12 July 2022 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
(Jeremiah 2:13 all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)
In the dismal swamps of the South of the United States, the lost traveler may see luminous lights formed by the gases of decaying matter floating in the air above the gloom. Lights usually point the way to better venues, but this light is referred to by swamp dwellers as Fool’s Fire, or “bioluminescence’ or, will-o’-the wisp (ignis fatuus). The weary traveler may follow this forlorn hope of light to his detriment, for they simply lead to deeper bogs and marshes. In our daily lives, our mortal imaginations are presented by many such false lights generated by the very Dark Prince of the Air as false beacons to happiness. But there is only one True Light that leads to the right way, and that Light is God’s Word.
In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyon relates an occasion when Pliable and Christian fall into the Slough of Despond. This is a boggy mire-like swamp where a pilgrim’s doubts, fears, temptations, lusts, shames, guilt, and sins of their present condition of being a sinner are used to sink them into the mud and quicksand of the swamp. Such are the travails of life! Left to his own devices, man is full of sin and evil imaginations. His heart is comparable to that dark swamp that presents false lights of hope in every wicked direction.
How did we find ourselves in this wasteland of grievous terrors and dark despair? It is the natural inclination of the sinful heart of man to seek out such mud and mire to the exclusion of that Light of God.
The life of a devoted Christian is much like the river rapids, white with tumultuous waters – clean and fresh. This life is never stale nor polluted because it is moving toward its destination in God. The water is actually cleansed and made anew by its rolling and scintillating nature. Our lives may be harsh at times, but we are being refined, moment by moment by the tribulations of life.
The life of the Christian believer is much like the Jordan River as its spring-fed waters cascade down the slopes of Mount Hermon in the North. Everywhere the Jordan flows in its river basin, there is lush, green life; and its waters are abundantly furnished with fish. The Jordan is full of life throughout its one-hundred-mile journey through the bustling, life-sustaining waters of the Sea of Galilee to its final destination in the Dead Sea.
However, as the Jordan wanders its fresh waters through desert country to the Dead Sea, a change takes place. Its waters are laden with rich minerals and, especially, salt. Since the Dead Sea selfishly retains every drop of water it receives, it is dead and without any properties to sustain life. The Jordan River dies in the Wilderness of the Dead Sea just as the greedy sinner dies in his wilderness of sin. The Dead Sea is likened to that Slough of Despond mentioned by Bunyon. The Sea of Galilee surrenders all it receives – the Dead Sea hordes all that it is given.
The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, and Dead Sea are much like a parable of the Life of Christ. Like the Jordan River whose origins is in the melting snows of Hermon, He descended from on High from the Fountain of Living Waters. Everywhere He went, He brought life. Finally, He gave Himself up as a sacrifice in the wilderness of our sins. He bore them all in His death, and he bears His promise of eternal life in His Resurrection. That dismal Slough pulls us down and down. The heavier our sins become, the more readily do we settle into that maelstrom of death. But there is One who stands beyond that Slough and Dead Sea ready to bear us up from certain destruction and death. If we hear His Voice, He will bear our sins as well, and we find our shoulders made light and that unbecoming yoke of our sins lifted as we take His yoke upon us that is easy to be borne: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)