A Share With Me

Greetings everyone, such a blessing to be with you today. If you don’t know me, my name’s Abel and I’m a pastoral intern here at Reservoir.

Today, I want to talk about a passage that we’re going to be reflecting on this week with the Lent guide- from the

Gospel of John, Chapter 13:

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

A question that comes to me when I read this passage is, why is Peter uncomfortable with Jesus washing his feet? What is it about Jesus, about Peter, about the situation that makes Peter think it would be wrong for Jesus to wash his feet?

I mean, the answer to that question is obvious – Peter thinks it’s demeaning. Jesus is his Lord, deserving of the highest honor imaginable, even of honors he can’t imagine. And washing someone’s feet, serving them like that, is the opposite of honor, to be brought low.

It’s so obvious that it remains unstated subtext in the sermon most commonly – at least in my experience – given on this subject…Jesus chooses to demean himself to serve, so we should choose to serve as well. We should humble ourselves as Jesus humbled himself, even to death on a cross.

That’s not a bad sermon. I agree with it. We should serve, we should empty ourselves for the sake of others.

Yes – and if you’ll notice – that isn’t the answer Jesus gives Peter to his question. He doesn’t say,

‘I wash your feet to set the example for service in the Kingdom of God’


‘this act is a microcosm of my work on earth.’

Jesus says,

“Unless I wash you, you will have no share with me.”

Certainly, this ‘share’ can mean ‘unless you allow me to serve, we cannot all be servants together.’

But sharing goes both ways. If Peter and Jesus share in the serving – then they also share in the being served.

Let me ask you a question: When you think about service as a good act in which you take part – where are you? Are the one serving or are you being served?

If you’re anything like me, you’re serving.

Why is that?

Well, one answer we could give is that being served is something that is reserved for people who are in positions of honor – or who demand honor, whether they deserve it or not. Following Jesus, whether we deserve honor or not, we should divest ourselves of the benefits of such a position and never seek it out for ourselves.

But the truth is, those aren’t the only people who receive service – and, far more often, when we’re talking about charity, we aren’t talking about those kinds of people. We’re talking about people who need the service, who can’t fill a need by themselves.

Why don’t we imagine ourselves in their shoes?

Stanley Hauerwas, a favorite theologian of mine, gave a talk in the 80’s about suffering and lessons from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These lessons that he talks about have to do with the way we think about suffering, particularly the suffering of others.

With how we consider living with some types of suffering so unthinkable, so dehumanizing, that a life worth living is impossible to imagine alongside it.

Here’s a question: Why do we suffer? I don’t mean ultimately, like what’s the purpose. I mean causally – why do we suffer?

Hauerwas’ answer is that we suffer when our needs aren’t met. Whether that’s needs for food or emotional care, whether our needs aren’t met because of natural disasters or cruelty, structures or individuals, it’s the lack of something we need that causes suffering.

He says,

“We suffer because we are incomplete beings who depend on one another for our existence.”

And that’s the heart of it – we need each other. We can’t meet all our needs alone.

But we sure as hell want to.

Hauerwas talks about how this is so tied up in our self-image. That if I can draw a line around what I do alone, what I have, what I achieve – then I can establish who I am. Self-sufficiency is about identity – it’s what teenagers push for as they establish themselves, it’s how we know that we’re our own selves and not copies of others, it’s what lets us feel like the masters of our own destinies.

It’s also a lie. That’s a lesson that disability can teach us – or, at least, the one it taught me. It’s easy to pretend that you are self-sufficient when you are able to meet most of your own needs, when you can push the others down or deal with them on your terms. It’s when you can’t help but need, need openly and all the time, that you realize how much it’s all a charade.

There are days I struggle to even choose to eat, and probably just wouldn’t if there wasn’t someone to help me, either by making me food or simply helping me choose food to eat and making sure I actually eat it.

There are times when I desperately need someone to talk me out of my own head and talk me down from intense panic and self-hatred and self-destructive patterns of thinking – oftentimes over issues I’ve wrestled with, with the same people, before, time and again. I am good at many things, extend help to other people in many ways, but my mind keeps coming in and forcing me to reckon with the fact that I am not truly self-sufficient.

Breaking down that lie, it’s painful. The truth isn’t something we like to be reminded of.

We don’t want to lose our sense of self, so we don’t admit to our need. We let our neediness isolate us in our fear.

When, then, we are confronted with the neediness of others – well, it’s uncomfortable, to say the least. Particularly when their needs are so obvious, so pervasive. 

But at least we’re not like them, right? At least we’re the ones who meet needs – not the ones who need. We can be secure in our identity if we’re not the needy – if we’re the servers, not the served.

Except that’s not service, is it? It’s certainly not “having a share with” others – it’s not existing on equal terms, it’s not entering into relationship. It’s hierarchy. As much as we may like to think we are divesting ourselves, if we are doing it to shore up our own identities by assuring ourselves that we are not like the persons we’re serving – well, that’s just power over.

So, what does service look like? What is Jesus offering to Peter when he refers to a “share of me?”

Maybe a better question is, does our neediness have to make us lonely?

Because, we all need, don’t we? What would the world look like if, instead of judging people based on how close they were to a self-sufficient ‘normal,’ we got rid of that whole notion all together? What if ‘normal’ were needing, in all the myriad different ways it’s possible to need?

Deborah Creamer, a disability theologian, calls this a ‘limits model’ of disability. A model that says limitation is a universal experience. Which is certainly not to say that everyone is disabled. No two limitations are the same, between two disabilities or even within one person’s experience of the same disabilities on different days – but that people with disabilities are unique in the way all of us are, because we all share the state of being uniquely limited.

And if we all share the state of being limited, but if all of our limitations are different – then we’re each allowed to have our own relationships to our limitations. To suffering.

You see, just because we’re all limited doesn’t mean all limitations are good. Just because we all suffer, because suffering is the inevitable result of neediness, doesn’t mean we should just accept suffering.

Hauerwas says,

“Our refusal [both] to accept certain kinds of suffering, or to try to interpret them as serving some human purpose, is essential for our moral health.”

Living the life that you have while being upset about what you don’t have, accepting and not accepting, struggling sometimes in anger and sometimes as inspiration – that is just real life for people with disabilities (it is for everyone, but it’s too easy to deny it if you’re not forced into it).

This is why people push back against the term ‘differently-abled’ – while, yes, we are all limited and our limitations don’t make us less valuable as people, we don’t have to love all our limitations – we don’t have to think of them as just neutral differences. We can recognize that there are infinite, equally valid forms of embodiment and that there are unique difficulties that come from certain forms of embodiment.

We should fight against suffering that is a result of injustice and we should also strive as much as we can towards more and more flourishing, whatever that looks like for us in whatever body we have, even while that body hurts. There’s a tension here, a both-and: we accept that suffering is a part of life and we still work against it.

The point in recognizing that we all have limits isn’t to affirm that all limits are good, that we must be happy about every part of our embodied realities. Rather, it’s about embracing the fact that the things we aren’t happy about are a part of our lives – embracing, not loving, but running away either.

There’s a quote from The Disabled God that I really love:

“Her difficult life need not be denied or described. It need only be lived.”

So, how do we live it?

By having a share with each other.

What does this look like? I’m not sure – because every need is different. While I might not have an answer, I also think that’s kind of the point.

Trying to be better, do better, isn’t about getting to a place of perfection where there’s no more suffering. I think that the very idea that we could get to a place where we didn’t have to deal with the messy negotiations of living with other people is just an attempt to escape our limitations, to escape our own need for correction and improvement.

One of my favorite quotes on this topic is by Leo Tolstoy:

“The good is only in the motion toward perfection; but the stopping at any stage whatsoever is only a cessation of the good.”

Having a share with others isn’t about being perfect but about continually being better. In light of that, all we can do when faced with the great plurality of needs of our fellow humans is our best, and then our better after that.

We don’t owe others help because they need it. People always need things, and it is physically impossible for anyone to meet every need of every person they come across. We owe aid because we share the state of needing it. Not that we might, someday need help; no, it’s the fact that needing is constitutive of the human condition.

Just like we can’t meet everyone else’s needs, so we can’t meet all our own needs. We can only survive if we strive together – if we have a share with each other. We help, not because other people’s weakness compels us; we help because our weakness unites us to everyone else on the basis of shared need, and that unity compels us. We help because we’re human. And insofar as we have strength, we accept it as just as temporary as our weakness, and use it to do what we always already owed everyone else.

The Healing Waters

In my late 30s, I was a high school principal for a few years. And when I was interviewing for the job, it was clear that some of the faculty of the school wanted a “tough guy” kind of principal. They told me that the next year’s senior class was horrible but that even worse were the incoming ninth graders. There were a lot of kids who’d need keeping in line. 

And I remember responding like: Alright, how about we all meet these 14 year olds we’re talking about first and get to know their names and create a good community together, and then we can see what kind of problems we need to solve?

And some of them liked this answer, and some of them – maybe especially some of the veterans who were older than me – sort of eye rolled and made it clear they were thinking, you’ll see, young guy, you’ll see.

Well, fast forward a year or so, and one of those ninth graders – who had been making and getting in all kinds of trouble again and again, serious trouble, well one of his parents died. And he wasn’t in school, but I was informed about this, knowing this would have an impact on him and on his friends too.

