Sunday, March 23, 2014

“The Cup and the Waterfall” (John 4:5-42)

Fill my cup, Lord;
I lift it up Lord;
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Reverend Richard Blanchard’s classic gospel song, “Fill My Cup, Lord”.    The year that he published the song it became the number one gospel song in America knocking off another favorite “How Great Thou Art”, and it would sit on the top for the next twenty years.  Even today it is still one of favorites of many people.  What is it about this song that resonates to people?  Is it the tune?  Is it the lyrics?  What makes so many people love this song despite it being “over the hill” by today’s generation?

I imagine that it is a combination of those things.  Yet, on the other hand, I think that all of those things thrown together capture the essence of the spiritual journey.  The Reverend Blanchard captured in music and words what many of us feel . . . what many of us long for . . . we want to be spiritually filled to the point that we no longer yearn to be filled . . . that we are satisfied in who we are, in whose we are, and that we are one with the God who loves us.  Every so often someone comes along and captures the mood of the people across all generations . . . even today’s generation.
So, let us say “happy birthday” to this classic gospel song, but let us also admit that it still speaks to us and expresses what many of those seeking God still feel . . . that longing for relationship with the Holy.

Our scripture reading this morning is quite simple.  Jesus and the disciples come to a Samaritan town called Sychar . . . they are in the land of their adversaries . . . and, it is an uncomfortable situation as they are hungry and there is no food to eat.  So, beside a well—known as Jacob’s Well—Jesus rests and sends the disciples into town for food.  Shortly after they leave a woman approaches the well for water.  Jesus asks her for a drink, and the woman is appalled at the request.

The woman is appalled for several reasons.  First is the reason that Jesus is a stranger addressing her to do something for him . . . this is not proper etiquette.  The second reason is that she is a Samaritan and Jesus is a Jew . . . these two groups are not on the best of speaking terms with one another . . . they are despised by each other.  Again, Jesus does not display the best etiquette.  Third, Jesus gets a little personal with the woman as they converse back and forth with one another.  She is surprised that he knows such intimate details about her life . . . surprised and a little embarrassed because it has not been the most upright life so far.

The bantering between goes on . . . and, it centers on water . . . living water.  Jesus speaks of living water . . . a water to quench the soul . . . to satisfy the heart . . . to throw open the gift of eternity.  The woman wants this water . . . we all want this water.  In chorus with the woman at the well we plea to God:

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more–
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

Yeah, don’t we all wish!

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were so easy as lifting up a cup, allowing God to fill it up, and life would be wonderful?  Yet, if we have eyes to see--as Jesus says, we know that this longing runs deep within all of our hearts and souls.  So what is it that is keeping us from having our cups filled to the overflowing love and grace of God?  What is it that keeps us from this eternal bliss that Jesus is offering the woman at the well?  My answer . . . well, my answer would be that it is us . . . we are.  We are the barrier that is keeping us from this “living water”.
Life is pretty busy.  I think everyone here this morning would agree with that statement . . . life is pretty busy.  We rush to and fro all of the time.  It feels like there is not enough time in the day to do all that we have to do . . . and, it keeps piling up . . . thus we rush to and fro all of the time.

Life is difficult.  That is a fact of life . . . life is difficult.  The problem with most of us is that we do not want to admit that life is difficult, but it is.  Author M. Scott Peck, in his book The Road Less Traveled, states that life would get easier for people if they could just accept the fact that life is difficult.  All of us can attest to the fact that life is difficult.

Life is busy and it is difficult.  These two and others keep us distracted with actually living life.  Author and Pastor John Killinger tells of the time that he came to this realization while on a business trip.  Flying home from business he was traversing across a dreary airport on a cold and snowy day.  The weather was depressing . . . having to hurriedly get to the gate for his next flight . . . he did what everyone else was doing . . . he put his head down, avoided eye contact, and moved rapidly to his destination while mumbling and grumbling about his situation.

Walking down the airport corridor he suddenly heard a loud shout. “Way to go, God!”  Startled and caught off guard, he stopped in his footsteps, and looked around hoping to find the source of this exclamation.  Then he heard it again . . . “Way to go, God!”  Then he saw her . . . a little elderly woman being pushed in a wheel chair by an airport attendant.  Then he looked out the widow behind the lady and he saw the sun busting through the clouds lighting up the sky in glorious colors . . . it was beautiful.  And there he stood . . . in awe.  He thought to himself, “Me . . . a minister almost missed the presence of God because I was too caught up in the busyness of life to look up and see it.  It took a little old lady to show me the light of

From that experience a book was born, The Cup and the Waterfall.  In this book Killinger writes that God’s love and grace . . . God’s desire to be connected to God’s creation and children . . . is like a waterfall . . . an abundant waterfall.  It flows and crashes with living water.  And, it is there for the taking.  He also writes that God gives us a cup through Jesus in which we can receive this living water . . . all we have to do is to dip the cup into the crashing water and fill it up.  It is that simple he writes . . . but, he also writes that few us take advantage of this opportunity.
We are too busy.  Life is too difficult.  We forget.  We try other things.  We get lost.  We get frustrated.  We quit.  We just do not use our cups to fill ourselves with the living water.  Some us cup our hands over it to keep the water out.  Others of us only allow a little of the water to come in.  Some of us just throw the cup away because we can do it on our own.  But the fact is, if the cup isn’t getting filled up it is not God’s fault, but our own.

Think about it.

We are now well into the journey of Lent.  In our journey we have been confronted with the story of the woman at the well.  We have been confronted with the notion that the water . . . the living water . . . is there for the taking, but that it is up to use to dip our cups in, scoop it up, and drink deeply of its love and grace to satisfy the deep spiritual longing we all have within ourselves.  It is up to us.

Again, our journey through the season of Lent confronts us with more work to do . . . to determine what it is that is keeping us to fully use the cup Jesus has given us for the living water.  Is it because we are too busy?  Is it because life is difficult?  Is it for any number of reasons we can come up with?  And, what are we going to do about it?  What are we going to do about it so that we may quench our spiritual thirst and become whole?  As always, those are only questions that we can answer as individuals . . . an integral part of Lent.

To close I want you to consider this when thinking about how much you utilize your cup on your spiritual journey: Each Sunday morning we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  On the table there sits trays of juice representing the blood of Jesus sacrificed for us to give us life.  On the table sits a loaf of bread . . . bread that represents Jesus’ broken body for us to give us life.  These elements will be passed among us and we will partake of them.  I am always surprised when the elements are returned to the table . . . not so much the cups as they are set up for individuals, but with the bread.  Rarely is there much of the bread taken in celebration of this life-giving gift that Jesus gives us.  The bread is gingerly pinched here and there . . . why isn’t anyone ripping into that bread taking huge chunks of this gift of life to fill themselves?

The waterfall of living water flows?  The cup is in our hands . . . how will we use the cup?  Will we thrust it deeply into the flowing water allowing it to fill up and overflow . . . or will we cover it and allow the water to trickle in?  Only we—as individuals—can answer that question. 

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