Stop Using Broken Cisterns
August 28, 2022
"...for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water." - Jeremiah 2:13
The debater counterpointed the proposition set forth by her opponent with these words, "That argument does not hold water."
She, then, began to show where the holes were in the idea that had been set forth.
The prophet voices God's indictment of a people by saying that their lifestyles, their religious practices, their ethics, their attempts to find meaning, and their pursuits of satisfaction were all empty wells, They were cracked cisterns.
They would not hold water.
The psalmist voices the heart and words of God when he declares in Psalm 81:1-16
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
"But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!
Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their doom would last forever.
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."
Satisfaction is available.
What we hunger and thirst for, God desires to supply, but we rebel and refuse. We run from the authentic and cling to our clever devices.
The invitation is to come to God and receive the best that God has to offer -- real quality, real satisfaction, true meaning, deep purpose, profound joy, reality, hope, grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, fulfillment. Leave our stubborn resistance behind and live.
Part of our resistance is our acquiescence to the norms of the world around us. We have bought into a philosophy that traches us to grab what we want, hoard it, and use it only for our own pleasure. We are pressured to apply pressure, to assert ourselves and our own importance, and to pursue pleasure, convenience, and prestige at all costs.
Pride and greed drive us. The great philosopher and teacher counters this in Proverbs 25:6-7.
Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
Overpromotion of ourselves and our own self interests can cause us to end up with egg on our faces.
It is counterproductive. It is humiliating. It is unsatisfying.
In other words, a life that is driven by desire for satisfaction and pursuit of pleasure is unsatisfying and without pleasure.
Jesus goes deeper and applies a different lifestyle to us in this morning's gospel. It is based upon his profound teaching that there greatest person in the room is the servant. He himself came to serve. The deepest satisfaction is in giving service. The Kingdom of God is the realm of children. Faith that forgives receives forgiveness. Grace is the greatest refreshment. Love is the highest value. Mercy is like honey.
Luke 14:1, 7-14
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Find someone who cannot repay or reward you and serve that person.
God's grace and mercy in Jesus clears the slate for us to start living this way. The cross demonstrates and activates a lifestyle that identifies with the lonely and lowly. Jesus identified with such folks and calls us to identify with them as well We are dignified and satisfied by our association with those considered the least among us.
A Practical Guide to Living this Way
The Epistle to the Hebrews gives us instructions on how to do this,
Hebrews 13:1-8 NRSV
Let mutual love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.
Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:15-16 NRSV
Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.