Another person who heard this news was a school social worker named Mike I had come to admire. And what Mike did that day is he pulled together some of the boys he worked with in that grade, all friends with the kid who’s lost his parent. And Mike invited me to the group he was leading that day, to watch and to participate.

So I sat in a circle in the basement of the school that afternoon with my colleague Mike and five or 10 teenage boys, who were to a person some of the more challenging kids in the school – kids with bad grades, kids with attendance and discipline problems, kids people met about and talked about a lot. 

And I don’t remember Mike’s exact words, but he looked at the kids and said something like:

What are you feeling? Where does it hurt? 

And the kids, my God, they were like:

I can’t believe my friend is going through this. Do you know how much he’s faced in his life already? What can I do to help?

And other kids were like:

I know this about so and so, but man, this reminds me of when my parent or uncle or sibling died.

And they shared about loss and trauma they were feeling.

And Mike just kept looking every kid in the eye and saying:

It’s OK. It’s good to feel this. Life’s hard sometimes, but you’re going to be alright. It’s OK. 

And I just kept thanking them for letting me be there and letting me listen too and letting me understand them a little more.

It was one of my holiest moments in my work there, as I watched Mike making a safe community by helping it be a healing community.

We need more healing communities. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today: healing communities and the questions that make space for healing. We’ve got two more weeks until Easter. And we’re at the start of the 5th week of this spring season we’ve called Waters of Life.

And this talk on Jesus our healer, and on healing communities is I hope helpful to you in each of the communities you’re part of, this church community included. And there is more where this comes from in the daily readings and reflections that are in our guide you can access at reservoirchurch.org 

Today we meet Jesus the healer, Jesus who asked questions, questions like:

What are you looking for? Where does it hurt? And do you want to be made well?

Let’s read today’s scripture, from the fifth chapter of John’s memoirs of the life of Jesus.

John 5:2-9 (New Revised Standard Version)

2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.

3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.

5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”

9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

There’s a lot going on in this story, but let’s start by noticing Jesus’ first words.

Do you want to be made well? 

In the mouth of some people, these could maybe be pushy or judgy words. Like: hey, why are you still sitting here? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to get better?

But we’ll see with Jesus over his life, that he’s not like that at all. Rather, he asking questions because he’s really present – he notices people. And he’s compassionately curious about what they’re experiencing. And he’s interested in them finding their voice and being listened to. So he asks things, like in this case:

Do you want to be made well?

Jesus loved asking questions. My friend Carl who’s spoken at our church before says that

If you want to follow Jesus, one really practical way to do that is by asking more questions when you talk with people. 

Earlier in John, Jesus was meeting with some potential students and rather than giving them a recruiting pitch or an introduction to who he was and what he was about, he simply asked:

What are you looking for? 

I experienced someone asking me this recently. I was meeting with a new spiritual director I was going to work with. This is like a pastor to a pastor. We sat down together in a quiet, mostly empty room, and after a moment or two of silence, he took a breath, looked at me carefully and just asked,

So, what are you looking for?

And that question unlocked things I didn’t even know I needed to say. And over the course of an hour, he listened and asked another question here and there, and then listened some more. At one point, I think he said:

My job is to be the keeper of the questions. 

And in his kindness and attention and listening, I felt like I was sitting with Jesus. And the safety and trust in that brought the truth out of me. And that helped bring me peace. It was healing for me.

Now when we talk about healing, we’re really talking about a lot of things. This is true when we read and think about Jesus as a healer too. 

There are many stories of people walking away from their encounters with Jesus physically more healthy and well than before. He was known as a faith healer in his time, for sure. Skeptical as people in the developed world have been about these stories over the past two, three hundred years, accounts of faith healings – both ancient and modern – are not every day, but also not rare. We’re learning a lot now about how pain and sickness and mind and spirit interact. So just as there are lots of reasons people hurt and get sick, there are lots of ways people get well too. 

I think Jesus did cure many. Still, though, even in this scene there are many profoundly disabled people whose conditions are not changed, and each of the few times in the gospel of John a person does have greater health after their encounter with Jesus, John indicates that Jesus thinks what’s happening in their mind and relationships with God and community are at least as important as their physical cure. Jesus would often tell people too that it wasn’t him, that it was their faith that healed them.

I mean think of the power of this man’s experience. He’s been languishing for decades, for whatever reason a shell of what he was when he was young. And Jesus asks him:

Do you want to be made well?

And he can’t even answer. There’s too much hurt, too much stuck. He can only say:

I can’t, Jesus, I can’t. No one is here for me. 

To which Jesus responds:

This is your day. You can do it.

And he doesn’t just walk, he finds his power back, his agency. His I can’t becomes, with the help of God, I can. 

It might help us when we talk about stories like this to distinguish between two words – curing and healing. 

Curing is more specific. Curing is restoration of physical health or a removal of physical pain. On rare occasions in the gospels, Jesus cures someone of their physical maladies. That continues to be the case through faith healers and traditional medicines throughout the world. People are cured in ways and for reasons that modern medicine can only partly understand. Most of us, we mostly go to physicians and pharmacies for cures for our pains and diseases. Mostly, they are pretty good at what they do. Thank God for modern medicine. We live in the best time in human history for curing our diseases.

Healing, though, is a broader word. Sometimes healing is cure: the pain goes away, all is restored. And sometimes healing involves other changes of conditions or changes of resistance. Something we weren’t looking for gets better or grows. Or we find new peace with the way things fall apart. 

When I talk about Jesus’ power to heal, and our capacity with the help of God to participate in healing communities, I mean healing in this broader sense. This sense of wellness and wholeness that is deeper or wider than the kind of diagnosis or help we might get in a hospital. 

One of our modern teachers in this type of healing is the civil rights icon and the minister and the theologian, Ruby Sales. Ruby Sales was a child participant in the marches and prayer meetings of the Southern freedom movement of the 50s and the 60s. She was raised on the faith of an Almighty God whose power never fails, who makes a way where there is no way, who always comes through.

But there were times when that God as she understood God didn’t seem to come through in power, and she found herself walking away from faith for a while or at least from that kind of faith. Until she started to see the presence and the power of God differently. She was at the hairdresser’s one day, and the hairdresser’s daughter came in, looking a mess, just coming in after being out all night, high on drugs still. And Ruby Sales noticed a sore on her body too, and just found herself asking her friend’s daughter:

Where does it hurt? Where does it hurt, child? 

And a story started coming out, a story not of the night before but of the years before, a story of pain and hurt and abuse, some of which her own mother had never heard. And this opened up space to be known and to be touched and to start to heal because when the truth about you is held with care and grace and kindness, it is true that the truth will set you free. 

And Ruby Sales saw that God was with this daughter of her friend and that God had always been with her –even if the power of God and the way God moves and works and heals isn’t so controlling or always so obvious as she had once thought. And that was a part of Ruby Sales’ return to faith as well, asking:

Where does it hurt?

And seeing God there with healing in the all that pain.

We’ll meet Ruby Sales more in this weeks’ guide. There are quotes from her to accompany the scriptures this week. And Ruby Sales’ voice will show up in our service next Sunday again too. 

What are you looking for? Where does it hurt? And would you like to be made well? 

I wished I used those questions more when I was a principal. I wish I was more like Ruby Sales, more like my friend Mike, more of a healer. One of the first students I met as a principal was a young man who came to see me in my office in August, before my first school year in that city even began. He came with an older friend of his. They had both been born in another country, and they had both immigrated as children to this same city. And the young man seeing me desperately wanted to compete in athletics that fall. He was good at this sport, he said. And his friend looked at me and said:

Mr. Watson, this is really true. He isn’t just good. He’s great. He’s really special.

But the problem was this young man’s grades were bad, really bad. I pulled up his transcript and I wasn’t sure I’d seen one quite like it. Failure, after failure, after failure. Really high rates of absence. And I explained to him, with these grades, you’re not allowed to play.

And his friend said:

But Mr. Watson, it’s not his fault.

And he told me some of the tragedy of this young man’s life, the losses and traumas he’d known already, the ways he was to some degree alone in the world while still a child.

And I listened with great interest and care and compassion, but said still:

There is nothing I can do. The rules are the rules. Let’s work on your grades, and you can play next year.

And he left my office with his friend, crestfallen. It would be a while before we’d speak again. 

In what I said, I was right. I was under authorities bigger than me in this, and there was no way he could play that season. But it was in what I didn’t say that I failed him. Not just then, but again later. I remember a time when this same guy showed up high, like really really high, at a big school event, and I suspended him, again following the rules for what happened. 

I wish I knew better, I wish I had thought to look him in the eye and say:

Young man, tell me, what are you looking for? And please tell me, where does it hurt? Where does it hurt?

And asking:

Would you like to be well? 

I knew these questions, part of me did. But I was too insecure as a young principal to relate with this kind of presence and power and freedom and the time. I was too focused on the angry voices that wanted me to achieve order, too focused on fixing and curing to be the healer I was called to be. 

Mercifully, when God wants us to learn something we’re not ready to learn, it sometimes comes back around for us. Spirit of God is a patient, persistent teacher.

Years later I’d spend time with my friend Mike again outside the school, in a running club for folks in recovery. 

Most of the people I ran with were in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. And that would come up and they’d ask me about my story sometimes, and I didn’t have a good answer at first. Because the truth was I had never been addicted to alcohol or drugs, but I had my own hurts and stresses, and I was craving a healing community to run with. I was craving spaces where we could be really honest with our hurts and weaknesses and be accepted and encouraged just as we are. 

