The Waterworks

It was years ago – the church youth group had gone to an outing at some state park or another, I forget which one. Our teacher had us circle around a small pipe next to a hand-operated pump. We tried to keep our distance, the smell of rotten eggs was very strong.
“People used to come here from miles around just for this water … sulfur water. It was believed to be healthier than normal water. It was said to make crops grow better, food taste better, clothes be cleaner, and kids to grow up stronger. It wasn’t uncommon to see people bringing jugs that they would fill up and take home back with them.” The teacher began explaining.
And as our luck would have it, one of the campers from the nearby campgrounds happened to walk up and start pumping water into an empty milk jug. The fresh smell of sulfur burned in our nostrils. When the camper had gone, the teacher continued.
“Anyway, this pump wasn’t always here. It was installed to make it easier for people to access the water, to get it to them quicker. At first, it worked really well, but eventually, they realized that they had damaged it. As you saw just now, the water barely trickles out.”
In his conversation with the woman at the the well (John 4), Jesus told her about living water. It might be better to center the conversation on running water – as that’s close to what was meant. Wells and cisterns usually housed still water. One couldn’t always be certain how good the water was to use. (I saw a documentary where children in India were showing off their well, they explained that the fish in the bottom of it were serving an important purpose – if ever the fish died, they would all know that the water was polluted and it was unsafe for them to drink of it.) Running water, like water from rivers, was a powerful symbol of water that brings life. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Revelation 22 tells us that from God’s throne will flow the river of the water of life.
If water is a metaphor for Christianity, then we have to consider what people can do to/with water. Ancient Romans were known for building their aqueducts – which directed and moved water. Cisterns stored water. Wells could be dug to find water. In the same way, Christians can build structures to direct and move Christianity, places to store it, places to find it. But we have to take care that we don’t damage it in the process – like the sulfur well, the best of intentions doesn’t prevent us from destroying the thing we’re trying to preserve. We are pretty far removed from what was – the original Christianity in it’s original form. We can’t return to what was – but that doesn’t mean that what is should be what will be from now on – like water, all things are subject to change.

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...Anyway, that's just how I feel about it ... What do you think?

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