the penultimate WORD
Series 1998 - Proper 22 Canon Jim Irvine
There is a crack... a crack in everything. / Thatís how the light gets in.


Two sins have my people committed (says the LORD): they have forsaken me, a spring of living water, and they have hewn out for themselves cisterns, cracked cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2 :13 )


Through the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD makes two observations. They speak to the relationship between the children of Israel and God. They happen to be sins.

The children of Israel had forsaken God. And they had hewn out for themselves cisterns.

God had been forsaken. No longer was reliance on God seen as an essential character of the relationship. As essential as water. In fact, the metaphor used in this instance is that God is a spring of living water. Letís be clear about this: thirst continued. New sources of life-sustaining water were sought.

And, in addition, the children of Israel had hewn out cisterns for themselves. They required containers for water and they made provision for this by hewing out cisterns. Their problem was, the cisterns they dug out were cracked. They couldnít hold any water. Water they collected in them, refreshing as it was, could not be contained. It would seep away.

The children of Israel present two timeless examples of the nature of sin. They turn their back on God. And they place their reliance on their own capacity. Theyíre convinced that their own efforts will suffice.

The passage in Jeremiah brings to mind the occasion when Jesus was in Jerusalem, at the Temple. The passages stand in sharp contrast. John recorded the event in his gospel account.

On the last and greatest day of the festival Jesus stood and cried aloud, "If anyone is thirsty let him come to me; whoever believes in me, let him drink."

As scripture says, "Streams of living water shall flow out from within him " (John 7: 37f. )

Jesusí invitation is for anyone who is thirsty to come to him. They are no longer to be forsaking, but to return. And then, they are to drink.

The image is helpful in understanding our relationship God intends for us.

We have become the containers, cracked as we are, broken as we are, but assured of the living water welling up within us. Not forsaking God, but recognising our need for life and wholeness, we approach God and our thirst is quenched.

Jesus affirms us as the container, cracked and broken though we are.

In his song, Anthem, Leonard Cohen gives expression to a valuable insight with the refrainÖ

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack... a crack in everything.
Thatís how the light gets in.

Once we thought, all that met our needs could be contained, and contained outside ourselves. But we discover that Godís grace meets our needs in a sustaining way, and that cannot be contained except within ourselves. Artesian streams of living water flow into our lives through the cracks and brokenness. Healing and forgiveness make their own opportunities!

God meets our essential thirst and in that blessing, graciously through our own limitations, our own brokenness, we become conduits of Godís sustaining love, forgiveness and forbearance to others. Others, who have forsaken God, rely on their own effort.

Copyright © 1998 James T. Irvine

Series 1998