So I made a few friends in this club, and in a group I was co-leading in this church at the time too that had something of a recovery group feel to it. And this time, I knew not to try to fix or cure, but just to ask my friends:

What’s your story? Where does it hurt?

And to share some about my story too. 

These were places where we could talk about where it hurts, where it was safe to tell our stories and speak out truth, where people listened without trying to fix us, and where that kindness and connection would sometimes give someone the courage to dare to try to be well.

Don’t get me wrong, even in healing communities, not everyone gets well. Mistakes happen, sometimes pains are too great, hurts are too deep. Life can be hard. I’ve seen a few tragic outcomes, even in healing communities. But I’ve seen some pretty beautiful stories too. 

My friend Mike himself comes from a lot of pain, from a tough, hard start in life. But he’s a wounded healer, living more and more joy in every season of life, and helping other people get free.

Me too in my own way. I’ve had a lot of pain in me. But every year, I’m living more and more free. And it’s so good. It’s so good. And it’s all because of the kindness of God and the kindness of friends showing up for me, asking me:

Where does it hurt?

And giving me the courage to do the work it takes to be well. 

Friends, we need healing communities. Because there is an ocean of pain and hurt out there, there is for some of us an ocean of pain and hurt in here too. 

And these lives of ours are like a garden. So much crap grows out of unhealed hurt. Inside pretty much every bad person is a kid that’s still hurting. But these same lives, when we’re healing, so much good can grow. 

We all heard about the whole Chris Rock, Will Smith joke and slap event at the Oscars. All kinds of hot takes on that. I don’t have one. Powerful Black writers and thinkers like Roxanne Gay and Kareem Abdul Jabaar have had more and better to say than I ever will. I do know from them, from Black friends and colleagues too that there was an ocean of hurt bound up behind all that happened there and what it stood for too.

But you know what Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s partner, did this week. A single one sentence statement out on her instagram. She just wrote,

“This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.” 

What if that’s true, what if this is a season for healing, and we can be here for it. 

What if it’s time to look at our own lives and ask:

Where does it hurt? What am I looking for? Am I ready to be well?

And to hold those questions before a loving God, maybe before a loving friend or two as well, and see where they take us. 

And maybe it’s time to offer this too in our families, amongst our friends, in this community of Reservoir – to when we see someone struggling, to not avoid or ignore it, to not try to fix or criticize, but to in our own way ask:

Where does it hurt, my friend? What are you looking for?

And to pray for someone and walk with them as they ask:

Do I want to be made well?

And find their way forward. 

We’ll close right now as we’ve been doing each week in Lent, with a little foretaste of the daily prayer practice in our guide. We’ll put on a bit of the music Matt has written for us. And I’ll ask us these three questions of Jesus to let sit in our hearts as we pray. 

What are you looking for?

Where does it hurt?

And would you like to be made well?

The Waters of Life

Today on our fourth Sunday of Lent, we explore Jesus’ words about water of life – the heart of this season, what the whole six weeks are named for. 

We ask:

What makes an abundant life, and who gets to have one? 

We talk about surviving and thriving – why both matter, why survival is obviously very important, but why thriving is also what we are made for. It’s our birthright, our opportunity and calling as humans, to thrive. 

Before we read the scripture for today, I want to read you another story. It’s a story Grace and I read to our kids many times, a story that was read to me as a child as well. And I’d like to read it to you.

It’s Frederick, by Leo Lionni.

What makes for an abundant life, and who gets to have one? 

What does it mean to survive, but also thrive?

This is a winter’s story, about what animals who hole up in the ground in winter time need to make it back to spring.

And it’s a pandemic story too. What have we had, or what have we not had, these past two years to help us get to today with abundance of life? 

Sometime in 2020, my family had a field mouse in the winter conversation. We got the idea online somewhere, and Grace and I told our kids:

This is a year when if we stay alive and stay healthy, that’s good enough. 

And that at the time was a good enough conversation for us to have. Two years ago, our lives were shutting down. We were scared and didn’t know how bad this pandemic would be, how many of us would get sick, how many of us would die. We had to let go of some things. We were looking out for survival, entering winter and taking care of shelter and health and food and water.

Sometimes, that’s all we have. And sometimes, for a while, that’s enough. 

The mice in Frederick need shelter for the wintertime. But eventually, they need the memory and hope of spring. They need food, but they also need poetry and song and color. 

The same is true for us, isn’t it?

We aren’t satisfied just staying alive. We need love and hope, we need songs to sing and games to play, to touch and be touched, to love and be loved.

The traditional way of saying this is that we are people with bodies, but people with souls too. 

We need water, and we need waters of life.

Let’s read a moment in the scriptures where Jesus affirms this. I think it deepens our exploration of this topic. It’s from the seventh chapter of John’s memoirs of the life of Jesus. It goes like this:

 John 7:37-39 (New Revised Standard Version)

37 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,

38 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.’”

39 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.

This is dramatic. Jesus is at a festival, and he’s not the main act. He’s not the priest presiding over a ceremony. He’s a participant, among the crowds in Jerusalem, calling out:

Come get your living water. It’s a dramatic gesture.

Our narrator jumps in and interprets this. He’s like, ooo, this is foreshadowing. Jesus is alluding to the time after his death and rebirth, when he is not around, physically walking the paths of Judea with his disciples. Instead, a few weeks after he’s gone, at a different festival called Pentecost, people increasingly started experiencing the presence of Jesus and the God Jesus called Papa, through the Spirit of God, the unseen presence of God with us.

John is like:

This is what Jesus is talking about, the Spirit of God with you.

It’s hard to describe, but it’s like this thirst-quenching, satisfying, joy-bringing breath. It’s like a rejuvenating energy, like fuel for thriving. 

How is this so? 

I think the festival where Jesus is doing this maybe gives us a clue. 

The festival was Sukkot, the festival of tents. It’s a fall harvest festival in Jewish culture. It remembers, and kind of reenacts the time when Jews’ ancestors lived free from slavery  but not yet at home in the promised land, an in between time, a time when they lived as nomads, as pilgrims, not in houses but in tents. 

You’d think this would be a festival about survival, like thank God we made it. Our ancestors could have died wandering around in that wilderness. Thank God we’re not living in tents anymore. 

But it’s not like that at all. Sukkot is a holiday of rest, and joy, and abundance. Some Jews who celebrate today actually partially move out of their homes for a few days, into backyard tents, to remember this period. And both now and in Jesus’ time, the festival has times for rest – when you’re not allowed to work at all. And there are times for feasting, and there are times for singing and dancing, for joy. 

Because in this festival, you celebrate that God gives us more than enough, even when our circumstances are modest. That joy is possible even in hard times. That abundant life is God’s good gift to all God’s children. 

In Jesus’ era, it was a season when pilgrims to the temple in Jerusalem would bring water from a local spring to the temple. And that water would get poured out on the ground in prayer, symbolizing the prayer that God would keep bringing rain, watering the fields, producing grain, filling up wells and rivers with enough water to drink and bathe in and cook with. 

I feel like when Jesus calls out, he’s like:

I know how to make this holiday all it was meant to be. I’ve got the secret to making your whole life like this festival! 

Playing off the water imagery of the holiday, Jesus is like I have water for you too, all the water – a way of filling you with such abundant life that it wells up inside and flows back out of you.

I have water of life for you. Drink from me, and you will be satisfied, so much so that you become this water for others. Drink from me, and you will become a reservoir.

That’s beautiful when Jesus says it. But what does this look like?

Let’s talk about songs and church and prayer and rest. 


Have you watched the videos of singing in Ukraine? 

There’s a frontman for this Ukranian rock band who’s traveling the country right now, singing on the streets and in subway stations to rally people’s spirits.

I’m thinking where are the American pop stars who travel the country singing to people for free just to live their spirits? It used to happen – Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and more during the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. Where is that today? 

When we were out on the streets of Boston last year, rallying for drivers licenses for all Massachusetts immigrants, documented or not – a bill that finally looks like it’ll pass this year, by the way – it was the band that kept us marching, kept our spirits up. 

We need music to fight to, to give us strength. 

And we need music to keep us from despair. 

There’s that video of the little girl singing the song from Frozen to all the folks she was holed up with in a shelter. A week later she’s an exile in Poland, singing the Ukranian national anthem to an audience of thousands.

The people of Ukraine are singing in their fight, and singing in their fear. Because music helps us turn from despair, because music helps us access hope and joy and courage.  

Singing isn’t a luxury. Like Frederick’s colors and poems, we need it most in hard times. 

Singing and music are one of God’s gifts of the spirit, whether we connect them with God or not. In a talk to people that had never heard of Jesus, the speaker Paul says in Acts 14,

God has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; God provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Rain and food and everything that fills us with joy is an expression of a good God that wants us to thrive, a good God that has water of life for us all. 


In many ways, this water of life thing is the whole point of church. You know I used to be a school teacher and a principal, and then I became a pastor. And sometimes that’s been a comedown for me, like I used to have a job that actually mattered, you know that everyone believes we should pay for through our taxes because kids need schools to learn. And now, I help lead a church that you know, we could all survive without. 

