Easter 6C - Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5

Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5 (NIV)

10 And he (the angel) carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

          Dear friends in Christ, what is it about water that we’re so attracted to? Waterfront properties, properties with underground water, irrigation channels, dams, lakes, riverfronts, creeks and springs are much more expensive than other land.

          People are prepared to pay premium prices just to be by a river or some other waterfront property.

          This morning I’d like you to think of an ideal river – a clean, bubbling, moving body of water – water full of life.  We know that not every river is though, pristine.

          Now imagine the same river - spoiled by the introduction of exotic species of fish, poisoned by pollution, dried up through being drained by irrigation and the burning sun,

          Sad, isn’t it, what can happen to something so beautiful as a river. It serves as a striking example of how fallen humanity can mistreat God’s precious gifts.

          So, let’s think about the upper reaches of the river.

          Stan Simonik, and American Lutheran pastor told the story of a movie, “… about an older man, who, not long after retiring felt useless and very old. His wife’s nagging became more frequent, and even his children were verbally abusive to him when they came to visit.

          He felt like a nobody and suffered from deep depression. One day death seemed like an attractive option to him, but he was able to discard the thought. Instead, he decided to go on a journey.

          He put some things into a backpack, picked up a walking stick, and set off to revisit places of his youth, which happened to be upstream of the river going through the city where he lived.

          He didn’t take a car or a bus - he decided to walk. He traveled slowly,  noticing everything around him. He could see that little by little the river became cleaner and more alive with fish and other animals.

          Then he began to notice a change taking place in himself. Somehow, as he walked upstream along the river, he too, like the river, became more alive. Suddenly, the old bones weren’t creaking anymore.

          He felt strength returning to body and brightness to his thoughts. One morning as he knelt down to wash his face by the bank of the river now become a stream, he noticed he had become a young man again.

          The grey hair was gone, as were the wrinkles from his face, and there was life in his eyes again. The river had become a journey of renewal for him. He laughed out loud and said, “This is where I belong, this is where I feel totally alive!” And he remained by this river of life.”

          The Bible has many verses linking rivers with life. Rivers, streams, and fountains. And all of them are credited to God’s good and generous providence.

Psalm 36:9 For with You is the fountain of life; …

Psalm 65:9 You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; ….

Isaiah 35:6 … For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

          The inhabitants of the Holy Land understood very well the connection between water and life. As we do here in the Waikato. Anyone living without much rain as we often do in the Summer understands that water is life.

          We can’t live without water. Just try running a dairy farm or growing crops without water! Try to survive in a hot desert without water - you won’t last very long. Water is life.

          In my previous parish in Central New South Wales we had the Murrumbidgee flow through what was once a wilderness giving life to all plants and creatures along it’s banks - and beyond now, because of irrigation channels. The SunRice brand of rice you buy in the supermarket is grown in water from the Murrumbidgee River up to half an hour’s drive from the river where once only sparse scrub would grow.

          In the beginning of the final chapter of Revelation, St. John shares a vision of heaven represented by a new Jerusalem. He says, 22:1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life…

          A river of life, bringing life, sustaining life, restoring life with healing. There are many rivers that begin as small flowing streams, but there is only one river of life that flows from God.

          Our Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4:14 whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

          When we drink ordinary water, no matter how good it is, we’ll soon be thirsty again. But when we drink the living water from the river of life that Jesus offers, we’ll never be thirsty again.

          The Samaritan woman needed this water and so do we. So, how do we receive it? Jesus said …, John 6:35 ESV "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

          We receive and share the living water by believing in Jesus. By acknowledging Jesus as Lord and trusting Him with your lives and with your eternity. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He offered Himself in your place to save you so that you wouldn’t have to “pay the piper” and suffer the eternal consequences of your sins.

          Jesus suffered and died to pay the penalty for every one of our sins with His precious blood, and He rose from the dead to give you life - just like the Waikato gives life to parched pasture in Summer.  

          The river of life flowing from the throne of God is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word of Christ. This is the life-forming power, the life-sustaining force, the thirst-quenching delight that springs up to eternity.

          This is the water that renews you and makes you bloom out in your personal, loving relationship with Jesus and each other. You can’t really live without this water.

          12 years ago, when Diane and I lived in Central New South Wales much of Australia was drought declared. “The Farmers Association in New South Wales said that drought declared areas had risen 83 per cent of the state, with only coastal areas considered to have enough water.

          This was cause for concern as water restrictions for townies was lifted to level 5. Remember here last Summer we only went to level two.

          As a liquid drought continues so also does the spiritual drought. Life without a personal relationship with the Lord is like a life without water. There are people who are physically alive but spiritually dead.

          Without the living water of the Holy Spirit, they’re like a dried up lake. Others are like a dam with a muddy bottom - sustained only by what trickles in once in a while from a shower of rain. Some are only half-full, maintaining existence but unable to sustain growth.

          In contrast, the Bible teaches in Psalm 1 that those who draw upon the Word of God are like a tree planted by a stream – visibly alive, protected, and producing fruit in its season.

          How’s your spiritual life right now? Is your lake all dried up? Is your spirit near a muddy bottom? Is your spiritual reservoir only half-full?

          If you’ve been suffering from a spiritual drought, come! Let’s gather at the river of life and receive its power. Come, receive the Lord’s invitation and be refreshed today!

          Listen to the words of our Lord Jesus in John 7:38-39 ESV Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' " 39Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive,…

          Come, take in the life-giving Word of Christ. The Word proclaiming forgiveness to broken hearts; the Word reassuring You of His love and your worth in Him; the Word of guidance – the lamp to your path and a light for your feet – showing you, “Look, here is a better way!” The Word of His promise that you’ll have life more abundantly now and into eternity.

          Some of you worship regularly, attend Bible studies, have personal and / or family devotion times, confirmation class, watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio.

I encourage you to keep these thing up. But more than that, to regaularly gather around the life giving Word of God with each other and and with those whose lives are parched by the heat of hell – heat which grows with self-indulgence, escapism and idleness. Be cooled and refreshed with the River of Life found only in Jesus the Christ.

          And if you are parched and spiritually dry come to this River of Life. Don’t delay. Take up the Bible today. I invite you to read the Gospel of John this week. Read it, soak it in, meditate on it, let it fill you with crystal bright water of the river of life flowing from the throne of God.

          Amen.