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Day 5—Monday, February 19

John 7:37-39

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “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.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Last summer I had the privilege of spending a few days backpacking with Leigh Sackett and Helen Favor as part of Leigh’s sabbatical. I am not new to backpacking, although I don’t get to do it often enough to stay in shape and my knees aren’t as understanding as they once were. Hiking a bit of the “roller coaster” portion of the Appalachian Trail through northern Virginia and continuing on to Harper’s Ferry was made extra challenging by high temperatures and suffocating humidity. Day two of the adventure wasn’t our longest day but it was tough – ten miles of hilly terrain with packs still laden with food and water, hoisted onto hips bruised and tender from the first day of hiking.

We arrived at our destination in the late afternoon, hot and sticky from the muggy air and nursing blisters, sore muscles, and aching feet, just to find the shelter’s water source was a quarter mile hike down a steep rocky trail. Abandoning packs, trading boots for crocs, and armed with small towels, we descended the hill to the spring, which was about a foot wide and a few inches deep. It wasn’t much but a passerby (thankfully there aren’t many of those deep in the woods) would have observed three women, giddy like children, splashing and laughing, reveling in a baptism of sorts. Water cold enough to numb your toes washing away the sweat and grime and pain of the day.

I wonder if the festival goers who heard Jesus’ invitation to “come and drink” might have been traveling on foot, carrying their belongings, and sleeping outside for days. I wonder if the promise of “rivers of living water” might have held a visceral appeal to a dirty, tired and thirsty crowd. Of course, we are told that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit but most of those hearing the invitation would just have been thinking about physical thirst. Like the festival goers, we know how it feels to be uncomfortably hot or terribly thirsty; I wonder how much we could be changed if we craved the Holy Spirit the way we crave a refreshing shower or a drink of cold water. May we eagerly anticipate the renewing gift of the Holy Spirit like a dip in cool water on a hot day.

-Lisa Goad



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