James 1:22-27; Ezekiel 47:6b-12
Peter Marshall, one of America's most famous 20th century preachers,
once told a story about a village that was struggling to cut its budget.
Those in charge settled on an obscure item
that no one understood very well, but that certainly seemed to be expendable.
The item was the salary of a quaint old man who lived in the hills
above the village and who had the title, "Keeper of the Springs."
What they did not understand or appreciate
was that this man's job was to keep clean
the natural springs in the hills that fed the city water system.
It didn't seem necessary for someone to roam around these hills for this purpose,
so when the crunch came, the keeper of the springs was fired
and they built a concrete reservoir instead.
In time, however, the water from their new reservoir became fouled.
It took several years for this change to happen and by the time it did
many people had forgotten what and who it was
that had kept their water source so clean for so long.
When they did recall that it was the "Keeper of the Spring" that made it so good before,
they found him and hired him back.
In time the waters were restored to their natural cleanliness and life
in the little village returned to its former health and wholesomeness.
Marshall applied this image to the place of mothers in our homes
who are the keepers of the clean water of the springs of our lives.
On this Mother's Day we need to be reminded
about the role of the keeper of the springs.
In our rapidly changing complex world
it may not always or only be the mother who holds the family together,
it could also be the father.
It also is a useful metaphor as we look around us these days
at the pollutants that have spoiled our culture.
Our water has been polluted because we have turned away from God.
We can add some cleansing solutions to some of the dirt
and we can patch up some of the fresh wounds,
but what we really need to do is to look unto the hills
to find the source of the troubles
and restore the keeper of our springs of fresh water.
Ezekiel's vision captures the same power of water to restore and sustain life
when he is led to the bank of a river and sees great trees growing on either side.
He also sees this river feeding into a sea of stagnant water and making the water fresh.
Ezekiel tells us that this water that sustains life flows from the sanctuary.
Don't be satisfied with any water other than
the holy water of God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ.
Nothing else will transform the stagnant waters of our culture.
Families are the keepers of our springs.
The first thing we can all do is to re-invest in our own families.
How well does your family work
to keep the springs of the waters of life clean and fresh
as they flow from the sanctuary?
How hard do you work to keep worship
at the center of your weekly schedule?
A high school teacher in New York wanted to tell her graduating seniors
how much they had meant to her.
She called each one up and gave them a blue ribbon that said,
"Who I Am Makes a Difference."
Then she gave each of them three blue ribbons embossed
with the same words and asked each student to pass them on to others.
One student went to a junior executive in a local company
who had helped him with his career planning.
Then this young man went to his boss and gave him a ribbon.
His boss had been a bit of a grouch but the junior executive
still gave him the ribbon and told him that he was a creative genius in his work
and he admired him very much.
He asked if he would give the last blue ribbon to someone important to him.
On the way home the boss decided he would give the blue ribbon to his 14-year-old son.
When he got home, he called his son into his study and said something like this:
"Johnny, I was given this ribbon at work today by one of my junior executives
who thanked me for being a creative genius in my work.
It meant so much to me that I wanted to give you the third ribbon.
After your mother you are the most important person in the world to me.
I know I have often neglected you and screamed at you about your grades,
but I want you to know that I love you and you are very important to me."
Johnny broke down in tears and sobbed and sobbed.
He said he had just written a letter to his parents
that they would read the next day
and that explained why he had killed himself that night
after everyone went to bed!
The gift of the blue ribbon transformed both father and son
as they experienced what it means to refresh the stagnant waters of their lives.
The first way we can serve our failing culture is by our devotion to our own families.
Share your love for one another and do not neglect
to be a keeper of the springs to each other daily!
The second thing we can do is to recognize that the families
with only one parent are stretching the task of the keeper of the springs to the limit.
Statistics are sobering on children growing up in one-parent households.
Ron Sider in his telling book, Just Generosity, says this:
The best single predictor of whether a child will suffer
the agony of poverty is whether Mom and Dad are married.
Marital status is a better predictor of who will become poor
than education, race, neighborhood or family background.
The data is stunning.
Children in one-parent families are eleven times
more likely to experience persistent poverty
than children in two-parent families.
Seventy-three percent of all children from one-parent families
fall into poverty at some point in their childhood.
We should strive to assist single parent families.
We must also build friendships with our single parent families
and to share our resources with them.
Ministries to single parent families can do range
from household repairs to surrogate grandparents
by providing child care from time to time,
becoming a big brother or big sister to kids
with only one parent at home, to offering pro bono legal advice
to having a family over for a holiday celebration.
We can all help one another in this ministry.
My invitation to all of you today is to get involved. Poverty is increasing. Investing in families is the best strategy to make a lasting difference.
Here are some ways you can make a difference:
Be a faithful keeper of the springs in your family,
Reach out to support single-parent families in your church and community.
Carry out James' admonition to
"Be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
Because religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the father, is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their distress,
and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:22, 27)
We are all called to be "Keepers of the Springs"
so the waters that flow from our lives will refresh the stagnant waters
of our culture and give fresh life to the lives planted along its banks.
Copyright (c) 1996-2002 Dr. Harold L. White All rights reserved.