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A Telkwa Faith: A sermon based on John 7:37-39

A couple weeks ago, we voted on which name theme we wanted to embrace as a church. There were three options, a Hope Theme, a River Theme, and a Telkwa Theme. We had a conversation after the service where we explained why we were attracted to a particular theme. People had a lot of different reasons why they were drawn to Telkwa. Some appreciated that the name tied us to our local community. Some appreciated the practicality of easily finding a Telkwa named church in the phonebook or a search online. Some appreciated that the name Telkwa embraces the Wet’suwet’en language. With that, people appreciated that Telkwa means “meeting of the waters.” After learning that the Telkwa Theme was the top pick, I wondered if somehow the word Telkwa could help us more deeply understand our Faith. After all, we will say Telkwa every time we mention our church. Plus, many of us drive by the Telkwa River every day. Is it possible that God might use the Telkwa as a daily reminder of who we are in relation to Jesus? Is it possible that the word Telkwa, which means “meeting of the waters”, can teach us something about our life in the Spirit? I believe I have found a passage that may be Key in helping us understand what a Telkwa type of faith looks like. Please look with me at Exhibit. A.

7:37 On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and 7:38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 7:39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

To understand how this is a Telkwa passage, we first need to understand the background of this passage. Verse 37 says, “On the last and greatest day of the Festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice…”. Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Festival of Booths, also known as the Feast of Ingathering. The Festival was officially seven days long, but it included a bonus eighth day for taking things down.

The Festival was a time for the people of Israel to look back and to look forward. The Festival was a time of looking back and remembering the wilderness wanderings of the people during the Exodus. After they left Egypt, the people of Israel wandered forty years in the desert before they could enter the Promised Land. During this time in the desert, God faithfully provided for their needs. God provided them food through the provision of Manna, and God provided them water by bringing water from a rock. The Festival was a time to remember these great saving acts of God.

Yet the Festival was also a time to look forward to what God was going to do in the future. During the Festival of Tabernacles, the Jews looked forward to the day when God would bring a new Temple, and from that Temple would come a stream of living water. This hope is strongly tied to Ezekiel, chapter 47, look at Exhibit B. Ezekiel tells about when, in a vision, God brought him “back to the entrance of the temple, there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple.” Ezekiel tells of how this gently flowing water grew and grew into a great river, until it became so large that it could not be walked across. As Ezekiel walks the banks of the river, great many trees lining the banks of the river. And when the river reaches the sea, the river turns the stagnant waters fresh, so that all manner of living creatures find life from the river. Ezekiel vision continues, and he sees a gathering of people standing alongside the river, fishing from the sea. Basically, the river Ezekiel sees flowing from the Temple is characterized by life. Everything that comes in contact with this river flourishes. This vision looks forward to the day when God’s glory will return to the temple, and will spill out and bring abundant life to the world.

So the Feast of Tabernacles looks forward to the day when God’s glory will return and the river of life will flow from His presence in the Temple. As a way of creating expectation, each day during the Feast of Tabernacles, a priest would lead a procession to the Gihon spring, which bubbled up south of the Temple. There, the priest would fill a golden pitcher with the water, while the choir sang the words from Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The procession would then journey back to the Temple and to the altar, where he poured the water into a silver funnel and flowed into the ground. Every day during the Feast they did this same procession, they went to the Gihon Spring, filled ht pitcher, and brought it back to Jerusalem to be poured onto the temple floor. They did this to anticipate the day Ezekiel prophesied in Exhibit B when God’s glory would return, and stream forth from the Temple. It’s at after the Priest poured the water on the ground for the last time that Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the Scripture says, “From within him will flow rivers of living water.” With the background of what’s going on at the festival, we’re coming closer to understanding what a Telkwa type of Faith looks like.