I was talking this way the other week with one of our Board members, and she was like: no, no, no, Steve, we need this place. Even a year ago, when there were lots of parts of church we could only do from home, we needed this togetherness. We need this love of Jesus, this joy of living, this gift of community that church fosters. 

It’s like Frederick’s colors and poetry and memory of sunshine. Church is about living into a life that doesn’t just mutter and talk but sings. And so to be in a church and to support a church is – or it should be – to invest in lives of hope and joy and love.

Song, church, prayer.

I don’t know what your experiences of prayer are like. I know most of us pray less than we might want to or think we should as if “should” is a very helpful word. But prayer isn’t really about what we do at all. It’s not mostly about what we say or ask or feel. It’s about where God is – with us – and about seeking to know this and pay attention. 

We pray to remember that we are seen, known, and valued by a living God. We pray to affirm that we matter, and everything we experience and everyone we know matters to God. And we pray to know that we are loved.

A few years back, I tried the triathlon of prayer, the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. It’s a very structured prayer experience that Jesuit priests go through over a month of silence before they can serve. And for those of us that don’t have a month to be silent full time, there’s a version of this you do over an hour a day, over nine months. 

Highly structured, lots of Bible, lots of ways to pray and lots of time to do it in. When I completed the program, you know what my big takeaway was. That God really loves me. That God really, really loves me, that I’m loveable, that I can really love myself.

And now some of how I pray is just sitting still or walking and asking God’s help to remember God is with me and I am loved. Because when I know that, I’m stiller – less anxious, less driven, less restless. I know I’m OK. And when I know I’m loved, I’m braver. I don’t avoid difficult conversations so much. I try things that are hard, that I might fail. And when I know I’m loved, I’m better. I’m kinder to others, more generous, I treat other people more like they are really loved too. 

This is why our guide for Lent features beautiful art and poetry, and short reflections on Bible passages each week, but also a direction for prayer each week, so that together we can keep learning to pray, to know that we and everyone and everything we’ll ever know are seen and known and loved by a God, to whom we all matter very much.

And here’s the way we invite you to pray in this fourth week of Lent. We’re inviting you to take a few minutes each day and enjoy listening to a bit of music. Close your eyes, hum along, move or dance if you want to – whatever, just enjoy it. And say thank you. Or swap it out for looking at a picture you like, or taking a walk along the water, or singing in the shower or hugging a tree for all we care. 

It’s about taking a moment to be Frederick, to soak in the warmth of the sun, to notice and see the colors. And to remember that life isn’t just about surviving. It’s about thriving. We’re all worthy of abundant lives.

The very festival in which Jesus called out:

Get your living waters. Become a reservoir.

Was a festival of rest and of joy, of what Jews call Sabbath. Shabbat. Breaking our ordinary rhythms of survival, and welcoming abundance, letting God help us thrive again. 

A little spiritual community I’m connected to outside this church, an Episcopal monastery along the Charles River, sent out this three sentence reflection last week:

In a culture plagued by individualism, hyperactivity, and superficiality, prayer inspires purposeful action, balanced by deep rest and play. It empowers ordinary people to do things with extraordinary depth, substance, and love. The kingdom of heaven promises nothing less.”

-Br. Keith Nelson,  SSJE

Songs, church, prayer, deep rest and play. These empower ordinary people to do things with extraordinary depth, substance, and love. God wants, God promises nothing less for us all. 

Let’s end with just a moment of this, as we listen to two minutes of music Matt has written for the season, and just enjoy the chance to be still. 


The Ordinary Waters

Hi everyone – so good to be with you all! I’m Ivy, a Pastor here.

I’m really enjoying this time of Lent that we are in, there’s something about the water imagery, Water of Life, that is centering our season – and the combination of our lengthening days of light, and warmer temps that are making me feel a little more alive in the day-to-day, this ordinary life. Which, I can’t say has been  holistically true over the stretch of the last two years.  I hope in part – some of that could feel true to you too. 

Each week of Lent we are focusing on a particular theme related to water. The first week were waters of baptism, last week Steve talked about the waters of overwhelm. And today – as we enter our third week of Lent – we’ll talk about ordinary waters.  What about the ordinary? The day in and day out aspects of life?  How do we find ourselves nourished, ALIVE – rejuvenated and renewed by God? How do we find the sacred in the ordinary?

Over the last two years perhaps our version of “the ordinary” has taken on a new sheen.  So often we loop the “ordinary” into our regular routines, patterns – often mundane ones that don’t stand out as particularly special moments. The walk to the bus stop, the laundromat, the dishes, the finding the other sock, the washing the hands, the doing the things that have always been done the way things have been done.

And so much of this was disrupted during the pandemic (and still).  Our “normal” ways of doing things were disrupted.

But I want to make a subtle distinction and say that actually our “ordinary” wasn’t disrupted.

You see the ordinary has always held all the components of life – the “normal” ways of routines, the “overwhelming” stress and threats that Steve talked about last week, the joy and the tears, and the smiles and the grief and the fear and the “meh.” All of it. 

But the pandemics have revealed that our “ordinary”  lives weren’t really “normal” all along.

The “ordinary” is not only rich, and layered and vital to our spiritual life…it is where our spiritual life takes place.  And it’s helpful to see and embrace all of it.  Because it’s where all new possibility exists – at our fingertips, under our feet – in the very air we breathe. The potential for something new, different, transformational.

And yet when we equate ordinary with normal and keep seeking for the normal to return, to be re-established – the way things were… we often find ourselves coming up empty. Dry. And we become thirsty for something extraordinary… something separate from what our ordinary lives seemingly don’t offer us.  

It’s like me searching for a new yoga class that will give me that full stretch that it once did – when I was 10 years younger.

Or a new friendship that can fulfill you the way that old friend did. 

Or a new spiritual practice that gives me that full sensory experience of God  – that immediate connection to God – as it used to.

This is what we will press into a bit today – through our sermon – but also throughout the week in the Lenten guide.  

We’ll consider how it is that God invites us into the ordinariness of our lives to reveal the extraordinary? Inviting us to imbibe, drink in a living source. A God that hopes we fall in love with our ordinary lives and find that the ordinary is sacred.

And that the sacred is indeed in the ordinary.

And most often – all of it – is not normal.  


Thank you God for waking us up today.
Thank you for this space that offers us respite and comfort right now.

Thank you for the folks online in this space who we love and know – and thanks for the folks in this room who we have yet to meet.

Thank you God that you are with us, in us, between us and for us – each and every moment – the ordinary ones and the extraordinary ones. Refresh us this morning – hydrate our souls with your presence and love… amen.

Many, many, many years ago I was at a Christian conference of sorts that had a variety of speakers – but of course the main attraction was the keynote speaker. And it was clear that people were there for this one personality, this sort of charismatic man who’s preaching many, many people followed, were enraptured by and helped by.

I was in an interesting space with God and my faith journey. I was starting to explore some of the “teachings” of my upbringing that weren’t bringing me a lot of life in those days. And yet still really hanging on to some of the more ingrained ways of “staying in the faith” hoping that that would really reveal to me the values of why I  really fell in love with God.  Which evidently meant I traveled to conferences…. mainly to study, be taught by particular (more scholarly, more expert) voices (not all that bad of a plan, actually).

After this guy got done preaching. There was sort of a bottle neck of people flocking around him, and I was trying to figure out how to get to the refreshment table – which was on the side of this guy.   

As I tried to skirt around the masses I ran right into this guy. And I remember looking up at him, and knew that I had to say something about his talk. So I said, “thank you for your sermon.”  And he replied, “Oh, tell me what you are taking away from it.”  

And all I could think was, “I really want that cupcake,” and “I have no idea what you said.” BUT of course instead I offered, “you know…I’m just really taken aback – it was spectacular … really extraordinary.”

And the truth is – it was extraordinary. It was exactly extra – ordinary… because the amount of hours and study and history and the sitting with scripture and referencing commentary and placing words just “so” by this speaker was phenomenal. . . it was really interesting.  But I couldn’t translate it into my life. I couldn’t map over the practical elements that would open my everyday life a little more. 

And I remember being mortified by that moment – because I couldn’t say to this man – or more importantly to myself – that it didn’t land for me. It didn’t work for me.  Not just the sermon, but this way of faith that never touched my lived experience, my ordinary life. 

Now Jesus’ first miracle or sign has to do with ordinary water. It’s interestingly only mentioned in the Gospel of John that we’ll read from together this morning

John 2:1-9
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and  Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

 Jesus replied, “Woman,(Mother) what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”

His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.


Now there are a lot of points of interest that can be drawn out from these few verses. Here, in the account of John is Jesus’ first act of public ministry  – turning water into wine.

And some of this story as it unfolds reveals essential characteristics of Jesus and lays out elements that are important for his ministry to come, as well as ways that are different from the way things have always been done in the religious structure  … and some of this story reveals how our participation with Jesus –  in our ordinary life is essential, sacred, and inseparable.

Weddings in Jesus’ day usually lasted for a week with people coming and going.  Eating, drinking, singing, laughing. Families would have started saving for this event when their child was born…often the whole village would partake in the celebration.

Jesus, his mother,  and the disciples were invited to this wedding and it takes place in a little nondescript town called Cana.  This town is only mentioned one another time in the New Testament- it’s just an ordinary town that has this recorded moment and then fades again into anonymity.

Now families would have spent years making enough wine for this occasion – and running out of wine would be a source of humiliation/shame for the couple.

