Pentecost
If any man thirst...
Three important things
John 7:37-52,8:12

2008

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Brothers and sisters, there are three very important things that are said in the gospel today. They’re right in a row. One is basically a question. The other is a command or actually, a suggestion, and the other is the result.


We are celebrating today Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the apostles and all the rest of the believers up to and including us - the Holy Spirit Who enlightens us, Who shows us the way of life, Who speaks to us in groanings that cannot be uttered[1]. He tells us the things of God, the things of Christ; He enlightens us.

 

But none of this, none of this will happen unless first we consider this very, very important question. And we must answer.

When you answer a question, a Christian question, it’s not something that you say once. It’s something that you answer again and again and again. An example is when the Lord said, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” And he said, “Yea, Lord, I love thee.[2]” And he was asked three times in a row.

 

We are asked that question every day. Do we love the Lord or do we love the world? So we can’t answer that question just one time. It has to be answered over and over again.


And here is another question very similar to the question that is posed to us on the Sunday of the Cross: “If any man thirst, if any man will,” it says on the Sunday of the Cross, “let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.[3]” Here it says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.”

 

There’s a parallel here. How do you come unto Christ and drink? You deny yourself; you take up your cross and you follow Him.

 

“If any man thirst” - It’s a question that needs to be answered every day. Do you thirst?


Now, thirst, biologically, is just when you feel the need for water, and if you are extremely active, you need to be drinking water even when you don’t think you need it. In the Christian life we should be cultivating our thirst, constantly thinking.

 

How do you cultivate your thirst? I think the easiest way is to compare this life to the next, comparing the person you are with the person you should be. Compare the promises of God with the way of the world. And if that doesn’t make you thirst, then you have a severe problem like unto being that ground that is hard packed, so that the seed cannot grow.


I’ll be honest with you, a priest really is preaching to the people that at least have some thirst. If a person has no thirst whatsoever, the Holy Spirit will not fill them; the Holy Spirit will not live in them, no matter how Orthodox they are. No matter if their father and mother were Orthodox, it’s been in their family, no matter if they serve in the church, no matter if they are clergy. If a person does not thirst for God, then the Holy Spirit will not fill him.


So the first and foremost thing that is necessary for our salvation is for us to thirst, for us to desire.

 

Of course, perhaps I am a little ahead of myself. God revealed Himself to us. Otherwise, we would know nothing of Him. So the first and foremost thing of salvation is God loving us and creating us.


But we were created, and we often look to worldly and earthly things instead of spiritual things because they are more immediately tasty to us. They are more immediately pleasurable to us. They are easier to obtain, and the things of God are hidden. So it takes effort to cultivate a thirst.

 
So on this day of Pentecost, I’m asking you: Do you thirst?


Now, the apostles were gathered together on the day of Pentecost and the tongues of flame came and stood over each one of their heads and they prophesied and they spoke in other languages. Why did this happen? It was because they were gathered together; they were thirsting. In the fifty days since the Lord had risen they were together every day in prayer and in fasting, not understanding really about the future. The Lord had spoken to them about this future, but they did not understand, but they stayed in one place so that on the day of the Holy Spirit they were all enlightened. If any one among their company had left, then on that day they were not enlightened.


So the first thing that you must do is thirst. And then the next thing[4] with thirst, find something to slake your thirst. And the only thing that will satisfy us is Jesus Christ. So we must come unto Him and drink.


Does this make you remember the woman at the well? He said to the woman at the well, “If you ask of me, I’ll give you living water.”[5] This living water is the Holy Spirit. “He that believeth on me,” says the Lord, “out of his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water.”[6]


This metaphor is really wonderful. The belly is also a figure of speech for the heart; it is interesting that the belly is sometimes taken as the heart in Scriptures. The belly is the place where we fulfill our desires; it is a metaphor for all desire. And the Lord will sanctify all of us. If our belly is sanctified, then certainly the rest of us will be as well.


Now, sometimes people indicate to me that they have trouble believing. It’s really difficult. There’s a lot of, I told you before, dissonance in the world. We want to be something and we’re not. We try to be good, and yet there are these thoughts that assail us. We try to find Christ, and sometimes He does not seem so near. So there’s this tug of war that’s going on all the time. It’s a lot easier to believe the things in the world because we see them and we feel them and we experience them rather than the things of God. And anyone who says that they never have any such feelings, I tell you, that person is not telling you the truth.


How do we experience Christ? First by knowing we need Him. Thirsting. Second, by coming to Him. And the gospel of the Cross is “Deny yourself, take up your Cross and follow Me.” So we are talking work, and not anything that’s really, really easy. We are talking if you have something that you really need and you know that the only way to get it is by obtaining something, you’re willing to work for that.


