It has been a pretty mixed bag when it comes to the weather here in Indianapolis. Here we are on May 2 and there is a threat of snow in some places – but then it is Indiana after all and to misquote Mark Twain, ‘If you don’t like the weather in Indiana, just wait a few minutes, it will change.’ My first summer here was 2012, and I wondered if I had made a smart move coming here. You may remember that year Indianapolis had a record-breaking dry spell which ended with six consecutive days of 100+ degree temperatures. In that period of hot weather retention ponds, small creeks and some lakes dried up and watering your baked brown lawn was banned! The farmers lost corn crops to the unusual dry spell and prayers were said regularly in the church for some rain.
For a short while, we experienced what Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East has to cope with as normal. For those places, the scarcity of water is not just an inconvenience but also a threat to life itself, and hence every spring, well or oasis is accorded almost sacred status.
This seasonal norm is the context in which Jesus promised a stream of living water to anyone thirsty; a claim made all the more remarkable by the occasions he chose to make his pronouncement. It was the Feast of Tabernacles – a day on which Jews remember God’s provision of water from a rock during Israel’s time in the wilderness. The highlight of the event was the ceremonial pouring out of the water as a symbol of that time when God had turned deepest despair to hope, doubt to faith, and almost certain death to a celebration of life. What Jesus promised was all this and more besides: a quality of life beyond anything they had dreamed possible; an inner fulfillment and peace, coupled with a new sense of purpose that would offer life in a new dimension in every sense. It is a promise that holds as much today as ever – in a world thirsty for meaning, Jesus tells us to come and never thirst again. Do you still thirst for a sense of meaning in your life? Have you accepted the gift that Jesus offers, or do you look to other things for fulfillment? John in the book of Revelation reminds us, “Never again will they hunger or thirst, neither will the sun or any scorching heat beat on them, for the Lamb at the center of the throne, will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Rev. 7:16-17)