Pentecost. Only those who thirst will drink the living water.

(From a sermon given on Pentecost 2001.. Next Sunday is Pentecost)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Today we celebrate the bringing of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, the fulfillment of the Resurrection in the heart of man. Christ prophesied it Himself, and the fulfillment we hear in the Acts of the Apostles. Actually, it’s rare — when we have a feast day, usually the primary reading is that of the Gospel, in terms of in content of the feast, but the event of Pentecost is described in the Acts.

 

Christ said, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink," and He said, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The Apostle John tells us this refers to the Holy Spirit, Who was not yet given, but He was prophesying of what would happen when it was given. "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." The Holy Spirit is available to us, if we thirst. Abundant water, cool water, fresh water. Not water from a cistern, but water from a living spring is available to us — but only if we thirst. If we don’t thirst, then the water that we partake of is flat and lifeless and tepid. We must thirst.

 

This is the key to the Christian life – thirst, thirst for righteousness, thirst for Christ. Then, out of your belly truly shall flow rivers of living water. Think of the image, of what this means. Continual activity, continual purity — because water purifies, especially flowing water. It scours the ground, and cleans, takes waste away, continually flowing and purifying and cleansing. This is what happens in the heart of man — but only if we thirst. We must thirst for that good water, the water that Christ also spoke of with the woman at the well, St. Photini. If you thirst, then indeed, you will have living water.

 

If you don’t thirst, if you don’t put the priorities in your life wholly towards learning of the sweetness of God, then you won’t experience this living water. You might experience a little of it, sort of like being at the spray of a waterfall. You don’t experience the power of the water, but you feel some of the mist. This is not for us Christians. We want to feel the full force of the water. But we must thirst.

 

"As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." This putting on is our action, our desire, our continual living in Christ. May it be that we would truly live as Christians. The Spirit makes it possible. It’s all there for us. Abundant grace is present, and abundant grace is continually shed upon us. And we would have all of this grace if we thirsted. To the extent that we thirst for things that are not godly, and that distract us, to that extent we don’t have this living water.

 

And the sad thing is, it’s not something we can know obviously. Many times, when you do something wrong in life, it’s obvious that you did something wrong. You can tell, if you make a mistake in building something, if you cut a board too short, or do something an incorrect way, or something of that nature, your mistake becomes apparent to you. Or even in human relationships, often times we can tell if we’ve made a mistake, and sometimes we have the opportunity to correct it. But, if we don’t know that we have this living water, we won’t know. It’s not something that we can know of to correct, because this is knowledge that is wholly beyond us. It’s wholly outside of our carnal frame of reference. So, if we miss this living water, if we don’t have water springing out of our belly, we won’t know it. To me, that is the greatest tragedy of life — to not know the grace of God when it is presented to us.

 

All of us, if we don’t struggle, if we don’t thirst, we won’t experience grace. I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason that some things in our faith are not explained thoroughly is that those who need the explanation would not understand it, because they haven’t experienced it. Only those that truly thirst can truly understand the wisdom and the mercy and the might and the beauty of God, and the excellence of His plan for us. All of us may have realized a small portion of that plan, have small bit of knowledge of God. And may it be that with every single one of us, God is abiding in us, and cleansing us. But may it be for all of us especially that out of our bellies would flow living water. Not just a trickle, not just a drop at a time, not a stagnant pool, but continual activity in Christ, continual knowledge, mounting up like eagles.

 

It’s all there for us. Jesus Christ provided the way, He made our flesh capable. And then, not only did He make our flesh capable, but He sent the Spirit. Why? So that we would know what we can do, that we would know of the mercy and the beauty of God. Truly any man who really knows God does not sin. We have to be honest with ourselves, and say, to that extent, we don’t know God. Because God makes Himself known to the pure. Or actually — thank God for this — He makes Himself known to those who want to become pure. To those who struggle to become pure, He reveals Himself, by degrees. And then we become more aware of Him, and more aware of what’s wrong with us. And we leave one, we cleave to the other. But if we do not struggle, life goes on, the waves of life, and we don’t even know what we’ve missed.

 

That is not the way it should be, brothers and sisters. Follow the words of our Lord. If any man thirst. You be a man, woman, child, who thirsts, who desires. And then, in line with this thirst and this desire, do what is necessary to accomplish your task. Ask, pray, struggle to be correct in the way you think, to not judge, to not hate, to not lust, not be lazy, and all the rest. We know in our hearts; we know in our minds, especially in our minds, the things we should do or not do, in a kind of general overview of the Christian life. That is only barely the surface, barely the crust of the bread. Inside the loaf is the knowledge of God, and purity, and sanctity, and completeness, absolute perfection. It is for us. It is for all men, but it is only for those who thirst. Those who do not thirst do not drink much of the water, and they do not have water springing up in themselves.

