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Whoever Is Thirsty, Let Him Come
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 16, 2010
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 John 17:13-26 Psalm 97
In the book of Revelation, we find a beautiful invitation to God’s kingdom. Jesus says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ . . . whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). Jesus holds out his love to everyone who wants it. It is not restricted to those of a certain sect, or a certain race, or a certain belief system. He says that “whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
This passage refers to accepting Jesus into a person’s life. Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus promised to give the water of eternal life to a Samaritan woman. In that passage, Jesus says, “The water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). This water of eternal life is given to all who want it. Jesus will come to all who ask Him to. This is what we heard in our reading this morning from John 17. It refers to Jesus entering a person’s life. Jesus says about His Father, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26).
When we have Jesus in our hearts and lives, only then do we truly live. There are several ways in which this statement can be understood. Spiritually, it means that only when we have Jesus’ love and wisdom in our souls do we have spiritual life, or eternal life. Everyone has life as a free gift from God. But what matters most, is the spiritual life that we accept from God. It is spiritual life that is eternal, and eternally blessed. And we have spiritual life when we have Christ in our lives.
In our reading from John, Jesus talks about the world. He says that his followers are not of the world. Verse 18 reads, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” It is receiving God’s love that lifts us out of the world and makes us children of the kingdom. Last Sunday there were questions about living in the world. The question arose about how to interact with the world as we let God into our hearts, and into our very behavior. There are two ways to consider this question. First there is the question of how to deal with the world in our own souls. Then there is the question of how to deal with the world outside of our own souls.
In our reading from Revelation, there is a clear teaching about spiritual purification. We read, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). In order to enter the Holy City New Jerusalem, we need to wash our robes. We need to detach from the things of this world and to embrace the things of heaven. Truth is what leads us away from the things of this world and points the way to heaven.
When we first come to adulthood, we are filled with ideas about the world and ideas taken from observations about the world. We look around us to the things at hand and seek fulfillment in them. We look at jobs and professions; we look at fashions and clothing; we seek status and power; we seek pleasures that our senses give us; we seek to make a name for ourselves. This is a necessary stage in human development when it is taken in moderation. There are some things that pertain to the world that are essential. These things are a livelihood, a roof over our head, food, clothing, and the like. Fulfilling these needs is a part of everyone’s spiritual development. But there are other things that pertain to the world that we do not need, in fact, that inhibit our spiritual development. These things would be the craving for status and power; exaggerated self-importance; overindulgence in bodily pleasures and sensual gratification; and then there are neurotic patterns of behavior that inhibit healthy social relations and Christian love. When these things dominate our consciousness, we are then in the world and we are of the world. It takes spiritual truth to show us what really matters in life, and it takes spiritual truth to point the way out of these worldly cravings. Swedenborg clearly teaches us how powerful truth, or knowledge, can be for our spiritual liberation:
Worldly things cannot be dispersed before truth and good are implanted in the heavenly things, through knowledges; for a person cannot distinguish between heavenly and worldly things, before he or she knows and recognizes what the heavenly is, and what the worldly. Knowledges make a general and obscure idea distinct; and the more distinct the idea is made by knowledges, the more can the worldly things be separated (AC 1557).
I can remember how I was in my early 20′s. I was a salesman and a musician. I drove a shiny Catalina, wore a three-piece suit, and carried around a brief case. I was going to the top. I was quite full of myself. And being immersed in these things and with that attitude, I saw no problem with the direction my life was heading. I still went to church, but the truths I heard didn’t affect my character. I think to one degree or another, we all go through something like this stage in life. My own spiritual aspirations ended up in something like spiritual pride for my good behavior. I was honest–at least to others; I didn’t steal; I believed in God; and I thought I was a pretty holy person. When I was so full of pride and worldliness, I was unable to see any other life. So Swedenborg writes, perhaps reflecting on his own life,
It is similar with all in the world who are in the love of self and the world, and therefore in no goodwill. They know the enjoyment of those loves, but not the enjoyment of goodwill. Thus they are altogether ignorant of what goodwill is, and still more that there is any enjoyment in goodwill; when yet the enjoyment of goodwill is what fills the universal heaven, and makes the blessedness and happiness there (AC 3938).
But through some harsh knocks to my complacency, and through continued spiritual learning, I evolved. This was a very slow process. So slow, that I can’t even point to how or when changes happened. As I grew and progressed in my own spiritual development, I could look back and see how empty, and even harmful, those former ideals actually were. As we progress spiritually, we are able to look back on our former desires and enjoyments and see them as comparatively repugnant. So Swedenborg writes,
They who receive from the Lord the enjoyments of affections for truth and good, see and perceive by degrees the nature of the enjoyments of their former life, which they believed to be the only enjoyments–that they are vile in comparison (AC 3938).
So the worldliness that Jesus speaks of can be something that is inside each and every one of us. But by allowing God’s love into us, by accepting Jesus into our life, we become filled with that goodwill and love that the Gospel of John talks about. This brings up the problem of living in the world as a spiritual being. Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (17:15). This is a prayer that we all know too well. We want to be shielded from hardships and from hurtful company. We want to be shielded from the evil one. Our Christian response to hardships that come our way, seemingly unprovoked, is patience, toleration, and forgiveness. When we have Christ in our hearts, we will be able to bear hardships better. When we are deprived of money or something material, we will accept God’s dispensation and rest content with what we have. When we are slighted, we will not retaliate because our ego is no longer vulnerable to wounding. How often are we offended because our ego is involved! In AA they teach us to see where we played a part in an argument or when we feel resentful. When we are filled with God and not self, where is the hurt?
Jesus calls us all into community through His Holy Spirit. He says,
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:22, 23).
We are called by Christ into unity with our brothers and sisters. We are especially called into unity with our fellow Christians, and with spiritual seekers of all faiths. We are called into unity in smaller units such as this denomination, and this church. We are called into unity with our families and friends.
This unity in Christ is also cosmic. When we are in unity with Christ, we are in unity with the very creative power of the universe. And since the universe is created in God’s image, we are also in unity with the whole created universe when we are in unity with Christ. Swedenborg writes,
Everything in the universe was created by the divine love and wisdom of the Divine Human. The universe, from beginning to end and from first to last, is so full of divine love and wisdom that you could call it divine love and wisdom in an image (DLW 52).
The pattern of love and wisdom that our soul is made in is the same patter in which the universe is made. When we are in Christ, we are in love and wisdom. And that love and wisdom is God’s very form, the form of the whole angelic heaven, and the whole created universe. The union of love and wisdom that we embody puts us in unity with the universe, with heaven, and with God.
Let us remember that Christ’s invitation to unity is extended to everyone, as must be our love and community. “Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman, who was an outcast to orthodox Jews. He let a sinful woman anoint him. He dined with thieves and tax collectors. We can see him saying to all of them, “Whoever is thirsty, let him come.” So our Christian love is not limited to those in our own church building, our own faith, or our own race. We can imitate Christ in His complete openness to the whole human race. Christ calls us into unity in His name. And our unity is to let the world know that there is another way than materialism, power, and status. As the song goes, “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.”
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