Yesterday morning, like many around the world, I joined the collective sigh of relief that 12 members of a Thai youth soccer team and their coach, together with those who had been with them over the past few days all got out of their underground ordeal in a cave in Thailand, alive and for the most part well. The joy of such a miracle tempered only by the fact that one diver lost his life in the preparation to carry out this amazing rescue and a remarkable feat of collective human cooperation. It is astonishing that the boys survived that long with no food and in conditions which would have been total darkness. The one thing they did have in plentiful supply was water. We do not know a lot about the boys just now, but one fact we do know about the coach was that like many young men in Thailand he trained to be a monk in the Buddist tradition. Buddhism, like Christianity, sees water in a particular way.
My recent trip to Thailand was at the time of ‘Songkram,’ or the Thai New Year. In the center of Bangkok, it is celebrated by having a massive water fight in the streets. Thousands of people with water pistols or other containers of water spray or pour water over each other. Bucketfuls are sometimes thrown over passers-by or vehicles as they try and make their way through the streets. For Buddhists, water symbolizes life, the purest form of food, and water is the particular element which in nature carries everything together. Water also symbolizes purity, clarity, and calmness, and reminds us to
cleanse our minds and attain the state of purity. Perhaps the coach’s training as a monk may have led him to share the wisdom of the Buddha and in doing so help reduce the fear of the water and turn it into the life-saving element that it became for them.
In the gospel of John we read that Christ at the end of a special celebration, the Feast of the Tabernacles, “stood up and cried out“ and ”If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). He reminded the people of the day that Moses had struck the rock in the desert and life-giving water was released for them to drink. It was a symbol of how God had turned their despair into hope, their doubt to faith and their almost certain death in the wilderness to a celebration of life. What Jesus was promising was all this and more, a quality of life beyond anything they dreamed was possible. It would bring an inner fulfillment and peace, coupled with a new sense of purpose, that would offer life in a new dimension in every sense. It’s 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 received the gift Jesus offers, or do you look to other things for fulfillment?
Perhaps this can be your prayer this week? Living God, as you promised that water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams bubble up in the desert, so may the living waters of Christ flow in me and through me this day and always. Amen
Shalom to you my friend,