Tuesday, August 27, 2013

WATER


2 Nephi 9:50 Come my brethren, everyone that thirsts, come ye to the waters; and he that has no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. 
John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.
38 He that believes on me, as the scripture had said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water

What is it about water that in certain settings can calm us like a warm bath, or a good cry can make it all better? But on the opposite end of the spectrum, a torrential down pour of rain can terrorize us and destroy us. Why does the Lord use water as a teaching point?
How does the Savior use water to heal us? Sometimes he uses spit.  In John 9, the disciples of Jesus confront a man who was blind, apparently from birth.  The disciples ask (9:2) Master who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
I have always wondered why anyone would think that a person’s disability was either a result of someone else’s sin or choice, or their own sin or choice.
So Jesus replied (vs9:3) Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

After this conversation, Jesus did an awesome thing.
Vs. (:6-7) When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay.
7 And he said unto him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefor, and washed and came (back) seeing.

In another setting, (Luke 7) Jesus was sitting down to dinner with a Pharisee, a man named Simon the Leper (in Mark).  It seems that Simon may have been healed of his leprosy, but maybe in his character he was still a leper.  A certain woman had crashed the party. She was obviously well known because she is described in (vs. 38) “a woman in the city, which was a sinner”. Maybe she was a woman of questionable reputation.  And I know she had to have crashed the dinner, because the rest of the verse says: “When she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, (she) brought an alabaster box for ointment.
38 And she stood at his feet, behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with (her) tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Have you ever cried so hard, that your tears could form puddles? The Lord requires from us his children, a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I was taught this as I was preparing for baptism. I thought to myself, that I did not have a broken heart and I wasn't sure of the definition of contrite. But I knew I wanted to be baptized with all of my heart. Going forward, six years from my baptism, I realized that the “broken heart and contrite” spirit is a process that I am growing through, and learning through, and I know my sins were forgiven on that day, that I had a new “heart” to grow into, but the process of healing had just begun, and still continues from time to time.

During this deeply personal episode, this woman’s actions came under attack by the other dinner guests, in particular a man named Simon, who was called a Leper.  It seems that Simon was really critical of this woman, even though he had been a recipient of God’s grace through healing, he did not have a generous spirit. In vs. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, “This man if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that is touching him: for she is a sinner.
Jesus perceived his thoughts and in the end reproved Simon with a parable. As for the woman who crashed the party, in verse 42 he “Frankly forgave her”. In verse 47 he blessed her: Wherefore I say unto thee, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she has loved much….

A third story of water is in John 5 during the feast of the Tabernacles; Jesus went to the sheep gate of the Temple. There is great symbolism in the Saviors visit to the pool at the sheep gate of the Temple. In vs. 3, he encountered a “great” multitude of “impotent folk”, of blind, halt, and withered; and they were all waiting for a phenomenon in the pool that caused the water to bubble and agitate. The folklore at the time was that “an angel “went down at a certain time into the pool and “troubled “the water. In reality, the pool was a mineral spring that had water agitation similar to the geyser at Yellowstone, but probably a smaller eruption, but enough to excite the crowd. Jesus was a witness to this frenzy; when the water bubbled up and with it, “everybody surging into the pool, a chaotic huddled mass of wet bodies. What must he have thought?

In vs. 5 a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty eight years. (Vs-6) When Jesus saw him lying on the floor surrounding the pool, he perceived that he had been in that state for a long time. And he said unto him “Will thou be made whole”? (7) And the impotent man answered him “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.
And Jesus simply said: Rise, take up thy bed and walk. And this man immediately got up much to his surprise and walked out of the pool of the sheep gate.  Later the Lord found him again at the Temple and introduced himself and “frankly forgave him” of all his sins.

