free gift of the water of life
(Revelation 22: 16–17).
I lost my thirst. Or worse, I got
thirsty for other things. None
seemed particularly bad at the time
– a love for comfort, for convenience, for my own opinion. But,
slowly, they consumed more of me.
Increasingly I consumed more of
them. Now I’m bloated with them,
but not satisfied. Empty, in fact.
And yet this. Jesus beckons me,
still. He sends His Angel, His Spirit,
His Bride – His Church – to say to
me what He said to me the first day
I met Him. “Come. Are you thirsty?
Then come. It’s free. It’s all free. And
this, only this, will satisfy.”
When first I heard that invitation, over 30 years ago now, I was
dying of thirst. I came. And I drank.
I was satisfied, beyond measure –
in Him, in His Spirit, His Word.
And in you, His Bride.
Will I come again?
Don’t think I don’t notice that He
sends you, Dear Church – He sends
His beloved Bride – to make this
There is no man on earth worthy
of being called husband who abides
anyone who scorns his bride. I
confess I forgot this. I confess I
thought I could love Jesus and not
His Bride. I wanted you – the Bride
– to be radiant, pure, spotless and
blameless here, now, on this fallen,
broken earth, before any of us has
been perfected, before all things
created have been fully reconciled.
And because you were not yet
perfect, I stopped serving you with
pure affection and unwavering devotion. I stopped being like Shaash-gaz and Hegai, serving Esther to
make her beautiful for her king. I
just got bored. Jaded. Uninvolved.
I am truly sorry.
And now you send your Bride, of
all people, to invite me back.
ut, Dear Church, would
you consider a few things?
If I’ve at times forgotten
who and whose you are,
Bridegroom never asked or wanted
you to be.
I’m not thinking here of the usual
complaints – that you’ve adopted
business models, or made CEOs of
your pastors, or created performance standards for the music. All
that’s beside the point, the gnats
that we camels strain out. And there
is no virtue in mediocrity, as though
timid leadership and bad music are
holier than the alternatives.
No, I’m thinking of other things.
I’m thinking about Samaria. I’m
thinking about the priesthood of all
believers. I’m thinking about grace.
And I’m thinking about heaven.
Let me explain.
Samaria, for instance. Jesus had
to go through Samaria. Samaritans
are those with whom we share land
and history, but it’s disputed land,
and it’s troubled history full of betrayals, failed promises, mutual
bitterness, deep wariness. Samaritans might be the homeless, or the
LGBT community, or Muslims.
Or First Nations people.
I confess that when I was a pas-
tor, I steered the church around
that Samaria for a long time (and
still avoid many others). I had a
thousand excuses and alibis. The
problems were deep and complex,
and not of my making. I didn’t want
to expose myself to a spirituality I
found strange. There seemed no
doorway in, and no roadmap once
there. On and on it went.
Then I finally went through
Samaria. And I found a people kind,
generous, funny, wise. They were
willing to share in ways that exposed
my own stinginess. They had a rich
and earthy faith that revealed how
shallow and cerebral my own is.
They lived in a genuine community
when I had just talked about it.
I have learned much from my
friends. But increasingly I have
wondered why, Dear Church,
though you are sent to the nations,
you avoid the one closest to you.
My simple plea is that you change
nd I’m thinking about the
priesthood, the kind Peter
talks about – a royal
priesthood in which all
believers participate. Jesus
breathed the Holy Spirit on His
first disciples so they might bind
and loose things in heaven and
earth. He gave them the power to
bestow – or withhold – His forgive-
ness. And He prayed the same
power for all believers. He made us
priests, every last one of us.
Of all the roles Jesus fulfilled –
prophet, priest, king – it’s His
priesthood that He’s made available
to all His followers.
But most of us are happy just to
watch, and the idea that any of us
might play a priestly role, might
AND BECAUSE YOU WERE NOT YET
PERFECT, I STOPPED SERVING YOU WITH
PURE AFFECTION AND UNWAVERING