Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’
© January 28, 2018 by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message shared with BLCF on July 27, 2014
Opening Hymn #155: “Man of Sorrows,” What a Name; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests
Responsive Reading #664: About Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)
Message by Steve Mickelson:
‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’
Let Us Pray…
Welcome to BLCF. Our lesson today is about discernment with respect to people, objects or circumstance that have the ability to act to either facilitate or hamper us from walking the righteous path, which is what the Lord desires for all his children.
You may recall a few years ago, a television commercial for a portable label printer, where a person received such a label maker for Christmas and proceeded to label everything in sight, including the family pet. While we may have a laugh and giggle at the idea of getting carried away with a label maker, it does reflect the human tendency to place a sign or label on things.
A sign can have on of several functions: it can denote a significant location by its distance from a specified starting point or to identify it as a destination point. Other signs are erected to convey to the reader specific information, to post a caution or warning, or to give the reader instructions or directions.
On your way to BLCF Church, this morning, you likely passed over a dozen such signs for every block off travel. If you walked here, you passed signs indicating: street names, which side of the street to cross; company names and a description of the product or service offered; restaurant menus and pricing; and so on. Those who travelled by bus or the subway saw additional signs denoting bus or train direction or destination, caution signs and markings; potential fine or punishment for pushing the emergency stop; and so on. Drivers to BLCF, encountered signs indicating traffic directions, detours, corner stops, pedestrian crosswalks, and so on. And all travellers looked for the number, name of the church building.
Because Toronto is a multi-cultural city populated by a diverse multi-national population, a sign in the English or French Language is insufficient to convey a message for which it is purposed. That is why signs follow an international signage standard, with the colour, shape and orientation help to convey important information. Red or hexagon indicates stop; yellow or triangle tells us caution and green circles or arrows represent that it is safe. To control vehicle and pedestrian traffic, lights are used, using colour lights augmented by the characters of a walking person or hand, respectively for go or stop, with a numeric countdown to when the signal will change being displayed. Those who are colour blind know, that red, yellow, and green lights are located respectively at the top, middle, or bottom or left, middle and right, depending upon the light’s orientation. For the visually impaired, traffic lights may emit different pitched sounds to indicate their status, while signs may have Braille markings. For travellers, besides maps, we have GPS devices or GPS Aps for cell phones and other devices, to help us know our location and destination. But using signs to mark the way is not a new invention. Street numbers and milestones have been with us for some time, as we see in our Wikibits description:
Milestones were originally stone obelisks – made from granite, marble, or whatever local stone was available – and later concrete posts. They were widely used by Roman Empire road builders and were an important part of any Roman road network: the distance travelled per day was only a few miles in some cases. Many Roman milestones only record the name of the reigning emperor without giving any place names or distances. The first Roman milestones appeared on the Appian Way. At the Centre of Rome, the “Golden Milestone” was erected to mark the presumed Centre of the empire: this milestone has since been lost. The Golden Milestone inspired the Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C., intended as the point from which all road distances in the United States should be reckoned. Odometers were used to measure the Roman milestone spacing, most likely based on Ancient Greek Technology.[citation needed
A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile. They are typically located at the side of the road or in a median. They are alternatively known as mile markers, mileposts or mile posts (sometimes abbreviated MPs). Mileage is the distance along the road from a fixed commencement point.
Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travelers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination. Today, such references are also used by maintenance engineers and emergency services to direct them to specific points where their presence is required. This term is sometimes used to denote a location on a road even if no physical sign is present. This is useful for accident reporting and other record keeping (e.g., “an accident occurred at the 13 mile mark” even if the road is only marked with a stone once every 10 miles).
We have touched upon the purpose of signs we may encounter in our commute to and from church, but what about the signs used by the church? BLCF Church can be identified by the street number, 1307; by the name placed on the signs on side and the marquee on the front; by person helping another LOGO on the signs; and finally by the cross placed on the front of the building. For our Wednesday community dinner, we place a sign with the name “BLCF Café Community Dinner, the hours 6-8PM, and All Are Welcome” with a picture of a steaming bowl of soup placed beside the front entrance of BLCF Church.
In spite of the redundancy of function and smart technologies, we still can get lost or confused. In that regard the milestone becomes a millstone for our journey. And what do I mean by millstone? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us, the following definition:
mill·stone noun \ˈmil-ˌstōn\
: either one of two large, round stones used for grinding grain in a mill
: a problem or responsibility that does not go away and that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something
When misdirected or lost, if we are fortunate, we may find someone to give us directions. And if we are very fortunate, that person gives us the correct and accurate directions.