There is a pattern here, can you see it? Here is one more story, see if you can find the pattern:

Last Sunday a certain man came to sacrament in my ward. He was there because of a frantic call from the sister missionaries, begging a favor, to “Please pick up our investigator and bring him to church.” This is simple right, how many times have you been asked to pick up an investigator? My husband and I are asked quite frequently, but sometimes we go and sometimes we don’t for various reasons.  So this investigator was prone to cancelling appointments at the last minute, but for some reason, he told us that he decided to go because he had run out of excuses. I confronted my husband with this and in the grand scheme of things; the Lord was making us an offer that we couldn't refuse.

We called him and he said he would come with us. We didn't want to get our hopes up, so we proceeded with caution and a little bit of faith on Sunday morning. It turns out that our investigator is also a neighbor. My husband met this man almost 10 years ago. He was attempting to off load a very large piece of equipment, which was probably a few pounds short of a ton, from a pickup truck onto a dally, and  into his yard. My husband saw the obvious struggle and spent an entire day helping to move the equipment from the truck, on to a dally and eventually to the man’s backyard, where it still sits 10 years later.  They didn't become friends but they waved to each other now and then. My husband forgot his name, but a couple of months ago; he saw his old friend and remembered his name, Kevin. Apparently Kevin has been suffering from the effects of a stroke. So he was waiting for us to show up, in front of his house, in the rain.

So, there he was, this really frail looking man; he was wearing a white shirt untucked with no tie, a suit jacket and pants and a pair of boots that weren't laced up.  The weaker left side of his body was not in harmony with the struggling right side.  In his right hand he held on to a cane, but his left hand was silent and would not obey his command for it to move. In all of this he was at once defiant and then he seemed to be struggling for self-control, some dignity. We didn't know this man and we were all about to take a journey together.

When we got to church, we all struggled to get out of the car. I think we were waiting for the Missionary’s to come out and greet Kevin, but they did not, which threw everyone off balance.  By the time we got Kevin out of the car, and into the building and onto a pew, somehow tears had started to flow from him.  People started to introduce themselves to him; my husband was talking to him, explaining things. We started to sing these amazing songs from the hymnal. I helped him to hold the hymnal, but a side effect of his stroke was an inability to focus both eyes on one object without a lot of effort. But he followed the words and would hum, and then these large tear drops would fall on the page. I wondered what the Spirit was saying to his heart. I wondered if anyone else could feel what Kevin was feeling and what I was feeling at that moment. After sacrament we were again faced with a dilemma, what do we do now? Again we waited for the missionary’s to come and help us, but we were alone. We all went the Gospel and Principles class, affectionately known as the “Investigators class”. It was hard for me to go back to that class, because for some silly reason, I felt that I had “graduated”.  So I literally felt a “push” into the room.  The Lord had prepared this very day, for us. It took 10 years for us, but for the Lord, it has taken a lifetime.  At this point the air was totally sucked out of the room and everything was surreal. 

Kevin told us that he wants to be baptized. Normally this statement from an investigator would send every one into frenzy of activity, sort of like the water bubbling up from the pool. But Kevin is like the man holding back from entering the pool. His reason for not “moving forward” in his lessons is that he wants to be “made whole” before walking into the baptismal pool. He doesn't want anyone to help him in; he wants to walk in himself. That is a reasonable request, don’t you think? The reason that the impotent man was not able to reach the edge of the pool was not because he had no help, because he may have been able to crawl. I think his reason was that his faith was weak, and he needed help in strengthening that faith. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, in that he is the beginning of our faith and a refiner of it.

Someone asked me about my experience as an investigator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The question was that in my experience what advice I could give to members who want to share the gospel with their neighbors or coworkers or friends. My answer was this:” If you want to invite your neighbor or coworker to church, but they are a little skeptical, then practice being a good neighbor where you are. Invite them to your home, or visit them. The goal is not to just herd people into the church, but to get to know them, to be a good neighbor and to invite them, and bid them to come unto Christ.  So now I have to take my own advice, and show kindness just as Jesus did with the woman who bathed his feet in her tears. I must show patience as Jesus also did when he spoke with the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda. Kevin is that man, and he has a long way to go, and some hard lessons to learn in his journey. I hope that he will be made well and come into the waters of baptism.

Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
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