So as this very thing happens – we see Jesus take ordinary water and turn it into wine. A LOT of Wine (some sources say equivalent to 1,000 bottles) and as the verses detail if we had kept reading – really, really good wine.

And we see that God through Jesus is a God who wants to continue to shower people with lavishness and abundance. God has been a God throughout time that has been generous with provision –  in the fruitfulness of creation, in manna in the wilderness, a land of milk and honey, and a return from exile.

God is one who has provided in the ordinary realm of life.  

JESUS, doubles down on that generosity of provision in the ordinary – abundantly. AND YET ALSO communicates that his very PRESENCE will also be available to anyone in the ordinary – ABUNDANTLY. 

Not just in this instance  – but throughout scripture we see that Jesus is often found in the most ordinary of places (at a table, in fields, pastures, markets, fishing, walking in neighborhoods) talking to people in his ordinary life (tax collectors, siblings, children, servants, lepers) all the while communicating – I’m here, and I’m here… And I’m here…   

And we see this stage set for him in the previous chapter of John – as John the Baptist is baptized in the wilderness. He has been known as the forerunner of Jesus- 

“the voice crying out in the wilderness, making pathways to the Lord clear…”

All the while shifting the mindset and expectation that you could only encounter God in a sacred temple – to expanding that reality – and to imagine that people could meet God in the ordinary as well.

What’s tricky though about a system of religion is that as it becomes more reliant on rules and rituals to uphold it (rather than a living source) the source actually becomes petrified and frozen – stagnant.  And rules start to infiltrate and impinge on our ordinary life, but never account for our ordinary life.  And we can start to feel like we are slowly dehydrating because we are trying and striving to “do” faith “right” – rather than coming to a well of abundant love – being replenished by a living God. 

Jesus, as he meets with people in the ordinary, always seems to not follow the “normal” way … he doesn’t seem to do it right either. He often says the wrong things, eats the wrong food, doesn’t practice the right rituals, invites the wrong people.  Messaging in his actions – as he does in this instance at the wedding – that when you pay attention and embrace the moment you stand in as sacred and the people in front of you as holy – there is no “right” or “normal” way to pour out the love of God.

**You just might have to be ok with breaking open systems that try to measure your faith by merit, cleanliness, worthiness or require your oppression to exist.

Ritual cleanliness and purification requirements were not limited to the bounds of the Temple but spread through the Jewish community, in Jesus’ day. These jars that are mentioned in this scripture were required for the purification before a meal  – to cleanse hands, feet, cups and more. And they had to be stone – they couldn’t be ceramic or glass vessels which were subject to impurity. And so these laws affected ordinary people, in their ordinary lives. 

And the water held in these stone jars was not regarded as ordinary water. It was holy, reserved specifically for these purification rituals. 

And likewise God, was a God within the temple-  who wasn’t regarded as ordinary – but separate, extraordinary, holy, and reserved for those who could prove themselves worthy of such holiness.

At this wedding, Mary is actually the one who says,

“it’s time.”

It’s time for you to break in here,  Jesus.

Everything is empty .

The stone jars are empty of water.

The cups are empty of wine.

And the people are thirsty.

It’s not working.

Mary says,

“This is not working anymore.”

And this is exactly what I couldn’t say to the sermon -guy at the conference. 

“Hey if being part of this faith, of loving Jesus – is in some way supposed to be like a party – where I encounter the depth of love that’s present at a wedding. Where there’s an overflow of that love that saturates everything in my everyday life and that is supposed to MEAN something in my life…THEN it’s not working.” 

That would have been my most truthful response if I could have imagined running straight for Jesus like Mary did. But I had for so long stayed in the grooves – the separate grooves of learning and studying God stuff over here – in this container. And engaging with the ordinary stuff of life over here….hoping that neither would run out of its meaning. But the work of keeping the holy and the ordinary separate is what will run us dry. It’s too much work, and it’s not normal.  

But it’s easy to love the extraordinary. It is easy to pursue a spiritual path that is about the intense, immediate encounter of the extraordinary. It is easy to fall in love with spiritual practices that lead us to a “high”, a transcendent experience of God’s love, But maybe Mary is nudging us all here – that only this way of encountering Jesus will soon run its course.  

I mean Jesus is amazing, beyond our realm in so many ways – but Jesus likes being where we are. Jesus likes our passenger seats, our walks to the T, our tables, what we wrestle with….

Jesus might have decided to listen to Mary and do something about the lack of wine at this wedding – because he wanted to keep being at a party. He wanted to be among people, and communicate that when you are aware and attuned to a real Jesus in your real life – it’s as good as the finest wine. 

I realized at this conference that I had become really good at forgery. I had been signing off on things as if they were…

“Extraordinary… when they weren’t.” 

Swallowing wine that tasted like vinegar – because if God wasn’t in the ordinary – where was God?

Water courses through each and every one of us, water sustains the world around us-and life itself.  And yet we often don’t consider our relationship to water – until we are dehydrated, or find the water to be contaminated. 

Much of our available fresh water supply in the United States is in jeopardy and/or contaminated. I went with my dad to a natural spring for many years of my youth, to fill milk jugs with water because our water source in Maine wasn’t safe.

Flint, Michigan is another known example – that made headlines in 2015 when a change in its water supply exposed thousands of children to high levels of lead…And we are realizing how historic agricultural and manufacturing practices – are leaving a present day toxic legacy across the nation – with “ forever chemicals” in soil and water that won’t breakdown. Droughts in California are predicted to triple by 2050 – and in much of the developing world, clean water is either hard to come by or a commodity that requires laborious work or significant currency to obtain.  

Free, safe, accessible water is not to be taken for granted. 

Likewise, it takes active attention and action to make sure the components of our faith (love and goodness and a living, flowing source of that) doesn’t sit stagnant in a container… whether that’s a book, or a sermon, or a podcast, or someone else’s expectations or translation.

Because it will become bad water. Harmful to those who drink of it.

The religious system in Jesus’ day had become all about ritual, and had become a way to separate people into the clean and the unclean – and furthermore establishing rigid tiers of hierarchy, patriarchy and oligarchy.

Available only to a few, safe for no one.

The flow that keeps the love of God pure, and good  – a source of all life… has to be for everyone.

Jesus turns the water into wine – and it is soooo much wine! Far more than just the guests who would attend this wedding.  The bounty signals that the overflow of this love, this abundance is for everyone… a legacy of love (for generation after generation) that will saturate the soil, the air, the water – everything that makes up the ordinary world around us.


Jesus comes to fulfill the law, fulfill the promises of God by establishing a way of relating to God and others so we never have to forge anything. We don’t have to fake our way into “holiness” or scrub ourselves clean  – because that’s actually what contaminates and dries up the well.

Jesus situates himself immediately in the ordinary – to remind us that the ordinary holds the potential of all things – including keeping us humble, real and refreshed – which is altogether a miracle and holy. 

Mary invites us to consider that faith without Jesus’ abundant love at the center of our ordinary lives doesn’t work – it is akin to:

A world without water,

Or a wedding without wine…

It’s unimaginable.

And this is the beauty of what Mary breaks open – the elemental and fundamental nature of GOD… and water… 

I love the words of Japanese poet Hiroshi Osada who says in his book about water, 

“It has no color, but can be any color.

It has no shape but can take any shape.

You can touch it, but you cannot hold it.

Even if you slice into it, it won’t be cut.

It can slip through your fingers,

Like it’s nothing at all.

But life would be unthinkable without it.” 
Almost Nothing, Yet Everything: A Book About Water.

Faith, Jesus, love, water are not meant to be contained… 

Jesus took these jars that were now empty of their purification water – and filled them with ordinary water. Ordinary water that in its purest state actually is free, shapeless, uncontained  – flowing its way into the thirstiest depths of our bodies. 

Just as God took a system of religion that had been full – but now had only empty stone jar vessels, and filled them with the purist vessel of all – Jesus. Who in his most natural form, pours all of who he is into us – and our thirsty souls. 

This is when we get the good stuff of faith and the ordinary together – when we can embody it. It seems that we can’t get the good stuff – the abundance of God – we can’t taste the best wine – if we prevent the natural flow of the ordinary and the sacred.  

The faith Jesus wants us to embody and make accessible for so many others – isn’t one that asks,

“what bullet point from my sermon were you convicted by?” 

It’s not that a sermon is bad or a cleansing ritual is wrong – it’s not that at all so long as that sermon, that ritual activates something more – mobilizes your heart, body and soul.  So long as it takes into account who you are (a human) walking this earth. Having hard days, and good days, and the same ole, same ole, same days. 

Faith is to be lived, embodied, an experiential faith… A faith that is multiplied, takes on new forms- as it is poured out like water and one that says,

“look at your week –  what you encountered – look at the riveting and sacred sermon of your life.”

Our ordinary life is so miraculous, so sacred… and it is also so hard.  

This past week I had a hard morning with someone. The kind of hard that breaks your heart into a lot of different pieces and you feel the flow of all hope and life – leave you. 

After it was clear that I would need to shift meetings and reschedule some appointments, I sat on the couch to give myself and the pieces of my heart a moment to re-collect.  Wondering what I could do – nothing seemed to be really touching this situation in a helpful way, not a lot was working.

And my phone dinged and I got a text from someone who – we maybe text once every two months or so.