A few birthdays ago, we traveled with my daughter, the birthday girl, for a day in High Park. During the visit, I noted how often signs were posted: park benches dedicated in honour of a deceased friend or family member, there were signs posted at the zoo identifying, by means of both illustration and description, the various animals at their enclosures. The animal’s identification included the species, place of origin, and other pertinent facts.
On a recent visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, I noted how all the displays contained signs which identified the artifact, indicating the place and date of origin, its use and significance to the society of the time, as well as location and date that it was made. If you venture to the Royal Botanical Gardens, you will see signs identifying the name, species and origin of a variety of flora throughout the gardens and greenhouses.
What about the various signs and symbols in the Scriptures? How do we navigate and understand their meanings. How can we best utilize God’s signs to guide us on our Christian walk? And how can we discern whether a sign is really from the Lord? There as signs and indicators found on today’s Scripture, which gives us the account of an encounter between the Lord and a Samarian woman at a well.
John 4:1-45 (ESV) Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
4 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. Footnotes: a. John 4:6 That is, about noon b. John 4:14 Greek forever
We have in today’s Scriptures, an account of Jesus encountering a Samaritan woman at a well, asking for water, using the request to speak to her about the Water of Life. What does it signify? In his reference to water that is living literal or metaphorical? Let us check our Wikibits for a definition:
Wikibits: Water of Life (Christianity) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In Christianity the term “water of Life” (Greek: ὕδωρ ζωῆς hydōr zōēs) is used in the context of living water, specific references appearing in the Book of Revelation (21:6 and 22:1), as well as the Gospel of John. In these references, the term Water of Life refers to the Holy Spirit.[3
In the secular world, we do have examples of signs that are represent something quite literal, for example Alberta’s “Wild Rose Country” and Pennsylvania’s “Keystone State” in contrast to more ethereal examples found with Ontario’s “Yours To Discover” and Texas’ “Drive Friendly”. But the term “living water” is a term that falls in the spiritual realm. Jesus was speaking about something that could be described as being either tangible or intangible, or simply supernatural, but something related to faith and the soul, something supernaturally of and about God.
Back to the Scripture account, it was interesting that the disciples returned and were surprised to find Jesus in conversation with a Samaritan woman. The reason why they were surprised may be echoed in the parenthetical comment in the passage: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans).
While the Samaritan woman, and later others from the town believed the message of the Lord, there are others who are without true faith in the Lord not only expected, but demanded, a supernatural sign from God to authenticate the testimony that they head or the Scriptures read.
Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV) The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs
16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:2 Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3
The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the teachings of Jesus, where he often used both the parable and metaphor. In John 4, we have an account where Jesus uses the literal request to the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, to discuss baptism by the Holy Spirit as a metaphoric baptism in “living water,” John 4, starting at verse 7:
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Footnotes: a. John 4:14 Greek forever
Some Christians may have difficulty discerning when Jesus uses a metaphorical example from the literal. In his discussion with the Samarian woman, he compares water drawn from a well with the living water, which is a metaphor for the God’s Holy Spirit. Christ is not telling the woman to jump in the well nor to go into the Jordan River.
Sometimes even the Disciples, as well, have difficulty with Christ’s metaphors, as we read in the account of The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, from Matthew 16:5-12, which is another example of Jesus teaching by metaphor, where Christ uses bread as a metaphor for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He is not warning his Disciples about the dangers of baked goods!
In spite of the gift of Christ’s salvation and the help from the Spirit, some will ignore the promptings from the Spirit, allowing themselves to be misguided and separated from the Lord.
Matthew 24:15-28 (ESV) The Abomination of Desolation
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
But do not lose hope. For while we sometimes stray or lose our way, we our blest not just by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. We share, in one body, other vessels of the Holy Spirit, who are able to help us get back on track, in direction that God intended us to follow. Let us rely upon the love and support of our fellow believers in our time of need, as integral parts of the body of believers comprising the church. For God intended that we not to be left alone, when we get lost on our Christian Walk or feel bereft in our hour of need. The Lord desires us to rely upon our fellow believers as we are united in the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) One Body with Many Members
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark
Benediction – (Philemon 1:25):
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.