Fall 2022 Connections
by Bryant Russ, HCS Director of Faith Formation
All Israel had gathered in Jerusalem for Sukkot, a festival commemorating the 40 years their ancestors spent in the dry, thirsty wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. There, on the last and most important day of the festival, as the frenzied crowd called on God to bless the world with water, “Jesus stood and shouted, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me and drink! Whoever trusts in me, as Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them!’” (John 7:38).
“…As Scripture has said…” Which specific scripture is Jesus talking about? Running water, or living water as it was called in the world of the Bible, is a motif that runs throughout the entire biblical text and is often a picture of God’s dynamic Spirit at work in the world.
One of the most beautiful examples of this living water–and one that has powerful implications for the way we do Christian education–comes from a vision Ezekiel experiences in Ezekiel 47:1-12. The prophet is shown a small drip…drip…drip of water coming out from under the temple in Jerusalem. Further down the mountain the small drip becomes a trickle, which becomes a steam, which becomes a river, until finally the rush of water is so strong and wide that it couldn’t be crossed. Over the roar of the rapids, God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, do you see this?” Ezekiel looks and sees that lush trees are busting up on both sides of the river. Amazed, the prophet exclaims: “Wherever the river flows everything comes to life!”
At this point in the vision I start wondering where this River of Life is headed. Will it fill a valley somewhere calm and quiet, creating a peaceful lake for people to enjoy? Will it circle back to the temple to avoid becoming contaminated by anything less than the freshest water?
”Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me and drink! Whoever trusts in me, as Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them!
The river cascades directly to the unlikeliest of places: the Dead Sea. And when the flow crashes into this body of water notorious for lifelessness (due to its extremely high salt content), the Dead Sea actually bursts into life!!! Fish, frogs, fruit trees, you name it. This place that was once barren is now Exhibit A of God’s transforming power, further evidence that God brings dead things to life.
I believe this vision is essential to our understanding of education from a “Reformed perspective.” Our calling has never been to hide or hunker down, but to actually join God in His work of transformation! Shalom to chaos, light to darkness, life to the dead places of the world…or in the case of Ezekiel’s vision, freshwater to saltwater. This is our calling and mission. This is what Christian education is all about!
”The trickle that becomes a stream that becomes a life-giving river does not find its source in you or me.
And yet, if I’m honest with you, I’m actually intimidated by this vision in the same way I’m intimidated by the part of our mission statement that talks about transforming the world for Jesus Christ. The truth is…(I hope I can say this)…we don’t have it in us. We can’t muster the strength or energy to live into this calling on our own. We too are broken, weary, salty.
But that’s the very best part. The trickle that becomes a stream that becomes a life-giving river does not find its source in you or me. If we walk with Ezekiel back to the beginning of his vision, we find the source is the very wellspring presence of God. Specifically, the altar on which the lamb is sacrificed. I love this vision of Streams of Living Water because it both raises the bar, and at the same time, relieves the pressure. Our job is not to transform the world merely for Jesus Christ, but also through him, animated and sustained by his love every step of the way.
“Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me and drink! Whoever trusts in me, as Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them!”
My prayer for the coming year is that we live boldly into our mission of transformation, but also that we cling desperately to Jesus so that his sacrificial love flows into us, and overflows out of us.