And she was saying “thanks” for something – and then at the end she said oh, and p.s. Here are the first spring flowers I have seen in our neighborhood…

And she sent a picture of these little ordinary snowdrops – these flowers that of their own accord push their way up through the debris of ordinary seasons – dead leaves and sticks, often snow – and just multiply and get more dense with each passing year. 

And I saw that picture – and thought

“Jesus, you are here.”

And I wrote back,

“oh thank you for this picture – it’s been a rough morning.”

And she said,

“I feel my eyes welling up as I think of your rough morning, may you know you are loved.”

An ordinary morning, an ordinary text, an ordinary plant.

And an extraordinary, life-giving, sense of Jesus’ presence and love. 

Let us love the ordinary. Let us cherish the everyday, the every breath, every celebration, every tear. Let us love the closeness of God and the sacred, here and now.  ((Omid Safi))

Let us not poison the water, let us keep feasting on our very life…and once and awhile ask,

“is this working?” 

This keeps the waters of life fresh.

What makes anything sacred, it seems is not its separateness, or its pure holiness.  It’s as Steve mentioned last week in this trifecta of things to know in moments of overwhelm. That God is a God that is with you… in the ordinary, in the leaves of life, in the middle of the brightest moments like a wedding – there’s no splicing and dicing of where God is or isn’t. The nature of God’s love is to flow, to saturate everything and for us to drink of it, to be nourished by this water of life wherever we are at.  Steve said what we can know are these three things:

  1. God is here.
  2. You matter to God.
  3. There is always a way forward. 

And I want to add my own trio of things that helps us remember the sacredness of this life – I learned it from Rabbi Abraham Heschel who says that all we need to know that a moment is sacred are these three things:


2) A Soul.

3) And A moment.

And these three are always here”.

Ordinary moment…after ordinary moment…after ordinary moment…

May this be so. As we walk our days here on this  Earth.


As we close, I want to invite you into a spiritual practice that you are invited to try, daily this week through the Lenten Guide, called the Examen.
It’s a way to review your day – and nurture the spirituality of the ordinary – and attune yourselves to the everyday movement of God in your life. 

It’s a way to name what’s working for you and not working for you.

Let’s try that now for a moment.

We’ll hear a bit of the music Matt has written for the season, and I invite you to close your eyes, take a deep breath: 


Where are you dry these days? Where are you replenished?
And what do you have to say to God about that?

Amen, thanks be to God. 

The Overwhelming Waters

Welcome again to our second week looking for Water of Life together. Just a reminder that if last week’s talk and guide on baptism intrigued you, you can contact Angel@reservoirchurch.org for interest on the upcoming info sessions about kids baptism and dedication and me – steve@reservoirchurch.org for interest in or questions about adult baptism. 

Now this week, we look for help in the things that threaten and overwhelm us. Water may hydrate, cleanse, refresh, and restore us. But water can also flood and drown and destroy. In the scriptures, springs, wells, rivers, give life. But large bodies of water – they are associated with chaos and terror. In fact, the very first line of the whole Bible evokes old myths of the watery, chaotic depths from which God first created life. 

This week, in our sermon and in our guide, we look at how God can meet us when we or those we love are overwhelmed, facing danger, threat, or stress. 

After all, we are watching a tyrant’s violent war play out in Ukraine. It’s happening far from us. There’s little we can do, but still, we are bearing witness. And it’s heartbreaking, it’s frightening, and it is enraging to watch. 

This is on top of our season of interruption, chaos, division, and loss we’ve been in due to the global pandemic and more. 

And that on top of movements to expose racial violence, gender and sexual violence, violence toward LGBTQ kids and youth. Movements for critical, long overdue change, but movements that stir and expose trauma and trouble as they do so. 

And on top of that, we have our own personal lives – some thriving and happy, others not so much. Some of us are facing overwhelming trauma and suffering ourselves. And even those of us who aren’t bear witness to it in others near and far, again and again.

What do we do? In threat and stress, what is the Water of Life way of faith, hope, and love? How do we find God? How do we find anchors, peace, companionship in the overwhelm? 

That’s what we explore this week. Let’s read today’s passage. 

John 6:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version)

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,

17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.

18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.

19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.

20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

What is going on here?

The storm we get. The Sea of Galilee is really a huge lake, not a sea, and some of these guys were professional fishermen, but still…I remember once as a teenager being in a canoe at dusk in the middle of a lake much smaller than this one. And the skies darkened as a sudden storm swept in and we heard a crack of thunder. I have never in my life paddled as hard as I did then to get off that lake before lightning hit. Storms are terrifying. 

But then there’s Jesus, walking on the sea. 

What in the world is this? Three out of the four gospels have a story of Jesus walking on water. They’re kind of famous. But what in the world do they mean?

Truthfully, we don’t know. 

A little aside here. Many Chrisitians are quite confident they can tell you exactly what different Bible passages mean, not just for them, but for everyone, for all time. They hold to what they consider a common sense or literal interpretation and think those are always correct. Or they think what their pastor or favorite Christian author or their slice of the Chrisitan tradition has taught and assume that must be right. 

Me, I love knowing that different people have wrestled with these biblical texts and come away with some different ideas of what to think about them and what to do with them. I think it’s beautiful to engage a tradition and a set of holy texts that are rich and deep enough that there’s always more to learn, always more to think about, even argue about.

This is in keeping with this church’s core value of humility – that when it comes to Jesus and the scriptures and how to love God with our whole being and love our neighbor as ourselves, we are always learners, not experts. 

We are disciples – students – of the way of Jesus, not masters. 

So, when it comes to these walking on water texts, there are lots of readings here too. 

Some people think Jesus – through his divine powers – suspended the laws of nature for himself and walked across the top of the water, either to comfort and help his struggling friends or perhaps to prove that he was God in the flesh.

Some people think these texts have like an epic, legendary quality to them. There are stories of sea walking in the tales of a number of great leaders, including Alexander the Great, and Xerxes, king of Persia. In the time of Christ, apocalyptic literature that used symbols to capture deep truth, was very popular. Maybe this is that kind of story.

Some people even think the disciples were half mistaken. I mean John says they were just about back on land when they saw Jesus. Maybe with the darkness and fog of the storm, Jesus was walking to them along the shore, and they thought he was out on the sea.

I have my own guesses and wonderings about what might have happened in this history behind this account, but it’s really not the point of the sermon, so I’ll keep my own wonderings about this to myself today, like Jesus’ own momma, pondering them in my heart.

 Here’s the takeaway, though, for us. No matter what historically happened behind this memory of the disciples, John describes this as what’s called a theophany. A theophany is an appearance of the divine. It’s something so beautiful, so moving that in the eye of the beholder, they believe that they are experiencing God. 

It’s not about science. It’s not about trying to prove God’s presence. We can’t do that one way or the other. 

And it may not even be about what God is doing any differently. Often a theophany is about us seeing or sensing differently, about a deeper seeing, a deeper understanding, a deeper attention to what’s true and real, that God has been there all along, but just now we are catching it.

John gives us a number of clues that for the disciples this was a theophany, an awareness of God with them. One is Jesus’ words. When they’re like: who or what is this coming to us? Jesus says: It is I. Literally in Greek, he says, “I am.” Which is one translation of the Hebrew, personal name for the divine, Yahweh:  I am that I am. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am” again and again. In me, Jesus is saying, you are experiencing what God is like.

And there’s the whole presence over the waters. Again and again, John tells and retells parts of the creation story from Genesis, the first book of the Bible. And Genesis starts with the spirit of God moving, flying across the surface of earth’s primordial waters, bringing order and beauty out of chaos. Just like Jesus is here.

John knows, Jesus knows that when we’re terrified, when we face the chaos and stress of threats and suffering, we need theophany. We need to know in a deeper way that God is here with us – water of life over the overwhelming water we fear will overtake us. 

I’ve had my moments when it seemed like life would overtake me. Abuse, trauma, loss, fears. Like you all, some hard moments in recent times too.

But as I prepared for today, two things came to mind.

One, I didn’t really feel like talking about myself more today.

And two, I thought of people I know and respect throughout this community whose losses and traumas have been immense and who have found ways through them, are finding ways through them still. 

And I wanted to learn from their stories, and share what I learned with you. So I reached out to eight people in our community who I knew had faced the overwhelming waters of loss and chaos and asked them, what gave you hope? Or what gave you peace? Or how did you keep the faith or just keep going? 

I told them I’d keep them anonymous for today but that I’d share some of what I learned from their stories.

Let me tell you first, friends, that in this community, you are surrounded by amazing people – amazingly courageous, resilient, faithful people, what the Bible calls a great cloud of witnesses.

These people I reached out to, they have faced untimely deaths, unjust imprisonment. They’ve lived through divorce, abuse, cancer, loss of children, loss of homeland. So when I talk about things learned while facing overwhelming stress and threat, these folks know the real deal. 

And they all responded to me with honest, vulnerable, wise reflection. I’m so grateful for each of them. They honor us with their stories. And I’m honored again to share this community with them, and with each of you. 

The first thing I learned was that no one thing gets us through. I can’t mesh these eight stories into one. Every experience was different. Each person has our own pains and our own ways of getting through it. 

But there are some themes I heard. I’d asked each person:

What gave you hope? What gave you peace? Or just what kept you going? What helped you keep the faith? 

