“Paying Attention: Nurturing Your Soul” Jeremiah 2: 4-13

All American children under twelve huddled on Sunday nights in front of their Zeniths, except my sister and I.  We were in church.  Mom told us we would be a part of the faithful remnant going straight to heaven if Jesus came while the unsaved watched Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday.

I remember my good fortune when I was able to stay home and watch the Wizard of Oz which, came on once a year.  Remember this scene?   Dorothy pours water on the Wicked Witch of the West and she melts. The monkeys and guards start dancing, because they discover the witch was unreal.  When Dorothy awoke in Kansas from her colorful dream, she finds the world of storms, fears, lost dogs, nasty neighbors, and inconvenient love is the most real world of all.  Real life is a life indebted the people who loved her; whom she had thought she had rather escape.

Jeremiah indicts Judah for her faithlessness, which caused her to forsake the certainty of faithful God and flee to whims of her own desires.  He offers these words of righteous rage:  “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cracked cisterns that hold no water.”

Before there were sprinklers, irrigation, running water, indoor plumbing, huge reservoirs, and big towers, people dug cisterns to capture rain.  They were large clay containers held water when needed.  Two problems with cisterns: 1. No one can make it rain and; 2. the drier it became the more the cisterns cracked and didn’t hold water even when it did rain.  Temperatures soared this week and ground cracked causing everything else to crack.  This photo was taken Tuesday of water shooting 40-50 feet in the air in Oklahoma City because of severe ground cracking.

Jeremiah is saying people who build their lives by pursing temporal things will crack under the pressure of real life and will not be able to hold living water, which nourishes for lifetime and beyond.  Ironically, they were trying to secure their lives by storing up things to make their life worth living.  In this case, they littered their lives with ungodly alliances and affairs. Eventually these associations would crack God’s people.  They lacked a relationship with a living that could nourish them through any challenge or crisis.  Let’s learn from them how we can pay attention to nurturing our souls so to hear more clearly the call of God in our life.

Israel became promiscuous after forgetting from whom her prosperity came.  God rescued them from slavery in Egypt when they were nothing; no land of their own, and no future; brought them into the land of promise, a life of plenty.  Once there, they forgot the God who by sheer grace gave them everything.

God must feel like a spurned parent after sacrificing to raise a child.  A child arrives at adolescence living a blessed life: meals for the table, nice clothes and shoes, in some cases an insured, registered, and maintained car, and in most cases niceties they cannot afford if they worked full time.  Yet, the dependable parent is casts aside for the less than dependable peers, who may be their best friend one moment and the next act as if they don’t exist.  They trade the people who gave them life and opportunity for hormone stricken, not ready for prime time peeps who as unpredictable as the role of a die.  The parent is heartbroken and the wounds run deep  This is how God feels when we forgot who we are and to whom we belong.

All of us can recall when we first came to know the love of God in our lives in an unconditional and real way.  It may have occurred when things were out of sorts and we turned in faith to Christ; giving ourselves wholly to God.  God comes in different ways; but having our heart strangely warmed is the experience for many.  Some may be light years from that experience; we no longer feel God’s pleasure or fear God’s jealousy for our heart.  I ask you: “Are you more satisfied with what we have pursued; forgetting the God who claimed than when your heart was first strangely warmed?”  Cracking begins when our forgetfulness leads to our faithlessness.

Our faithfulness fools us into thinking we deserve what is ours.  Sooner or later, that empty logic leaves us empty.  Enough things are needed for happiness; but more cannot make us happy.  Our faithlessness causes us to forget all we have comes from the gracious hand of God whose mercy never ends.  When we are running dry, we’re reluctant to face the root problem, forgetfulness.  Happiness continues to be the object of our pursuit instead of the result of our obedience.

Golf stores seduce me: shiny 3 woods, perfect putters, and wily wedges.  These are things I want, but hardly need.  The best part about golf stores is the ability to negotiate price; making material pursuit more enticing.  I’ve been in the middle of parleying a deal and become frightfully aware how my emotions are jumping at the prospect of the purchase.

The symptoms of increasing spiritual forgetfulness can be seen in the way we save, spend, or give.  The more we pursue worthless things, the more worthless we feel and eventually become.  Symptoms can manifest inwardly in our souls as we break faith; behave selfishly; or neglect spiritual nourishment.  Symptoms can also manifest in our outwardly in our relationships as we resist vulnerability to friends and family.  These are symptoms of a faithless and cracked soul that is leaking living water because we have forgotten the open and generous hand of God.

The people of Israel were unwilling to make the changes to renew the relationship with God.  Instead, they fled to Baal, the Canaanite water god.  Baal worship involved no moral commitment, self-sacrifice, or social duty to the poor.  Baal made no demands like those nosy Ten Commandments; it provided pleasure with no inconvenience.  Jeremiah likens their affection for Baal to an affair, where there are no claims, responsibilities, diapers, trash to take out, in-laws, mortgage, or burdens.  It is adoration without obligation.  They chose a god who told them what they wanted to hear and never held them accountable.

This is going on in American religion and we are not immune from it.  We tweak of theology to make God more benign and friendlier.  Do I come to church to be with my friends or to ask God to search my heart?  Do I come to church so the church might make me happy by meeting my needs or do I come to listen to call of God?  Any day, I expect to find a section on religion in Consumer Reports.  Imagine the categories of consumer friendly churches: softest pews, easiest listening music, least controversial sermons, most convenient parking, fewest expectations for members, and discounts on tithing.  These are the facetious gods of our own making.

The more we seek happiness by our own doing, the more it eludes us.  Happiness is found as we nourish our souls on living water; the more we drink the happier we are.  It’s like the old dog that sees a young pup chasing his tail.  He tells the young canine, “I did the same when I was young; but I eventually learned if I went about my business, it always followed right behind.”  The truth about happiness it is within us if we will spiritually nourish our inner person with the living water of Christ.

Jeremiah paints a picture of demanding God; who demands we should nurture our relationship with the one who wants to bless us with a fountain of water that springs up to eternal life and never runs dry.  This demanding God is a real, worthy, substantial; who can deliver according to our deepest needs and nourish our souls with living water.

This morning during our purposeful reflection I invite you to think how you might nourish your soul.  Consider paying attention in a specific habit that can support the call of God in your life.  Wesley called soul nourishing practices means of grace.  The means of grace are outward and visible ways to open our hearts to God’s work in us.  Means of grace can be divided into two categories, works of piety and works of mercy.  I hope you will make a commitment to one or several means of grace this week in nourishing your soul; they are essential to living out a call of God..

This is a picture of one of the world’s largest fountains.  Every twenty minutes the water crescendos to this spectacular display.  These pictures don’t tell of the continual care and renovation of this fountain.  This fountain is permanently endowed so the water will never run dry.

Pay attention to how you nourish your soul may not forget and forsake the call of God in our lives.  The call of God requires us to nourish our inward souls with living water from a fountain that will never run dry.  When our souls, the containers of our lives, are watered with living water out of a relationship with Christ they will not crack; leaving us empty.  We will be vessels of living water, up to being and doing what God calls us to do or be.

Published in: on July 17, 2011 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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