Saturday, March 18, 2017

Broken Cisterns - Jeremiah 2;1-13

Jeremiah 2:1-13

2:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:
"'I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. 3 Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,'" declares the LORD.
4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel.
5 This is what the LORD says:
"What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me?They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. 6 They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?' 7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce.But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. 8 The priests did not ask,'Where is the LORD?'Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me.The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.
9 "Therefore I bring charges against you again," declares the LORD."And I will bring charges against your children's children. 10 Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods?(Yet they are not gods at all.)But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD. 13 "My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

John 4:7-15

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"  8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water ." 

11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water ? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  

Broken Cisterns                 Maynard Pittendreigh

Years ago I was in a church that was considering purchasing a new organ.  It wasn’t like Grace Covenant, which is blessed with this wonderful organ.  This church had an electric organ and it was on its last legs.  At times, it didn’t work at all, but thankfully we had the piano and so we always had music. 

After lots of fundraising activities and after looking at several different organs, we were just about to vote on which one to buy.  One of the committee members spoke up and said, “I don’t know about this.  This new organ is so expensive!  Do we really need a new one?  After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We sat there, stunned.  Finally one of the members of the committee spoke up and said, “the organ doesn’t make a sound – not a note.  What’s your definition of ‘ain’t broke?”

We really do become comfortable with things that are broken.

I think my son is mystified by me, because the automatic locks on my car don’t work.  I have to actually insert the key into the car door to unlock it – I can no longer push a button on the key ring and have the car doors unlock. 

I have to admit, it is nice to have the ability to unlock or lock a car door from several feet away, and on hot days I do miss pushing a button on my key chain to start the car before I get in – you know, get that air conditioning circulating before I sit in the car.

But it’s broke.  I don’t have the time to have it fixed, and I don’t want to let go of the money to get it fixed, so I live with it.

Are you like that sometimes?

Something is broke, and you just live with it.

The kitchen cabinet door is loose.  You live with it.

The light bulb in the garage is burned out.  You live with it.

Now – important things get fixed.

The television.  That has to be working.

The airconditioning?  Absolutely. 

Broken tooth?  Call the dentist right now.

In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, the people are drinking from a broken cistern.

Some of you may not know what a cistern is.  A cistern is important in many parts of the world, but not so much here in Orlando.

A cistern is a place you dig out of the ground, or out of rock, to collect water.  Some of us use things like cisterns today to collect rain water from the roof and gutters so we can water our flowers later in the week. But in many cultures, and certainly in the culture of the Old Testament, a cistern was a way of gathering water for drinking.

And in Jeremiah, the people are drinking from a broken cistern.  Water is leaking out, dirt is leaking in.  And the people get used to it and just live with it.

But in our Old Testament lesson, water is more than just liquid to drink – it is a symbol of spiritual life.  

We see this especially clearly in our New Testament lesson.  Jesus is talking to the woman at the well.  They are talking about water, but as is often the case in the Gospel of John, Jesus is on one level, and the people are on a different wavelength all together.  The woman is talking about the liquid water, but Jesus is talking about spiritual life – “I am the living water,” he tells her.

In Jeremiah, God is talking about how the people are drinking from broken cisterns – but it is more than that – the broken cisterns are symbolic of the broken spiritual lives of the people.  They have lost their passion for God.  Something in their spiritual life has broken and they are just accepting that and not doing anything to renew and revive their spiritual relationship with God.

God is offering living water.
And the people are drinking from broken cisterns.

God is offering us abundant life.
And people accept a broken life of scarcity.

God offers us peace of mind.
And many are driven back to a broken life of drama and anxiety.

How many of you are drinking from broken cisterns?

How many of you are accepting LESS from God than what God is trying to provide?

God is calling us to a life of meaning, and purpose, and value, and peace of mind, and love.

But most of us settle for less. 

God calls us to pray daily, but we pray whenever things are going badly.  We don’t pray for others.  We don't offer prayers of thanksgiving when things are going well.  Our prayer life is lacking, because we are drinking from a broken cistern and we are not praying daily and continually.

God calls us to worship weekly.  But Sunday morning comes and the bed feels so good.  And Disney and Universal are open.  And it is sunny at the beach.  And we are dinking from a broken cistern.  God offers us so much, and we accept far less.

On Thursday night your elders met and one of the elders offered a devotional.  It was a story about a member of a church who had been attending worship weekly, but more recently had neglected attending church.  The pastor decided to visit him.  It was a chilly evening and the pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire - obviously not someone who lived here in Orlando, Florida!

Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him in, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited.  The pastor made himself comfortable, but said nothing.  He simply took the fire tongs and carefully picked one of the brightly burning embers and placed it to the side of the hearth, all alone.  Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.  The one lone ember's flame diminished.  It was soon dead as a doornail.  

Then, still without speaking, the pastor took the cold ember and pushed it closer to the fire.  It began to glow red once again. 

As the pastor got up to leave, the church member said, "Thank you so much for your visit and for your fiery sermon.  I will be back in church this Sunday."

When we no longer commit ourselves to frequent and regular worship of God our spiritual relationship with God becomes broken.  Our passion for God is threatened.  We find ourselves drinking from broken cisterns.  

It is the same with the study of Scriptures.  God calls us to read and study the Scriptures.  And we might read a verse posted on Facebook or on the church sign, but we are not allowing the Word of God to permeate our lives.  We drink from broken cisterns.

When we don't practice our spiritual disciplines, we find ourselves living in a broken relationship with God.  Our passion for God diminishes and we no longer live an abundant life, but a life of scarcity.

We don’t share the good news of Christ with others.  We don’t practice generosity.  We don’t serve our neighbors or reach out to strangers.

We have become accustomed to the broken spiritual life, and we don’t look for something richer and deeper.

It is like the cabinet door in the kitchen that is loose.  We’ll fix it eventually, but for now we just live with it.

Drinking from broken cisterns.  We settle for less than what God desires of us, and when that happens, we find ourselves being led away from God.

 Instead of finding our security in God, we try to find it in money.  But the money disappears.

Instead of finding our identity in God, we try to find it in our profession.  And we begin to feel empty inside.

Instead of finding comfort in God, we try to find it in pleasure, but that is so temporary.

But God does not want us to settle for less than what he offers us.

He does not call us to live life with scarcity, or with adequacy, but with abundance.

He calls us to drink deeply from the living water, not from broken cisterns.

Years ago I was visiting a church in Atlanta, Georgia, and right across the street was a Mom and Pop restaurant.  It was probably well known in the neighborhood.  They had a big sign that read, “serving food that tastes good for 50 years.” 

The church across the street had a big banner also.  It said, “serving food that satisfies… for 2,000 years.”

When it comes to your relationship with Christ, don’t just take a sip now and then.  Don’t give Christ half your life.  Give Christ your full life.  Give him everything.  Worship weekly, not occasionally.  Pray without ceasing, not just now and then.  Immerse yourself in the Word all the time. 

Don’t settle for less than God is offering.  Give God your whole life and drink in the fullness of Christ.

And now unto God the Father,
God the Son,
And God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, power, dominion and glory, today and forever, Amen.

Copyright 2017. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.