A Soul Food for Advent: "Water From the Wells of Salvation”
By Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).
It is easy to forget that our ancestors in faith did not draw water from a tap. Isaiah’s people had to wait, walk, think about their need for water, plan to carry it, and appreciate every last drop. This reading for Advent takes us back to journey and waiting with emptiness.
Advent is a season of waiting with what Simeon the New Theologian called, ‘attention of the heart.’ A letting go of calculations and letting be of emptiness. This amounts to cleaning the inside of the cup as scripture speaks, then humble waiting for God to be revealed.
Humility can be the source of acceptance of our common humanity. While we come to our days with an attention of the heart, we need not clutter our eyes with judgment about our neighbors or divided views of humanity. What practices empty you for an attention of the heart?
Emptiness and promise are sisters. Emptiness is satisfied to watch her sister have her day and promise is glad to come and be with her sister. Both have peace as their mother.
It may be difficult for us to be at peace with emptiness. Many of us live in the feelings of emptiness as the pandemic rages on. Health care workers, clergy, everyday heroes who work in public spaces—all of us have experienced depletion. Perhaps the good news is that we do not have to bring off Christmas, nor complete the promises of Advent. We come empty-handed to the promise that ‘with joy you shall draw water from wells of salvation.’
Many years ago, when I was a superintendent on the Wisconsin cabinet and twice since my return, I offered a tea ceremony as a part of our cabinet worship service. Of course, a proper tea ceremony would take many hours, but we were in transition at the time. A tea ceremony slows the pace to the dynamic of pouring and receiving. My siblings at the table were exhausted from giving and they were able to rest and receive. First the utensils are brought in the room, signs and symbols of waiting. The tea is stirred with water and transformation takes place—all of it before those who are waiting. When the time comes to drink, there is a fullness that is more than the tea; it is relational, grateful, and endowed with a sense of this cup being enough.
Siblings, we are in the heart of Advent. Bring your emptiness and attention of the heart. Bring your waiting. Trust. The prophet promises: ‘with joy you shall draw water from wells of salvation.’ Thanks be to God.
Know that I am praying for you.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).