Theology

From Empty Vessels to Rivers of Water

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This is a reflection from Missio Alliance’s most recent North American gathering, “Awakenings: The Mission of the Spirit as the Life of the Church.” This reflection comes from Adam Clark, Director of Worship & Arts at Northeast Christian Church in Fort Wayne, IN. Links for downloading the song chart and mp3 can be found below.


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, 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.’”  John 7:37-38

“We go in thirsty, and we come away rivers.”

I kept staring at that phrase in my notebook for days that turned into weeks after hearing from N.T. Wright at this spring’s Missio Alliance North American Gathering. Wright gave a message on John 7 the final morning of the gathering, the portion of the story where Jesus calls anyone who thirsts to come to Him and drink. This particular message stirred something significant in me.

For several weeks, I went back and forth between John 7 and my notes from N.T. Wright’s talk. I couldn’t shake the gravity of that idea: we go in thirsty, and we come away rivers.

Then one day during a work meeting—at which I definitely should have been paying attention—I wrote down some lyrics on my steno pad.

We drink it in. We pour it out. Living Water, stream through us.
You wear away the hardened places, open channels for Your love.
We come to You thirsty, and we come away like rivers.

In the days that followed, I put melody to those words and began to sing them as I spent time with the Lord in the morning or during other times of prayer. Since then, I have brought this song into the rotation of our corporate worship Sunday mornings, and the people of Northeast Christian Church have graciously embraced it as their own.

To shed a bit more light on what moved me so much about Wright’s words (other than the obvious fact that the dude is just on another level, in so many ways), I wanted to share a few main ideas that I took away from his talk and my subsequent study. These are the ideas that shaped the song.

Thirst

Wright said of Jesus’ invitation, “The satisfying of thirst is for everyone who needs it.”

Everyone who needs it.

And we all do.

The humility that comes with thirst is a universal language. I recognize that in myself. I am, at any moment, plagued by a dozen thirsts and so many different needs. The recognition that thirst is a reality for everyone else as well softens my heart to others.

Jesus is saying to us all that He knows we are thirsty, and in Him, we can actually be satisfied.

Amen, may it be so.

We come to You thirsty.

Erosion

Another quote from Wright’s message: “We have made Jesus conform to our felt wants and needs, rather than us embodying and embracing all that He is and wants to do.”

That convicting idea, coupled with the image of living water from John 7, called to mind the geologic process of erosion. Erosion is where water hits the same rock again and again, and over time literally changes the shape of the rock. I believe this process is akin to spiritual formation. As my own thirsts are met with the living water of the Holy Spirit again and again, He wears away the hardened places in me, and He is actually at work to turn me into a conduit through which that same Living Water can flow to others.

We drink it in. We pour it out. Living Water stream through us.
You wear away the hardened places, open channels for Your love.

Overflow

One more quote from N.T. Wright. “The temple promise has been democratized: Living Water is available to everyone, and New Creation will flow out of everyone who drinks.”

This is incredible. Jesus satiates thirst in a way that becomes an overflow of abundance.

The beautiful poetry of how the Good News moves forward is that it takes death and turns it into life. Empty cup to overflowing vessels. Darkness to light. Ashes to beauty. Life to these dry bones.

The living water of the Holy Spirit is not measured based on how much capacity I have. It is intentionally more than enough, so that I now possess—in excess—what I once lacked, and I am now called to give it to others.

“Living Water is available to everyone, and New Creation flows out of everyone who drinks.”

We come to You thirsty.

And we come away like rivers.


You can hear Adam’s song here:

Living Water is available to everyone, and New Creation flows out of everyone who drinks. Click To Tweet

Download the song’s mp3 here.

Download the song’s chord chart here.

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