Let it flow
John 7: 32-39 and 40-52.
Have you ever had the feeling that Brexite has just gone on and on and on?
My wife is sick of it.
Every time I turn on the news to find out if there are any new developments her body seems to slump. It is as if her whole body sighs.
She never says a word but her whole body language just says, ‘Why are we watching this? Nothing changes?’
It is like listening to the dialogue of the deaf.
Everyone is talking, no one is listening.
All we get is conflict and more conflict and more conflict and no one seems to agree on anything and no one seems to be willing to compromise.
Well, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that this is nothing new.
In our reading today we see that conflict like this has always gone on.
In this case the conflict is people’s attitude to Jesus.
Is he the Messiah? Should he be followed?
Is he a fraud, deluded, evil? Should he be arrested?
Last week we were at the Feast of Tabernacles and this had erupted.
This week we are still at the Feast of Tabernacles and things have gotten worse rather than better.
Let me give you a brief summary of last weeks and today's passages.
Jesus has gone to the feast of Tabernacles. It happens round about October. It is a huge harvest festival that last eight days.
They celebrate the people travelling from slavery in Egypt and their travels to the Promised Land through the dessert. A time when God looked after them, which they are now celebrating with the harvest gifts...where yet again God has shown that he has been looking after them.
They celebrated by living in tents, or booths, because the people in the wilderness lived in booths and it reminded them that life is fragile, that we need God.
They celebrated that possessions and survival are not enough, because as well as celebrating the harvest and the food we need to survive, they also celebrated that God gave the people the Law, the principles of life to live by.
So Jesus goes to the temple to Jerusalem to celebrate this festival and while at the Temple he heals someone because he just sees someone that needs help and he helps. This causes an outrage and divisions.
It would be like Dave or Andrew standing up and shouting,
‘Why are we happy worshiping God today when this woman beside me has had her electricity cut off. We should band together and force the council to pay her electricity.’
There would be some that say, ‘Dave/Andrew has a point there. We will deal with this poor woman and help her and that will be a sign that we are truly worshipping God.’
And others would be furious.
‘Why is David/Andrew annoying us with this stuff during our worship. He could have seen Jim after the service and dealt with it. It didn’t need to be dealt with right now. This is political stuff and has no place in the church during worship.’
Now that all gets dealt with and we looked at that last week.
But the feast of Tabernacles lasts eight days. If this happened during the start of the week then the leaders in the Temple would want to make sure that nothing like that happens later in the week. So they have set out guards to arrest Jesus so that he doesn’t disturb the celebrations happening later on in the week.
And throughout the week the guards look and although they find Jesus they don't arrest him. Probably because they think that arresting him would cause even more of a disturbance.
So the bad news is that the conflict you may feel that the country is in, that has always been there, and once Brexite is all finished and done, something else will replace it.
The human condition is probably to go from one conflict to another.
That is the bad news.
But there is good news.
Right in the middle of all this Jesus gives another way.
You see at the start of all this and at the end of the passage we have people arguing.
And that is the temptation in our life...to win the argument.
We spend all of our time trying to convince others that we are right and they are wrong. That is what really matters in our life, winning the argument.
We do it all the time.
We do it so often that we are not even aware that we do it.
Every conversation that we have can become a time of conflict; where we are listening to what they are saying so we can show them where they are wrong.
Let me give you an example.
My 16 month old granddaughter Jessica has started Ballet Lessons.
I have seen the videos of it.
Mum is so proud of her daughter at these ballet lessons.
She is sending out these videos of her lessons because she is so proud of how well she is doing.
I look at these lessons and realise that Jessica has taken all her ballet skills off her granddad. Imagine me doing ballet, and you can imagine Jessica doing ballet. This is not a pretty sight.
At some point I will be tempted to ask why they are wasting money on ballet lessons.
And mum will be tempted to justify why they are spending money on ballet lessons.
If that argument ever happens then it is never going to go well for anyone.
And if we can argue on something as unimportant as that.
Think how much we can argue on things that really matter.
Like where we buy a house, like how we bring up our children, like who we should marry or not marry, or live with. Like how we spend our money, or if we take recreational drugs, or what sexual orientation we have, or what denomination we bring up our children in, or don’t bring them up in.
I have seen families split over which in-laws they will eat their Christmas meals with.
The arguments, the conflicts, can go on and on and on.
And in the middle of all this Jesus gives another way.
He points to the climax of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The priests would go down to the Pool of Siloam and fill pitchers with water. Then they would take that water and pour it over the alter and the water would flow away. It would literally drain out of the temple.
It was a sign that God’s grace was flowing from the temple out into the city, from the city out to the nation, from the nation out into the world.
And Jesus sees this and tells them, tells us, that we can have that joy. That God’s love, Gods joy, God’s assurance can flow out of us into the world.
That we don’t need to win an argument, we need to bring hope.
So our life needs to change.
Instead of looking at others and concerned about what they are saying and doing, trying to work out in our head if they are friends or allies. We need to look at ourselves and ask ourselves, what is flowing from us?
Is hope flowing from us, is compassion flowing from us? Is love flowing from us?
So I can look at my granddaughters ballet lessons and I don't need to ask if they are a waste of money or not. I can ask if she is happy or not.
So where do we go from here?
What if we don’t feel that God’s love is flowing out of us?
What if we don’t feel that that peace or joy?
Too often we can be too scared to ask the question because we are going to be scared that if God’s love isn't there then we are doomed.
But the truth is that if we don't feel God’s love, pretending we have it isn't going to make things any better.
If we feel God is distant then we need to work out how we can feel God closer.
It might mean slowing down a bit. Maybe we are just exhausted by everything that we are doing. I have always suggested trying to find time in each day for God;
that might be reading Bible study notes, or meditation, or going for a quiet walk, or meeting up with someone who makes you happy.
You can’t get anything from an empty well. And if all we do is give and give and give then we are going to get dry very quickly.
For others it might be the exact opposite. Because sometimes we are so reluctant to give because we don’t want to get dry that we don’t give anything. And water that just lies there stagnates very quickly.
It may be that what we need is to do is ‘something’.
If we need to be more loving then we need to do something that makes us more loving.
If we need to be more compassionate then we need to do something that makes us more compassionate.
We never change by doing the same thing.
Way back when I used to visit people in Stirling Hospital I would look forward to visiting. Not because I liked visiting, I always found that visiting was one of those tasks that drained me. But more often than not I would meet this old retired minister called Stuart who volunteered at the hospital because he loved the place. He loved visiting people, loved talking to the nurses and the doctors and the cleaning staff and the porters. Loved giving them time and making them feel important.
And it was infectious.
I am sure that people I visited after I bumped into Stuart got better visits than those when I never bumped into him. God’s love would flow through him to me, and then flow through me to others.
I think what Jesus was getting at was that if God’s love was going to flow then it had to keep moving.
In the temple it needed the priest to keep on going to the Pool of Siloam to get more water to pour out on the alter to flow out into the world.
In our situation it requires us to keep on going to God to feel his love so that we can then give that love to others.