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The words of Jesus in John 7:38 are an invitation to the thirsty

The words of Jesus in John 7:38 are an invitation to the thirsty, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” This image of a wellspring of life and flourishing is offered for the person grounded in Christ, one who, according to Jeremiah, “is like a tree planted by streams of water.” It is in rooting ourselves in the guidance and truth of God that the refreshing and sustaining waters of the Spirit arise.

Throughout scripture, the Spirit of God appears in moments where life, fullness, and relationship are fostered. At the genesis of creation, the Spirit hovers over the waters, inviting the abundance and interconnectedness of life. Isaiah 44 offers an image of streams of water on the dry ground and the Lord’s promise to pour out the Spirit. Later, the prophet Isaiah speaks the Lord’s invitation to the thirsty (Is. 55) in a call to listen and remember the Lord’s provision, while imploring his people to participate, to seek the Lord and move according to his ways. The passage moves profoundly from thirst to joy. The waters mentioned in verse 1 are abiding and transcend our deepest draught. The same Spirit who hovers over the waters in the beginning, dwells in our beings today, promising and providing the water of life in our wilderness.

The Spirit also beckons us to participate in the movement of God’s Kingdom, as a unique and diverse tapestry of communities, individuals, and hearts committed to the work of justice and transformation. Isaiah 55:5 gives us an image of the nations coming together: “Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you.” This calls to mind the migrations, movements, exiles and gatherings of people in our recent history, responding to economic and social change, gentrification, and displacement. Scripture provides us with an image of streams of living water that is representative of not only the nations coming together but a gathering of people, bringing their unique stories and burdens to the table, in a collaborative effort to work towards a common goal of shalom. The CCDA National Conference is a convergence of these particular and valuable streams into a collective movement towards the cultivation of our communities. We recognize the disparity between the image of scripture and the reality of our isolated efforts. The 2016 National Conference is a call to a different reality, with a renewed sense of the life and vision of partnership and collaboration.

Furthermore, our annual gathering is a necessary place of refreshing and sustaining the spirit and soul of our practitioners. The LA Conference has the potential to be a turning point, casting a vision for the future of the CCDA familia and propelling us forward with a renewed vision of God’s Kingdom and calling us back to the living and everlasting water Jesus speaks of. When we consider how God sustains us, in our lives and in our ministry, it means he will be present with us in our wilderness. Yet, he does not promise we will be without wilderness. Earlier in Isaiah it says the wilderness prepares the way for the Lord. The Spirit invites us to abide in that space, blessing the heartache and lamenting together, as we allow ourselves to be led forth in peace, with the promise of life and fullness.

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