 

Let this not be so for us. Let’s thirst. Let’s desire all the grace God wishes to give us. Let’s turn our back on that which is ugly, and ordinary, and temporal, and unclean, and useless, and let’s turn towards our Lord, and remember what he has done. Let us try to make our soul a place where the Holy Spirit wishes to live. Let us sweep it and garnish it, and protect it, so that the Holy Spirit would desire to stay and warm us. And let us have this water springing up within us, changing us, making us "more than conquerors." May God help us to desire Him. Amen.

 

 

Acts 2:1-11

 

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. {2} And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. {3} And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. {4} And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. {5} And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. {6} Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. {7} And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? {8} And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? {9} Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, {10} Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, {11} Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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5 Responses to “Pentecost. Only those who thirst will drink the living water.”

  1. Deborah says:

    Using metaphors, as I am wont to do, I can think of two ways to generate thirst in someone–one is to present them with a beautiful, refreshing drink or the sight and sound of running, splashing and falling water. The other is to give them something very salty or bitter to eat.

    For some, the Beauty of the Lord and His Bride, the Church, is enough to generate a thirst for Living Water. For others who have become too blind and deaf to be effected by this, a taste of the bitterness of life may be what it takes to awaken their remaining senses to their need for the water of Life.

    For me, it is a combination of both the Beauty and the bitterness that creates in me a perpetual thirst.

  2. If a person wants to drink, he can easily substitute the living water with some other drink, and he does not bother that he may want to drink again very soon. It disturbs him, but he is almost sure he can find any water anywhere at hand. What is for him a glass of simply a clear water? He’d better prefer Pepsi or exotic drink…But to get the living water we should really get thirsty. and if a person finds himself in a desert, and he knows he will have to stay there for a long time, walking & struggling for his existance, he will discover that only a glass of this water can saturate his thirst for a long time. The more pure & clean the water is, the more helpful it’ll be for him in his crucial circumstances.
    I remember, once when I was a little child, my mother & me went off for a travel down the river, where there were nice nature, banks & sandy beaches. We went along, and covered big distance unnoticeably. We rested a little, but soon we had to return to the pier, from where the ship to the town should have set off at a certain time. We started to walk back to the pier, but it became very hot, and the way was long & tiresome. There was nowhere around (as the place & the surroundings were uninhabited). We had some kvass bottle, but it was warm & too sweet, and the bottle was very small, thus we emptied it a little, which made us ecen more thirsty. We became very weak, and the road ahead was still long, and we were afraid to miss our ship, the last one on that day. We became very sad, our heads were spinning because of the burning sun & heat. and suddenly…we noticed a well. We did not believe our own eyes! Nobody around, no dwellings, and this well – with a bucket to draw the water!!! We approached immidiately & drank this water. I still remember its taste, and how cold it was, and how it sparkled under the sun! It cannot be compared to anything else on the world. Saving, refreshing water…That was real, and that was how really valuable things differ from artificial ones. That was a triumph of priorities. Needless to say that we proceeded forward quickly & soon reached the pier, to which the ship was already coming up…May our merciful God bless us with the chance to know the taste of His living water, and wisdom to find the Truth worth living for!

  3. Deborah says:

    Wonderful story, Natalia! So descriptive….I was with you every step of the way in my imagination–almost got thirsty reading it!

    What a perfect metaphor for how God can work to rid us of our thirst for the sticky, sweet, unhealthy drinks that the world offers and that only make us thirstier. Hours of hiking through the heat in the wilderness does wonders for generating a thirst for the cold, clear pure water from the well of Life!

  4. Deborah, you almost felt saturated with this water together with us then!

    Those who share hardships share the benefits!

    If we walk slowly but persistanty to God, having as a compass His Holy Commandments & collating the movements of our conscience with it, then even if our steps are unsure, we’ll not deviate sharply from the right route & find the road leading to Heaven.

    Ours is – to keep walking.

  5. helen says:

    Hi, Natalia!  I really loved the above story you shared with us about you and your mom and being so thirsty.  It must have been frightening too!  Father Seraphim talks so much about being thirsty for God.  Just when you did not expect it, relief came for your thirst.  And that illustrates how the Holy Spirit also comes to us in ways unexpected and miraculously and so satisfyingly!!!  God be with you always.

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