In Ecuador, in the little village El Chontal where the church is that I had the privilege of helping to build with my mother, I went walking around one day to see if I could find the river that I could hear. When you lay down to sleep at night, you can hear this river flowing in the distance, so I went out looking for it. I asked a man I met on the road and he said I couldn’t get to it. Then, I asked one of the young women whose family owns the hotel I was staying in, how I could get down to the river that I could hear.
“The dirty river?” I didn’t get it. “That main river is dirty. There’s a clean river you can go to.” Really? “Yes, it’s just outside of the town, right before the bridge, you go off to the right and down a path, it’s easy to find. People bathe and drink the water there.”
So I took the walk, and came to this river of pure water, there it was, nestled and hidden away. And you could make your way in through a few rocks and get a faint glimpse of the source: a little waterfall that started from who knows where.
Sure enough, later on in the day I tried to come back, and some people were bathing in the water, in the little lagoon, some after a hard day’s work, some after an even harder day’s work with their kids. This is really clean water, I thought!
When John the Baptist came to Jerusalem, he stood outside the mainstream. He invited people to come outside of the town, and to find clean water that they could bathe in and even drink. To prepare him for this mission, John the Baptist spent his time outside of the mainstream, in the wilderness – that was his home. I bet he had a lot of time to bathe in the clean waters and drink them. I bet he got really close to the source.
If we rely on the mainstream, then we’ve got a problem. The mainstream makes a lot of noise, it’s the one that’s close by, but … it’s dirty. Who doesn’t have a thousand emails and text and voice and facebook messages, and TV and internet and a thousand other distractions that reach right into our private lives everyday? And who feels refreshed by it? We have to get outside of the normal, everyday of our culture to find the clean river. When we come to Jesus, we reach the single stream of clean, vibrant water, we get close to the source of life. We can bathe and drink in it and get renewed. And when we love to do this, when we make this our home, a great thing happens.
We get ready for our life mission. We become like John the Baptist.
We give others the clean water.
“If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” (Jn 7:37-38)