Summary: All Saints Day: God causes his saving grace to flow bringing the ’Water of Life’. God gathers his saints at the ’river’s shore’. We will be there one day too!
Some of the most beautiful places and some of the best times I can remember have happened at or near rivers. I was born and raised some 250 miles south of here in place called the Rio Grande Valley. I can still remember my science teacher saying, “This really isn’t a valley. This is a delta. We live in a place made possible by the Rio Grande River.”
James Michener in his book, Texas, said that this part of the State was part of, “El gran desplobado.” Literally this means, “The unpopulated expanse.” The sense Michener was trying to portray is that this region could not sustain human life. It was a vast, empty wasteland.
And yet, even before I was born, and up to now there has been a string of cities that extends up and down that part of the State. From the southern-most tip of Texas all along the Rio Grande River, small cities and towns have sprung up. And here’s the interesting thing, these towns and cities generally follow the path of the river for which the region is named – the Rio Grande River.
I’ve had a love for rivers and lakes and oceans as long as I can remember. One of the things that I love to see is how bodies of water seem to give life to places they touch. Water teams with life. Fish and plants and other aquatic life abound just under the surface. There are streams in the Rio Grande Valley that meander through places that are dry as a bone. But where a stream flows through dry, dusty ground, a swath of vegetation is spawned on either side. Streams and rivers nourish trees and lush growth all along their path. Cartographers depict this on maps by coloring the region along rivers green.
But now I want to tell you about another river – a river more awesome than any other I know about. This river is different because it doesn’t depend on rain or melting snow to fill it. You see, the water that this river carries is no ordinary water. The Scriptures call it the Water of Life. It flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb – Jesus Christ. Let me read to you from St. John’s Apocalypse:
Revelation 22.1-5: 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Rivers are great because the life they give is a consequence of their flow. You see, the seeds that sprout to life, the dry parched ground that is moistened, and the trees whose thirst is quenched – these did nothing to bring upon themselves the blessing the river gives them. They are blessed because - where the water flows - life appears.
God’s River, the one that carries the Water of Life is no exception. We offer the river nothing. We bring our parched, barren lives. We bring the lifeless dead earth of a sinful human nature. We bring our brokenness and the fiery passions that destroy relationships.
And then that water comes to us. We don’t cause it to flow our way. It comes because God sends it. It comes because of God’s love. It comes out of pure grace – God’s grace. And it changes the landscape of our lives. Where once lives were parched and dry and barren – life is germinated – because the river flows. Into places where dust flew and death abounded – life blossoms – because the river flows. Where there were scorched relationships – especially with our God – the fires were put out and life came – because the river flows.
God has provided us with that life-giving water. And if we follow that stream of water back, we will find that it started to flow from a hill – a hill called Golgotha. An Innocent by the name of Jesus Christ was killed by crucifixion on that hill. He died on a cross after being brutally mistreated. The Bible says that, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” He was killed to make peace between a holy God and sinful humanity. When Jesus died, the earth shook. The sky was darkened. And the veil that separated humanity from the holiness of God was torn in two.