And what was interesting was that people didn’t have much to say about hope and peace, especially not about peace. None of them, not one, talked about a deep peace in the middle of suffering. One person told me explicitly that he had no peace in his worst moments. Another told me there was no belief that gave them hope or peace. None. 

I wondered in asking about peace in particular, if I was asking the wrong question. Sometimes peace while overwhelmed just comes to us, but often it doesn’t. Sometimes, when we’re overwhelmed, we’ve got to just fight to hang on when peace can’t be found.

If you’re overwhelmed and you don’t have peace, that might be just fine. It’ll come back to you someday, but sometimes we just can’t find it. We’ve got to struggle through without for a bit. 

But when it came to faith, people had a lot to say. I mean, a lot. 

Some people talked about explicit faith in God.

One person talked about memorial stones ancient Israelites laid down as they made it through hard times, thinking: they didn’t die. They lived and learned to thrive, and I can too. Remembering was powerful to other people too, remembering markers in their lives when they were sure God was good to them, helping them remember that surely they would know that again in the future. 

Another person told me they took solace that God was not the source of their problems. She said:

God wasn’t teaching me a lesson. God didn’t want to hurt me. God is on my side, seeing me through. 

Another person wrote to me about her mother’s lessons of faith she carried. She wrote:

My mother taught me at a very young age to listen to God’s whisper. So I have learned that even when I am crying out loud when I have experienced loss, I have to be careful to listen to what God is whispering. It has been a challenge for me because my pain and outcry sometimes is so loud that I can not even feel myself. But what listening to God’s whisper has taught me is God is listening, and that and only that has given me hope even in the midst of it all. 

For some, their own faith was hard to hold onto, but others showed up with faith for them, just when they were running out.

One friend talked about phone calls from his brother telling him to hang on, coming just when he had run out of hope. Another person talked about friends and mentors at church and people that believed in her and loved her when she didn’t have faith, love, and belief for herself.

And then there was one more kind of experience I heard again and again, which I’m calling a kind of faith too.

One person found my questions about hope, peace, even faith challenging. He wrote to me, 

There is a certain estrangement that I felt from God, mainly because I felt cursed. And it would have been hard to convince me intellectually that I’m loved when I had lost so much. And that seemed unjust and cruel, something God might have stopped any time he might have wanted to. 

More conventional faith in God sometimes falls out of reach when we’re suffering. 

This person let their faith fall apart where he needed to, figuring parts of it would return, as I think parts have. But they said, I did keep going, didn’t I? I had friends that loved me, and that gave me meaning. I didn’t think God loved me, but strangely I was still determined to try to love others as Jesus did, as Jesus taught. That seemed like a path forward to the life I needed. And I found myself again and again grateful for all the small things, grateful for the lights in the darkness, so to speak.

Even as his faith failed, the person that faith had formed him into carried him. He knew his life, others’ lives still deeply mattered and were worth investing in. 

This hope, this conviction that no matter what, we still matter. Others still matter, this world matters. Life still matters. I call this faith too. Because it’s something that matters so much to God, for us to know God matters, but also that this world matters, others matter, we matter. 

To hold onto that is its own kind of deep, strengthening faith. 

What I heard from all my friends, though their experiences may be different than mine, matches the worst of what’s carried me in all my worst troubles. 

That in all that is overwhelming, we can still know three things.

  1. That God is here too. God is always here.
  2. That we matter to God. And
  3. There is always a way forward.

God is here.

I matter to God.

There is always a way forward. 

This is what we learn from theophanies. Whether it’s Jesus walking on the waters, or a brother calling us right when we’d run out of hope, or a pastor we’ve never met visiting us in prison, or the memories of Bible stories and childhood faith, when God appears to us, it’s not always to change our feelings. It’s certainly not God trying to make some point to impress us. It’s God again assuring us that God is here, that we matter, and that there is a good way forward for us today, wherever we are. 

This is my prayer for each of you who’s overwhelmed, for everyone you love who is overwhelmed, and for every Ukrainian resident today who suffers the loss and terror of war, that we will know God is here, that we matter, and there is a way forward for us today.

We’re going to close with a short prayer practice we’ll encourage throughout the week in the guide, but before we do that, one other invitation for you.

If you’re not overwhelmed right now, or even if you are overwhelmed by parts of life, but you’re not in trauma, put out a stroller.

We’ll see a picture here. 


 Here’s what I mean by that. 

War makes refugees. As has been true in Palestine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, today Ukraine, millions have fled their homelands seeking safety. And throughout Eastern Europe, we’ve seen these pictures of moms leaving strollers at railway stations, so Ukranian moms who’ve been carrying their children for days, for miles, could place them down safely upon arrival.

It’s a beautiful gesture of love and solidarity and hospitality, which is what everyone suffering pain and loss needs.

Not advice, not being saved or fixed. But hospitality – making space for their body and their story, and a little loving help and solidarity, being with them and making it just a little easier to bear. 

Anytime you know someone personally suffering loss, anytime you hear about it around the world, put out a stroller. Or however that metaphor applies to you.

And then when it’s your time, sit with God in it, knowing God sees, God hears, God knows how big this is to you, and God is glad to be with you in it.

This is a form or journalling we invite you too this week each day, to think of anything that causes you stress, any loss or pain and to call it to mind, knowing God is with you, and to ask God how it is that God pays attention to you, how it is that God empathizes with you and is present with you. 

Let’s try that now for a moment.

We’ll hear a bit of the music Matt has written for the season, and I invite you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and call to mind something that causes you stress or pain.

-I see you.

-I hear you.

-I know how big this is to you.

-I’m glad to be with you in this.

The Waters of Baptism

On Wednesday, I spent a few hours dipping my thumb into a jar of oily palm ash, smearing it onto people’s foreheads in the shape of a cross, and telling them to remember they come from dust and to dust they will return. It’s a weird day, that Ash Wednesday.

A teenager I was explaining to told me: A teenager I was explaining to told me: This sounds depressing and pointless. Who needs another reminder that they’re going to die? And I thought: Those are some good points, young man. It’s a weird day, weird but sometimes moving too.

Along with the ashes and a prayer, I asked people

“What are you seeking in this season?”

And I prayed that God would meet them in that. I heard a lot of interesting answers, people seeking physical health, mental health, peace in their marriage, peace in their household. There were people seeking personal growth, rest, help in school, help in business, peace and justice in Ukraine. Lots for God to meet us in these days.

I spent some time that day asking myself that question.

What am I looking for? What am I seeking these days?

There was a lot.

I wrote them down and went back and counted. There were 14 things on my list. And I was just getting started.

There were little things, like chilling out on my sugar addiction. But there were some big things too, a few big things I’m seeking for important people in my life. And some big things for me. I’m working on a big writing project, but after these past two years, it’s gotten harder for me to focus on writing. I’m trying to find a way forward there. There’s some inner work on my list too, and I summed that stuff up this way:

I need my heart to be more open. I need to be less afraid and more alive. 

I need deeper faith, surer hope, bigger love.

When Jesus looked for words to speak about the kind of things I’m looking for – when he spoke about the hope, vitality, love, and power God can bring to people’s lives, Jesus sometimes spoke of living water. 

Maybe it’s because we’re mostly made of it. Maybe because one of the only things we need to do to stay alive for a week is drink water. But water is life. And Jesus used the image of water to talk about the ways that God can deepen and restore and reinvigorate our lives. 

After nearly two years of constant interruptions, loss, and change, many of us are weary and dry. We could use anything like living water that restores and refreshes. 

Many in our community are also searching for deeper faith or are looking for forms and lives of faith that are different from things we’ve been taught or have experienced in the past. It’s as if an old spring we used to drink from has run dry or has proven less safe and refreshing than we thought it was. We are in search of new sources of clean, running water for our souls. 

Over the next six weeks from now until Easter, I invite you into a journey together to seek Jesus’ water of life. It’s my prayer that in participating in this Lenten season, you’ll find yourself refreshed, restored, and renewed. 

You heard we have a daily guide you can use. I think it’s deep and beautiful. I highly recommend you look over it a bit today. There’s a different theme for each of the six weeks, and each week a very short daily reading and prayer, along with other poetry and artwork you can take in as you like.

Each Sunday, we’ll introduce the theme in our sermon here, and we’ll end the sermon with a very short experience of the week’s prayer. 

Our very first week’s theme is the waters of baptism.  

Let’s read today’s passage on that. 

Mark 1:4-11 (Common English Bible)

4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.

5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins.

6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.

7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals.

8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9 About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River.

10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him.

11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

Baptism is a very religious and maybe kind of obscure place for us to start. But it’s where the stories of Jesus mostly begin, and for some of us, it’s a moment that happens when we’re a baby or in our early years of faith that we mostly forget about. But it can be an experience and then a memory and an image that helps us receive Jesus’ water of life again and again.

So I’m going to say some words about where baptism is – where it comes from and what it represents, including a good way and a bad way to think about your own or anyone else’s baptism. And if that topic interests you for yourself, maybe for your kids, I’ll tell you what you can do about that. 

And then we’ll return to baptism as an image for things God might want to do in us during this season before we end with a little taste of this week’s prayer practice.


Baptism. Baptism is old. 

There’s something in us that loves to be covered in water. We spend 40 weeks in a watery womb before we are born, and then we return again and again to be covered in water. For those of us who can swim, there’s nothing like a year’s first plunge into the cool waters of a pond. 

