Sunday, February 20, 2022

Phil Kniss: Staying in the flow of God

I am the Water of Life
The Word became flesh and lived among us
John 7:37-52

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Today’s service is different than most,
so we aren’t really having a sermon, or a typical children’s time.

Instead, I want to talk just a little about what Mia and I just read
from the Gospel of John,
and about what we are doing in today’s service,
and help it make sense to children, young people, and adults.
So this is for all ‘yall.

The thing about following Jesus,
is that it’s not always an easy way to live.
Not always smooth sailing.
Because Jesus came to change the world,
and change the way God’s people lived in the world.
And that made some people love Jesus,
and some people hate him.

Jesus spoke up for God, and for God’s rule
of justice and peace and love.
Jesus represented, or stood up for, God’s family,
the kingdom of heaven.

But Jesus also had a human family, a human community.
His people were Palestinian Jews
living under a violent Roman Empire.
And sometimes the way his community lived,
didn’t match up to the way God’s kingdom was supposed to be.

So part of the job God gave Jesus to do on this earth,
was to tell his own people,
they weren’t living the way God wanted them to live.
That was hard for a lot of them to hear.
Especially the leaders,
who wanted to keep things the way they were,
and not make waves.

It’s a little like that, with us, in the church.
We are followers of Jesus here at Park View.
We are part of the big heavenly Kingdom,
but we also have this smaller community of human beings
who aren’t perfect, and who make mistakes,
and sometimes, are even selfish or violent 
or sinful in other ways.
Then we all have to figure out together what to do about it.

That’s what it means to be part of a church.
Any church, including this one at Park View, 
is a group of people trying to figure out, best they can,
how to follow Jesus in a big, complicated and messy world,
and especially, how to follow Jesus, exactly where we live,
in our own neighborhood, here and now.
Guess what?
That makes church complicated and messy, too.
We can’t help it, because we’re human.
We aren’t always the best that we can be.
But we need each other anyway.

In today’s service, we will hear from some people 
who want to become members of this church.
That means, they want to say publicly 
that they want to be part of this church family,
as imperfect as it is.
They want to give something of themselves to us,
and they are ready to receive what we have to offer them.

In chapter 7 of the Gospel of John,
right before what Mia and I read,
Jesus’ own family of faith were having conflict,
and a lot of the conflict was about Jesus.
The rich and powerful leaders, especially,
felt threatened by Jesus,
and all his talk about the heavenly kingdom,
because it disturbed their way of life.

It was time for another big festival in Jerusalem,
and some people wanted Jesus to go to it,
and some people warned Jesus to stay away.
At first, Jesus said he wouldn’t go.
But then after everyone else left for the festival,
Jesus himself also went, kind of on the sly.

But once he was in Jerusalem,
he started teaching and preaching openly,
even though some of the leaders were so upset with Jesus
that they wanted to kill him.

But this time, Jesus’ main message
was a comforting one, at least for most people.
He said, “If you are thirsty, come to me.
Drink deep, and you will have rivers of living water 
flowing in and through you.”

The Jewish people in Jesus’ day,
and we here at Park View Mennonite Church in our day,
don’t all have the same ideas about everything.
We disagree, sometimes about important things.
But one thing we have decided to all come together on, 
is that if we are thirsty, if we are tired, if we need life,
Jesus is where we can find it.
We come together around Jesus.
Jesus is, to us, water that gives life.
Eternal life, no matter what else is going on around us.

I’m really thankful for that,
and I’m really thankful that I can call this church my family.
Like my own family at home, we aren’t perfect.
But we are full of love. And that’s enough for a good life.

Jesus, Rock of Ages, let me hide myself in thee.
Jesus, Living Water, let me drink from your flowing stream.

—Phil Kniss, February 20, 2022

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