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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 7:37–39           

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (NRSV)

Jesus, speaking at the Festival of the Booths (Sukkot), a religious week commemorating the Exodus, tells the people of a new era of freedom for God’s people—one in which “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” John clarifies for his audience that Jesus’ reference to living water was about the Holy Spirit—the Spirit that came in full in the day of Pentecost and the Advocate that John later refers to in Jesus’ final discourse to his disciples. For those earliest followers of Christ, the Spirit was of paramount importance in the growth of the church; in Acts, John, and Paul’s letters it is clear that the disciples saw themselves as personally empowered by the Spirit’s gifts to participate in Christ’s ministry.

As someone who grew up Presbyterian, a denomination that prides itself in doing things “decently and in order,” I have always had a complex relationship with the third person of the Trinity: the creative, chaotic Spirit that sometimes tears down in order to build up. My tendency, and perhaps my desire, is for the predictable. But in this passage—and in this week after Pentecost Sunday—we are reminded that we do not worship a static, predictable God, but the living, surprising God that calls us beyond the bounds and limits we set for and amongst ourselves. God’s Spirit may call or stretch us in ways that are uncomfortable, but in doing so we are challenged to allow the Spirit to unlock new capacities for heart and mind within ourselves.

May it indeed be so this day and in all days.

Living God, may your Spirit dwell deep within my heart, and may your living water flow from me with the Spirit’s help. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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