how thirsty we are for God – as vital as the breath we take each moment. May we see how thirsty everyone is – and may we thirst to be a part of the solution to a healthier, and a more whole world. Amen.