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The Water Gate

January 17, 2022

He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.”  (Nehemiah 8:3)

The term watergate has come to refer to illegal and clandestine activities, based on the scandal during the Nixon presidency when five men were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters located in the Watergate office complex in Washington D. C.  It was a painful time in our nation’s history.

But the Water Gate referred to in Sunday’s Old Testament text has a much different meaning.[1] The Water Gate in Jerusalem where Ezra read from Scripture was the distribution point for water for the city. It was a life-giving and sustaining place. 

Reading Scripture at the Water Gate was in itself a metaphor for giving life-sustaining sustenance to the people: “He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law”  (Nehemiah 8:3).  Nehemiah records that Ezra read from sacred Scripture all morning, and “the people listened attentively.”  They realized that they were hearing the life-sustaining word of God. It was a time of spiritual revival in Jerusalem.  A remnant of God’s people had returned from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem.  After enduring a period of oppression, they were hungry for God’s Word. 

Scripture, like water, is life-sustaining and life-giving.  It refreshes us, it cleanses us, it comforts us, it heals us.  The use of water at our baptism symbolizes the washing away of our sin, and the beginning of a new life with Christ. We are cleansed by the Holy Spirit at our baptism.  When a person’s heart and soul are open to receiving the Word, hearing the spoken Word is balm to our open wounds.   But a person who is not open to the truth of Scripture does not react in the same way. 

When Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue in Nazareth, the people were not ready to hear what he had to say: “Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  . . . ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4: 16-21). The people in his hometown were not ready to hear that he was the one Isaiah prophesized would be sent by God to set them free.  They were not ready to be nourished by the Son of God.  They were not ready to receive the life-giving force of Jesus from him as a person through whom the Scripture was fulfilled.  And can we blame them?  Even two thousand years later, with all of the non-Biblical history, archeology, and other proofs of Jesus’ authenticity as the Son of God, many people still have not opened their eyes and ears to God’s life-giving sustenance. 

Paul explained that “we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12: 13).  Paul is explaining here the cleansing effect of baptism when the Spirit fills us and stays with us throughout our lives.   We were baptized with life-sustaining water when the Holy Spirit entered our beings and took up residence.  

Are you ready to be nourished by the life-giving sustenance of God’s Word?  As water sustains, nourishes, heals, comforts us, so Scripture sustains, nourishes, heals, and comforts us.  Through Scripture, the Spirit guides, protects, instructs, and keeps us.  David sings “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19: 14).  All of Scripture is a Water Gate. It is a place to come to be refreshed.  A place to quench your thirst for the things of God.  A place to fill the empty holes in your heart.  A place to be cleansed.  A place to be comforted.  A place to be healed.  Scripture is the balm you need to heal your wounded and hurting soul.

Come to the Water Gate and receive the life-renewing force of sacred Scripture.

Prayer: Father, give us the desire to sit at the Water Gate to drink from the life-giving waterfall of your Word.  Saturate us with the cleansing, refreshing, healing, comforting, and thirst-quenching truths of your Word.  Help us lead others to the Water Gate so that the God-shaped holes in their hearts and souls can be filled with your life-sustaining Word.  Amen. 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Third Sunday after Epiphany are Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6; 8-10; Psalm 19: 1-14; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Luke 4: 16-30.

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