The Source and Flow of Life
Joel 3: 16-18 & John 7: 37-39
Reverend Kenneth E. Kovacs
Catonsville Presbyterian Church
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time/ 6th August 2006
Most weeks, as the ushers bring forward the offering, we sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow: Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, & Holy Ghost.” Small, simple phrases (written in 1693), sung to a familiar tune (from 1551). It’s so familiar that we probably don’t even realize what we’re saying. But we present our offerings to God and praise God for them because we acknowledge this important Biblical truth: all blessings flow from God.
Throughout Scripture, God is viewed as source. God is the source of life, the source of love, the source of light. God is the source of goodness, the source of justice, the source of everything that is good. From God, as source, flows forth blessing upon blessing upon the earth, grace upon grace upon God’s people. Blessing, in our text from Joel, is viewed as the flowing of water. Favor is bestowed in the form of things that flow - like water, like blessings, like grace, or like justice.2 Did not Amos cry, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream (Amos 65:24)”? In the text from John, Jesus tells us what life is like when we’re in relationship with him. “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
One of John Calvin’s (1509-1564) favorite images for God, and one that has become important to me, is the picture of God as a font of all goodness - fons omnium bonorum.3 The fountain of God’s love flows unceasingly. God’s love is poured out upon all people through Christ. Whatever grace, whatever love, whatever goodness, peace, joy, and even justice we experience in our lives flows from the heart of God, whose blessings flow out upon God’s children.
But often we can't see the blessing, or feel it, or believe it. Sometimes we can't sense the fountain drenching us with blessing. Sometimes we feel the Spirit is flowing in others, blessing them, showering them with goodness, but not in us. Maybe you feel showered with judgment or criticism or even punishment, not blessing. Blessings for others, but not for me. If that's true for you, then how do we get the river of life flowing again? What's hindering the flow of Christ's life-giving waters in your life?
Let me tell you a story. Many years ago, I suffered from chronic bronchitis. I had been to doctor after doctor, tried different antibiotics, nothing worked. Someone suggested that I see a chiropractor. I had been to one years before after being in a car accident, so I was open to going again. I started going twice a week, and then in a few weeks my sinuses cleared, as did the infection in my chest. I went to one for years, stopped, but recently started seeing one again. Now, what I’m going to share is not a recommendation for chiropractic. I am not suggesting that chiropractors are better than a general internist. I still go to an internist. I’m not implying that anyone here should try chiropractic. (But if you’re curious, I can recommend a good one.)
Chiropractic is not simply a technique to heal back pain. It is a unique approach to overall health and healing of the entire body.4 “It is not very complex to understand that all living things consist of both matter and energy - the human being is no exception. We are matter (the body with all of its organs and parts) which is kept alive and functioning by energy,” we could call is Life Energy. The brain is the source of this power. It generates the Life Energy needed to keep us alive. “In order for the Life Energy to get from the brain to all the organs and parts of the body, it needs something to carry it. Just as electrical energy travels over wires, Life Energy travels over the wiring system of our bodies, the Nervous System. Life Energy flows from the Brain, down to a thick master cable, the Spinal Cord, which carries it to the trunk, and then the energy travels out to the whole body over the spinal nerves. These nerves, these wires, divide and travel throughout the entire body, to supply it with life.”
“But what can reduce the flow of Life Energy? The brain is the only organ encased in solid bone. The spinal cord - the extension of the brain running down the back - is also vital to life and health, a thick cable consisting of billions of delicate nerve givers carry?? the Life Energy from the brain to the body. These nerves need to be protected, but they cannot be completely encased. The nerves move through the twenty-four vertebrae in the spine, and from the spine, the nerves bring life from the brain to all the organs of the body.”
“Now, any of the twenty-four moveable spinal bones can be wrenched out of place by many of our daily jolts, bumps, twists, slips or jars. We all do dozens of things everyday that can knock or wrench one of these spinal bones out of place. When this happens the bone will press on a nerve, irritate it, and thus interfere with the transmission of energy from the brain to the body. It will decrease the flow of life into some part of the body. Chiropractors have a name for a bone in the spine that has slipped out of its normal place and gotten stuck - out of position. It is called a sublaxation. The bone is not broken, fractured or dislocated, just stuck out of place. Eventually, the sublaxated bone will begin to pinch, then irritate, and finally interfere with the spinal nerves that carry Life Energy from the brain to the body. Sublaxations are like short circuits in that they deprive parts of the body of full energy. What chiropractors then do is adjust the bones, gently placing them back into place, which then allows a free flow of Life Energy from your brain to the rest of your body. After an adjustment, the Life Energy is free to flow from the source of power, in the brain, to the rest of the body.”
Pray. Prayer is the best way of not only identifying the blockages, but of opening yourself up to the flow of the Spirit, working with God.
Meditate (which is different from prayer). Meditate on God’s Word - study the scriptures, especially the Psalms, allowing the words of the Bible become your words to God, listen for the voice of God. This requires being still and calming your mind.
When the river of God’s love starts to flow in us and through us, then the healing comes. It brings us to life, and through us, God brings life to the world. But it has to flow. “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow ….”
This Doxology was written in 1693 by the English Protestant minister, Thomas Ken (1637-1711) and set to the tune OLD HUNDREDTH from the Genevan Psalter of 1551.
2See also Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, (New York: Harper & Row, 1990) for the creative dimensions of flow experiences. This work has informed my thinking here. Although, Csikszenmihalyi, influenced by a reductionistic social-science perspective, lacks a theological, or specifically Christological framework for understanding human experience.
3See B. A. Gerrish, Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), p. 26. Cf. also the quotation in the bulletin, “Spirit of life and of power,/ Now flow in us, fount of our being,/ Light that enlightens us all,/ Life that in all may abide.” Venatius Honorius Fortunatus (c. 530-609), Bishop of Poitiers, France.
4I will be quoting at length from a brochure entitled “Searching for Health,” that summarizes chiropractic.
 “In the middle of the journey of life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell of that wood, savage and harsh and dense, the thought of which renews my fear! So bitter is it that death is hardly more. But to give account of the good which I found there I will tell of the other things I noted there.” Canto I.
 Socrates (470-399 BC).