Becoming fully alive
A discussion on your path

"I am thirsty."

| Wisdom

Good Friday March 30, 2018


28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. (John 19:28-29)


Jesus is stripped of everything he has.

His loses his friends, his clothing, his strength.

The systems in his body are shutting down

as the life force drains from him.

“I am thirsty.”

Those simple words are the final pronouncement

before declaring the end.

The witnesses, feigning care, touch a sponge to his lips,

The soured wine just one more cruelty.


When I served as a chaplain in an ICU,

I often sat with patients as they were dying.

Some, unable to eat or drink, waited patiently for the end.

More than once a patient bloated with death

would beg for ice chips, knowing I could not

give them what they craved.

Like Jesus, all they had left was their thirst.


My friend Paul Jackson knew thirst.

And he loved Jesus with abandon.

When he first came to Church Without Walls

he hung out on the periphery.

After some weeks he called me over,

showed me where the numbers 666

were tattooed across his eyelid.

He was sure that he was too much of a badass for Church,

too much of a lost cause, even for Jesus.

I challenged him to keep coming back.


A few weeks later, he told me he had begun carrying

the Sunday scriptures in his pocket,

meditating on them, doggedly working to

extract every bit of meaning

and life that he could from them.

Three years ago yesterday, Paul came to our

Maundy Thursday Footwashing.

It was then that he decided to be baptized that Easter.


Paul experienced a relentless thirst,

as he searched restlessly for Jesus,

as he sought to find meaning and peace.

At times he felt such a strong sense of

the Holy Spirit that he glowed.

He told everyone around him about the love he experienced.


Paul faced many dark times as well.

His body was riddled with old injuries.

He was stooped over and listed dramatically

to one side as he hobbled along, leaning on his cane.

(The image of Paul riding his bike, his cane balanced

across the handle bars, Is something you don't forget.)


From time to time Paul relapsed into active addiction.

Sometimes with crystal meth, sometimes on heroin.

It was just before this past Christmas when

he and his beautiful girlfriend Theresa

overdosed on heroin.

Paul survived.

He struggled from then on to

come to terms with the reality that

he was spared while his beloved Theresa died.

Then, in late February Paul was found dead in his tent,

a needle still in his arm.


Many people would regard this story as

one of failure and futility.

But if we are willing to look hard enough,

we will find Jesus in the midst of such struggle and pain.


Some research shows that the drive to produce great art

and the tendency to give oneself over to addiction

are two sides of the same coin.

Paul experienced deep and consuming thirst.

At times he sought relief in self-destructive behavior.

At times this intensity drew him to Jesus.

His persistent struggle to know and follow Jesus

touched many of us profoundly.

He will not be forgotten.

He did not live – or die -- in vain.


What if we could learn to recognize within

the intense urges and varied inclinations of daily life

the deep, deep longing for God?


What if we could recognize moments of

staggering temptation or resignation as turning points,

as a call to abandon ourselves utterly to God?


What if we could recognize our own unquenchable

thirst as a gift, a special grace pleading with us to

turn to the One who created everything that is?


Yesterday a frail woman named Lucinda

came to have her feet washed.

She couldn't have been more than 80 pounds.

She shared with us that she had been fighting cancer

and learned just this week that there was nothing

more to be done medically.


We prayed with her, held her gently as her feet were washed.

We welcomed and affirmed her tears,

her honest expressions of fear, anger and sadness.

Even in her illness, the sheer power of the

life force within her was palpable.

As I looked into her eyes, the light of Christ

burned with a fevered intensity.


In spite of her pain and anguish,

she is facing the end with a visceral sense of determination.

She articulated a consuming desire to experience Jesus as

she walks this final leg of her journey.


When Jesus was at the end of his earthly journey.

his thirst was all that he had left.

Perhaps it was a grace that this thirst couldn't be quenched.


May we own our thirst in whatever form it comes.

May we embrace it and offer it up,

an honest prayer,

always reaching,

forever hoping.





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