And then what happens? “Out of his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water.”[7] I tell you, if out of your belly was flowing forth cool, refreshing, life-giving water, wouldn’t you know it? Would any man need to tell you any proofs of Christ? Would you need to have any dogmatic definitions? No. Because God would be within you. You would feel Him moving. There would be no doubt. This is what we are attempting to obtain, and it is obtainable, and we do believe this because the saints obtained it.


If you are having doubts, then recognize that this is a sign of your own fallenness and weakness, and renew your thirst. Whatever you can do to come to the Lord, do it, and drink of His living water, and you will eventually feel out of your belly this living water. There will be no doubt. There won’t be any room for any doubt because the Holy Spirit fulfills all things.


Now, recently I have been saying to you a little statement in some of the writings, some very important things that we have been writing about on the mailing list and on the blog, and that is:

 

Do what you can do so that eventually you can do what you cannot do.

 

And this Scripture is basically teaching that same thing.


First of all, you must be thirsty. You must know that you have a need. You have to know that you need God. And I tell you, unfortunately there are people that don’t know this need. Sometimes we don’t know this need either. But if we know this need, then let us come to Christ. And you come to Him by being completely pure, never thinking evil thinking thoughts, never cursing, never having any unclean thoughts, never being jealous, never lying, never being unpleasant, and never being irritable. If you can do this, then that is good, but most people cannot. None of us can do this, not consistently, not every single moment. But we can do some of it; and the things we can do, we must do.


If you can be kind to your neighbors, be kind even if they are not kind to you.

If you can refrain from judging someone or at least refrain from judging with your lips, then do this.

If you can fast, then fast.

If you can come to the services frequently, then do this.

There are many, many other things.

 

We could speak of hundreds of things that, if you can do them, I tell you, you must do them.


Now, I am convinced as a pastor that there are things, sometimes simple things in the Christian life that we, for various reasons, really are not capable of doing. We say we are lazy and we don’t want to be lazy, but we really don’t know how not to be lazy. And it seems like every day we end up being lazy. We don’t want to be angry, and yet we get angry. We don’t want to have lustful thoughts or hurtful thoughts or remember wrongs, and yet usually at very usually inconvenient times these thoughts come to us.

 

Sometimes things that you and I consider simple, other people consider difficult, like fasting, for instance, or saying our prayers in our morning or continence or any other things. But what you can do, you must do because the Lord says, “Come unto Me and drink, and out of your belly shall flow rivers of living water.” And this is the part that you cannot do, but you will be able to do. No man will be saved without great effort.


If you want to show the Lord that you thirst, then evaluate what you can do.

 

Now, can you fast? All right.

Can you pray?

Can you come to church regularly?

Can you commune?

Can you confess?

Can you tithe?

Can you be kind?

Then do these things.

 

If these are things that you are capable of doing and you are not doing them, then woe unto you because how can the Spirit come in, because if you are not doing things that you can do, you certainly won’t be able to do anything that you’re not capable of, and you never will.


So that is what that little aphorism that I made up means. It is important, and the Scripture teaches it all the time. I mean, I didn’t make it up out of the air. It’s right in the Scriptures.


So if you thirst, follow Christ to the extent of your abilities. Perhaps those abilities are not very good right now. But they will become better if you follow according to the extent of your abilities now. And then you will become better able to do good things later on. And there is no substitute for purity and goodness. Purity and goodness make us know Christ in the way that no one can gainsay, no one can fool us, and no doubts can creep in.

 

To the pure all things are pure. And since God is pure, if we are pure, we know God without a shadow of a doubt. So this pure water that is flowing out of the belly is purifying and maintains our purity, but we must struggle for that purity to the extent we have the ability to do so now.


So here is the key to the Christian life. Thirst for God. Thirst for goodness. Thirst for peace. Recognize that you are lacking something, something very precious that you need. Desire that thing. And then, to the best of your abilities, come to Christ and drink of His water which He offers. Take up your cross, deny yourself, struggle.


There is no doubt that the Christian life has struggling, but you can either struggle in Christ or struggle outside of Christ. The whole world is struggling,  so you must pick which one you want to do, which struggle you want to have.


“If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believeth on Me,” as the Scripture has said, “out of his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water.” And we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming today to make this a possibility for us to have the rivers of living water in our life but only if we thirst and if this thirst drives us to come after Christ and to follow him. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2008    

Transcribed by the hand of Helen. Edited by the author.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R7wOkUBqAQ Part 2

 

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[1] Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

[2] John 21:15 KJV  “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” – and the following verses. This is the 11th matinal gospel – a piece of scripture so important that the church reads it at least 5 times a year.

[3] Matthew 16:24 KJV  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

[4] Number 2 of 3, mentioned at the beginning of the homily.

[5] This story is so important that it is read on the 5th Sunday after Pascha, because it describes how we must react to God if we are to become enlightened. Homilies on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman are here: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#The_Samaritan_Woman

[6] 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 believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” – read during Pentecost Liturgy.

[7] Number 3 of 3, the result.





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