“I am the river that flows through poverty, prisons and pain.And then all were to read:
I am the river that flows unafraid of war, violence and madness.
I am the river that flows boldly through our streets, cities and nations.
I am the river of courage, kindness and love.”
“We are the rivers of hope flowing deep and wide.”In another place the liturgy as the gathering of community was:
"I am the Pishon River that flows through the land of Arabia.
I am the Gihon River that winds through Ethiopia.
I am the Tigris River that flows to the Persian Gulf.”And then all read:
“We are all the Rivers of Hope.”All of this, in my mind, bled into part of the reading for communion, which was both traditional and different. The difference was the troubling part:
“Today we bring bread to Christ’s table,This is a mistake, an error. The bread and wine are not gifts given through the works of Christians. The bread and wine are a symbol of the gift Jesus gives to his body the Church. They are a sign that he feeds us continually because of his shed blood and broken body. In our union with him we are nourished. The communion is given by Christ Jesus—he blesses his Church with his life and his presence. The works of the church follow and they include not only good works of help and advocacy but also the right preaching of the word and the good teaching of the gospel.
made by many people’s work from an unjust world
where some have plenty and must go hungry.
At this table, all are fed and no one is turned away.
We bring wine, made by many people’s work
from an unjust world where some have leisure and must struggle to survive.
At this table, all share the cup of pain and celebration and no one is denied.
These gifts shall be for us the body and blood of Christ,
our witness against hunger, our cry against injustice,
and our hope for a world where God is fully known and every child is fed.
So come, there is a place at the table for you.”
The Scripture text that featured Jesus and the Samaritan woman was only touched on in one sermon—and his position as the giver of life by death and resurrection was absent. The generic name ‘God’ was over used. But more importantly the river in many ways became a substitute for the cross. It seemingly was used to pull all together in community and advocacy without offending anyone.
At least one Reformer, John Calvin, saw the river in Ezekiel 47: 1-10 as a prophetic word pointing to the coming good news of Christ’s salvation. And certainly, taking the whole Scripture together, Jesus words about living waters spoken to the Samaritan woman are connected to his death and resurrection as well as his life. The cross cannot be disconnected from John 4:1-42. The living waters given here cannot be given without the death and resurrection of Jesus. And the living waters, the gift of the Holy Spirit are tied intimately to Jesus and his work. Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit who only and always lifts up Christ Jesus our Lord.