On the Sunday of Pentecost
Sermon preached by Dn. Jeffrey Smith on Sunday, May 27, 2018 at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA.
Over these last few weeks, we have been getting closer and closer to the end of the Feast of the Tabernacles (Feast of Booths or Sukkahs – it’s a harvest festival kind of like our Thanksgiving) which ends with an aborted attempt at Jesus’ arrest. During this feast, each day the High Priest would descend to the pool of Siloam and with a golden ladle and pitcher, scoop out Holy Water and then process back to the temple in a great procession with trumpets. Two weeks ago, we heard about the “troubling of the water” and how the paralytic had waited 38 years to be carried into the pool before Jesus healed him. Before that, we met the woman at the well to whom Jesus offers the gift of “living water.” Then we read about the man born blind to whom Jesus also says “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam, and you will see.” These readings are clearly all connected, proceeding with water and healing, one from the next toward Pentecost. The Feast of Tabernacles lasts seven or eight days, but Jesus doesn’t arrive until mid-week. The Pharisees are waiting for him, annoyed that he didn’t show up at the beginning, but Jesus doesn’t appear in Jerusalem until he is ready. Now it is the last day of the feast, the great day. Jesus has shown himself to be a healer and his power and the interest he garners is obviously greater than the Pharisees and their ceremonial procession from the pool. Now they’ve had enough. It’s time for his arrest.
But first Jesus proclaims, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow RIVERS of living water.” Now he said this about the Spirit.” Remember the Samaritan woman, to whom Jesus said, “If you knew who had asked you for a drink you would have asked him for Living Water”, so this isn’t first time we’ve heard this expression. So let us now calm our minds down, laying aside all earthly cares, and settle down, settle down, allowing our minds to descend into our hearts. What is Jesus saying? He has already offered the gift of living water to the Samaritan woman at the well; he has already healed the blind man and paralytic at the pool. What about us? Jesus replies, if you believe in me, RIVERS of living water will gush forth from our hearts, rivers of mercy, and rivers of healing, rivers of calm indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
This is the promise, revealed today at Pentecost, in an outpouring of wind and fire and a proclamation of the Holy Spirit, promising, but on this day, it leads to a division about where Jesus comes from. What a disappointment. How can Jesus be a prophet if he hails from that crummy hill town up north in Nazareth? And they doubt him. So why didn’t the temple officers just arrest him, instead returning to the disgusted Sanhedrin empty handed? Because no one ever spoke like him before. They are overawed. And the Pharisees ask, “Are you so easily deceived and led astray?” They insult the temple guard, along with the “accursed rabble”, with sneers, disdain, and contempt, as they observe their power slipping away. Except for Nicodemus who insists that Jesus has the right to a full and fair hearing before we judge him, and for that the Pharisees reply, “Are you from Galilee as well?” They cannot stand the thought that they as guardians of the law, are breaking it themselves. This is a jealous wrath born of resentment and the fear of being superseded. What about me? Why aren’t I taken care of? Why am I under attack? Don’t they see that they are the cause of their own suffering? Don’t we see the same?
But Jesus replies, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” I am light. I am the bread of the world. I am the true vine. I AM. Light follows the waters of new birth and healing. Light follows the Fire of Pentecost and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Light is our true home. The light of life is a safe healing place far away from anyone who would do us harm. It is our destiny to be enlightened by the true light who has come into the world to save the world. We have been received by him and we will not walk in darkness, but in the light of life. Thanks be to God.