Yet, before we can truly plunge into these words of Jesus, we need to consider a few passages from the Gospel of John. First we need to look at John chapter 2, where Jesus kicks the money changers out of the temple. Look at Exhibit C. After he clears out, the Jews say to Jesus, "what sign can you show us for doing this?: Jesus answers them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John explains that the temple Jesus was talking about was his body. In John, Jesus makes the stunning declaration that His body is the true temple of God. So, in Exhibit A, when Jesus talks about streams of water flowing from Him, He is further explaining how His body is the true temple of God. He’s drawing on Ezekiel’s imagery of the temple stream. Jesus says that He is the fulfillment of Exekiel’s expectations of the renewed Temple. In John 7:38, Jesus says that from Himself will flow streams of living waters, and John tells us that he is talking about the Holy Spirit.

Yet there is still another passage that will help us understand a bit more of what a Telkwa faith looks like. Exhibit D. In John chapter 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, and he asks for a drink from the well. She’s surprised that He would ask Samaritan for a drink. Jesus responds, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’” Later in the conversation, Jesus says, “‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”’

The ceremony of pouring water on the Altar, Ezekiels vision of the stream flowing from the temple, as well as these two passages in John, help us understand what Jesus is saying in our passage. When Jesus stands up at the climax of the Feast, Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as Scripture says, “From within him will flow rivers of living waters.” Every day at the feast, the Priest poured water on the Temple Altar. This action is meant to bring to mind Ezekiel’s vision about the water that shall flow from the temple when God glory returns returns to the temple. When Jesus clears the temple in chapter 2, Jesus identifies His body as the Temple. When you put all this together, Jesus’ words at the Feast become clear. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Feast. He is the new Temple. Jesus is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision, and the water flowing from Him is the Spirit of God. Jesus works all this imagery into an invitation to drink in God’s Spirit which flows from Him.

And now I invite you to turn your attention to Exhibit E. The NIV translates Jesus’ words this way: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, ‘“rivers of living water will flow from within them.”’ Take a moment to compare Exhibit E with Exhibit A. Can you see the difference? The first translation has it that the living waters are flowing from Jesus. The second way of translating these words from Jesus have it that after drinking from Jesus, living water will will flow from the believer. So instead of waters flowing from Jesus, the NIV has Jesus explicitly says that waters will flow from the believer. This is very similar to when Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The believer drinks life giving water from Jesus, and as a result streams of living water, the Holy Spirit, will flow from them.

The translation in Exhibit A has Jesus saying that the Holy Spirit will flow from Him into believers. The Translation in Exhibit E has Jesus saying that after drinking the waters Jesus has to offer, the Holy Spirit will pour out of believers. The wonderful thing is that the greek is totally ambiguous, both interpretations are equally plausible. Its entirely possible that Jesus is saying both things at once. At this point, we are at the cusp of understanding what a Telkwa kind of faith looks like. Remember that Telkwa means, “the meeting of waters”.

The Spirit flows from Jesus into believers, and the Spirit flows from Believers to the world. This meeting of water is a Telkwa moment. John explains that when Jesus talks about water, He’s talking about the Spirit. When He rose from the dead the Spirit gushed out of Jesus like a river. It was then that He truly embodied Ezekiel’s Temple with streams of living water gushing forth. And Jesus also clearly says in His conversation with the Samaritan woman that after drinking from Him, the Holy Spirit will gush from believers.

Perhaps Jesus’ words in John 7:37-38 are a Telkwa moment in Scripture. Remember, Telkwa means, “meeting of the waters.” The Telkwa is when two streams converge. Imagine Jesus as represented by the mighty Bulkley River. Jesus is Ezekiel’s Temple, from Him the Spirit flows like a river, giving abundant life. Imagine each of us to be a small little stream on our own, trickling through the forrest this dry summer. Jesus calls you, calls us. In a Telkwa moment, Jesus says, “Flow into my river. Let my Spirit flow around, over, beneath and through You. Join my river and you will never, ever run dry.” This is the Telkwa moment in the life of Faith. The Spirit flows from Jesus into us, and from us the Spirit gives life to the world.

What if we were a Telkwa Church? A church of gathering waters. A church that knows Jesus is our headwater, who gathers us all into the River of His Spirit. Can we be singleminded as we drink from Jesus, our headwaters? Can we be a church that is single minded about inviting others to join in the stream of Jesus, in a Telkwa moment of faith. After all, that is who we said that we are. We are a Telkwa Church. We are a church of gathering waters.

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