As we leave a very hot and dry summer behind the image of thirst and the refreshment of water is a powerful one. Recently my husband and I sat out on our back patio and watched a monsoon storm drench our thirsty yard. We were so thrilled to have the rain. We know well in this desert region that water brings life. The Holy Land has desert areas like this region, so it is not surprising that some of the Bible writers use the image of thirst and water to talk about God. Psalm 42 says, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2, NRSV Bible) Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14, NRSV Bible)
The last time I visited the Holy Land, we were on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. Our guide had us look around at the life all around us. There were towns full of people, boats on the water, trees on the hillsides and reeds at the water’s edge. We ate fish from the Galilee and knew that for millennia many people, including some of the first disciples, have made their livelihood from that body of water.
Our guide pointed out to us another sea we visited farther south in Israel. It is the Dead Sea. This body of water cannot sustain any life. When we went in the Dead Sea, we were warned not to get any of the water in our eyes and to definitely not drink any of it. We were told that our bodies would not allow us to stay in that water for more than 20 minutes at a time. The minerals and chemicals in the water are so strong; we cannot tolerate them for long.
So, what makes one sea full of life and one dead? What makes one body of water cultivate and foster life in so many different ways and what leads another body of water to die and be unable to sustain any life? Every drop of water that comes into the Sea of Galilee flows out of it to bring and sustain life in its path. The water in the Dead Sea never leaves; it has no outlet, so it stagnates and eventually dies. “Be Galilee,” our guide Mike challenged us.
As churches of Jesus Christ, we have the source of Living Water to offer our neighborhoods, communities, nation, and world. We have the way of Christ that leads us to life at its best and to hope when things are at their worst. Let us “Be Galilee” not only in our individual lives, but as churches. Be channels of the blessings of God and the compassion of Christ allowing that living water to flow through us to bring life and transformation to the world.
When I meet with the West District churches this fall at our congregational meetings, we are going to be discussing each church’s identity. We are going to discuss questions like: “Where is Jesus alive and active in the life of your church? What part of Christ’s ministry would go missing in the local community if the church was no longer there?” In other words, how is the church bringing and sustaining life as the body of Christ? My hope is that every church in our conference will “Be Galilee,” a spring of the Living Water of Christ which flows freely through the congregation out into the neighborhood, community, nation, and world bringing and sustaining life in many different forms.
Let it flow!