Sometimes, I’ve not been able to resist that feeling even in the wintertime. My favorite New Year’s Days have been when I’ve run a 5k or 10k along the coast up near the New Hampshire border, and taken a plunge into the Atlantic right after finishing. It makes me feel so alive.

Even if we can’t swim, though, we crave water. We love our showers or our baths for far more than the cleansing they give us. 

Hikes to waterfalls are among the most popular hikes in New England – they’re a kind of pilgrimage to the beauty and power of water. 

When living with Uyghur Muslim friends in China, we’d wash our hands and face from a common bowl of water – not really for its sanitary value, that was questionable – but more for the symbol, I think: cleaning hands, cleaning hearts, clearing minds before table fellowship.

For millennia, Hindus have bathed in the Ganges River for its cleansing, purifying powers that tradition believes that it has. 

And Jews and Christians, in different ways, have had cleansing with water as part of practices of faith. 

The origins of Christan baptism with water are a little mysterious. Best as we can tell, though, being submerged in water was part of a ritual cleansing practice for the Hebrew ancestors of today’s Jews.

After contact with death or activities that were thought to dirty you, people would ritually, ceremonially cleanse with water. Still today, some branches of Judaism maintain versions of this practice – going to a mikvah, a special indoor bathtub, like the little baptismal pool Reservoir has on the side of our sanctuary. You go there for cleansing and renewing the mind, body, and spirit, either during conversion to Judaism or after certain life experiences.

The man in today’s passage named John, who was nicknamed John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer, took this practice and popularized it as part of a first century renewal movement in Judea. For him, being submerged in the waters of the Jordan River, was an expression of openness to God changing your life, as part of God’s renewing breakthrough work in the world. 

By being baptized in the Jordan River, you were dramatizing your participation in God’s new work in your life and in the world. Going into the water was a way of saying that if there were parts of your way in the world that weren’t bringing life to you or others, you were going to walk away from those. Cleanse those off. And it was a way of saying that you were open to being submerged in God, so to speak, your whole self given kind of a new life, part of a new movement of God for peace, goodness, and justice in the world. 

Jesus took part in this. His baptism launched his public teaching and work we read about still in the gospels. For Jesus, getting baptized by John in the Jordan River was about his own openness to participating in God’s renewing work in the world. 

And for Jesus, something special happened at his baptism. As he stood up and walked out of the water, a dove landed on his shoulder – a common bird much like today’s pigeon. And as that dove sat on his shoulder for a few seconds, to Jesus and to others watching, the dove seemed to be the Spirit of God, the special presence of God with Jesus in that moment. And however they felt it, what Jesus and others felt like God was doing and saying as that bird landed was saying to Jesus: 

You’re my kid, my favorite. I love you and I’m proud of you. You make me happy just by being you.

It’s what every good parent says to their kid, or needs to say to their kid, again and again. And it happened in a very particular, powerful way for Jesus that day. An experience for Jesus, but like all of Jesus’ experiences, really, an experience he wants for us as well: to know deep in our beings that we are God’s kids, that God loves us and is proud of us, that our very existence makes God happy. 

Now followers of Jesus took up versions of this experience and have passed it on, generation after generation after generation. It’s been 2,000 years, so people do this differently. Some people and traditions baptize infants and young children, as an expression of their community’s faith and of God’s love and promise over the child’s life. Some people and traditions baptize older children, youth, and adults after they have made their own personal profession of faith, as an expression of the relationship with God in Christ that they have welcomed for themselves. Many traditions offer both of these kinds of baptism.

Reservoir in the past offered the second kind of baptism, for youth and adults who express personal faith in God, through Jesus. But going forward (as we were talking about just before the pandemic hit) we’re very much open to practicing both kinds of baptism – for youth and adults with their own belief, but also for very young kids as an expression of their community’s faith and God’s love and promise for them.

Baptism always involves water – either a little bit of water sprinkled or poured over the forehead, or someone is immersed into water out in the natural water of the world or in an indoor hottub/mikvah like thing called a baptismal. Regardless of how it’s done, the waters of baptism still represent what they did to Jesus – the presence of God by the Holy Spirit, that God is always with you and in you.

The assurance that God is with you as one that utterly loves you, that brings new life to you, and that gives you belonging in a bigger and wider community of those that love and seek God. 

But where this water imagery meets faith meets religion, things get complicated. I mean, let’s go back to the Ganges. Traditional Hindus will bathe there as a mark of cleansing and purity, but it’s also now one of the most polluted, dirtiest rivers in the world. So what’s going on there? It’s complicated.

So is water itself. When I’ve talked about this Water of Life with some of you, I’ve heard all these positive associations about refreshment and all, but also people who associate water with overwhelming terror. That time you almost drowned, that storm that wrecked your house – more on those kinds of experiences next week. 

Baptism is complicated too. 

In fact, I think there are two ways of making meaning out of baptism, one I think is pretty awful and one that is beautiful and powerful.

The awful way of thinking about baptism is like the gate to a big fence. The fence divides people in two categories. 

On the inside of the fence are the Christians, on the outside are the non-Christians. (Our ancestors had more colorful words for the people on the outside, like heathens, infidels, that kind of thing. But we’ll just go with the whole Chrisitan/non-Christian bit). And baptism is the gate you go through to be Christian.

Or maybe you worry about what will happen to you after you die, and you believe in a somewhat more angry or punitive God. Then on the inside of the fence, you have the people going to heaven. And outside the fence, you have the people going to hell. And again, baptism is the gate you go through to be on Team I’m Going to Heaven!

Now, it’s Christians’ fault that these categories exist. In the first few centuries after Jesus’ life, there was increasing standardization of the Christian faith and increasing anxiety about this fear of hell Chrisitans were getting worried about. At some point, people started anxiously baptizing babies, all the babies, not as a sign of God’s promise and love over their lives but out of fear they’d die young and go to hell. 

Later, when Christians started terrorizing Jews and Muslims and indigenous peoples, baptism was the gateway toward their conversion into the empire and their freedom from terror, while a lack of baptism could justify their subjugation and threats of hell.

Can I keep it simple today and just say all of this is really bad? It’s the most toxic way of doing religion, as if God really wants insider and outsider clubs, and gives us magic ceremonies to move people in and out of them. That is not healthy. 

But there is a healthy, beautiful way to practice baptism and think about baptism. 

The healthy way of thinking about baptism isn’t about fences and gates, it’s about wells. Baptism – a rite, a symbol of water after all – is like an old and deep well where God gives us water. Water to drink, water for washing, water to cook with. 

Baptism isn’t keeping anyone in or out of God’s love or kindness or forgiveness or anything else. And baptism isn’t a magical thing we do to access God’s presence or rewards for us. Baptism really isn’t about what we do at all. It’s about participating in what God is and does for us.

Like a well, we go there because the water is deep and clean and good. It’s about the water, not the bucket.

Baptism isn’t about what we do. It’s about participating in what God is and does for us. It’s about welcoming Jesus’s water of life. 

Baptism is an opportunity to represent the Spirit of God with us. It’s an opportunity to know that God is with you as one that utterly loves you, that brings new life to you, and that gives you belonging in a bigger and wider community of those that love and seek God. 

So wrapping up the baptism bit – if you have never been baptized, but you’d like to explore that during this spring, send me a note please – steve@reservoirchurch.org – and we’ll set up space for you to ask your questions and decide if this is something you want to do or not. I’ll follow up with the details after I hear about interest.

And if you have kids – babies, tiny kids or maybe older kids like preteens and teens, and you’re interested in what’s the difference between child dedication and baptism and what’s right for your kids when, our kids and youth team will be following up with an information session and more in the weeks to come. 

But let’s close now with baptism as an image, a metaphor for starting to participate in this lent, and receive Jesus’ renewing, revitalizing, restorative waters of life. 

This week, in our guide, each day, we’ll read a short bit of the Bible and a few reflections on different aspects of Jesus’ water of life for us that are associated with baptism imagery. All while viewing watercolor and art and poetry associated with the theme of water of life. Matt’s even composing ambient music for us inspired by water. We’ll hear part of one of these pieces in the background during our closing prayer in a minute. You can use these yourself while you pray if you want – they’re showing up on our YouTube channel.

And each day, we crystallize the content down to a single word or phrase we invite you to sit with in silence for a few minutes. This practice is called centering prayer. You can read more about it in the guide, but it’s a way to center our mind, our spirit on a bit of good news truth from God.  

The words and phrases are:

-Spirit with me


-Born again

-Alive with Jesus


-I belong in the Body of Christ

I told you that I enter this year’s Lent needing a lot from God – needing some things in my life to be made new. That’s what that tired phrase “born again” means to me – another chance at new life. And I need to know I’m not alone, that God travels with me and in me in all my life. And like many of you, I want a fuller life back. I want to feel and be fully alive again. 

Iranaeus, one of the earliest Jesus-following writers, once wrote The glory of God is a human fully alive. 

God shines and lights up in the world when God makes us fully alive.

Baptism tells me God doesn’t want to just add a little bit of this good stuff onto our tired, tattered lives.

No, God wants to submerge us in waters of life. To have this revitalizing good news surround us and fill us and reanimate us. 

God wants to pour all this over us.

Jesus says to us today, come back to the well. I have living water for you here.