Friday, September 21, 2012

Dried up wells and living water

In his book "The Kingdom Within”, John Sanford, priest and psychotherapist, tells of a New Hampshire farmhouse where his family used to spend time each summer. It was 150 years old and had never been modernized. Near the back door was an old well, which for many years had supplied the house with cold, pure water - a joy to drink. Amazingly, the well never ran dry. Even during the most severe summer droughts, the old well faithfully yielded up its high-quality water. 

In due course the family decided to modernize the house. Electricity replaced the old kerosene lamps. An electric stove took the place of the kerosene burner. Modern plumbing and running water were installed. This meant that a new artesian well had to be drilled. For safety reasons, since it would no longer be needed, the old well was sealed over to be kept in reserve in case the new well ever stopped functioning. 

Father Sanford tells how a number of years later, out of curiosity, he went to the house and uncovered the old well to inspect its condition. Thinking he would find the cool, moist depths he had known so well as a boy, he was shocked to see that the well was bone dry. 

He asked around in order to find out what had happened. He learned that this kind of well is fed by hundreds of tiny underground rivulets along which seep a constant supply of water. As water is drawn from the well, more and more water moves in along the rivulets, keeping these tiny apertures clear, open and unblocked. But, when the well is not used and the water is not regularly drawn, these tiny rivulets close up. 

The old Sanford well had dried up, not because there was no water, but because it had not been used.

For Father Sanford, a person’s spirit is like that well, and what happened to the well can so easily happen to us if the living water – the Holy Spirit - does not flow in and through us. It is so easy to dry up through self centredness, neglect and carelessness. 

In one of his talks, Nicky Gumbel (the originator of the Alpha Course) explores the same theme: 

“It was the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37). This was the day when the people anticipated that the great river prophesied in Ezekiel 47 (which was read and enacted at the feast) would flow out from Jerusalem. ‘Jesus stood’ (John 7:37). The usual custom was to sit when teaching, but these words were so significant that he wanted to be seen and heard by all the people. He cried out ‘in a loud voice’ (v.37). 

“ ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flowing from within’ (v.38). The Feast of Tabernacles was anticipating the river that would flow out of the temple in Jerusalem . . . Jesus tells them that this has been fulfilled, not in a place but in a Person. 

“The river flows out of the heart of Jesus (out of his ‘koilia’ – the pit of his stomach or his innermost being) and in a derivative way out of every Christian (John 7:38). The river – the Holy Spirit - flows into us and out of us. The river will flow into the little ‘Dead Seas’ of our hearts and from our ‘innermost being’. Superficially life may not be easy, but deep down the Holy Spirit constantly flows like a ‘river of living water’. 

“This river does not flow once in a while. It flows continuously. It is not supposed to be blocked up. It should be constantly bubbling up and flowing out of us.” 

Did you notice what Nicky said . . . the river is not supposed to be blocked up. 

Let us pray. 

Father God, 
we come before you parched and dry, 
having tried to be reservoirs 
where water flows in but does not flow out. 
We now dedicate ourselves to becoming 
channels of your love and blessing for others. 
Please refresh us; 
May the Holy Spirit flow into each of us, 
and then from within our innermost beings 
as streams of living water 
into the lives of those we meet from day to day. 
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you 
in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 


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