Walter Kim became the NAE president in January 2020. He also serves as teacher-in-residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, after ministering for 15 years at Boston’s historic Park Street Church. He has spent nearly three decades preaching, writing and engaging in collaborative leadership to connect the Bible to the significant intellectual, cultural and social issues of the day. He serves on the boards of Christianity Today and World Relief, and on the Advisory Council of Gordon College. Kim received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, his M.Div. from Regent College in Vancouver, and his B.A. from Northwestern University, and he is a licensed minister in the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
Celebrations evoke certain expectations. We go to birthday parties to give gifts, sing “Happy Birthday” and have cake. Religious celebrations are the same. Woe to anyone who would dare change, much less challenge, the way we do Christmas or Easter!
If you went to the Festival of Tabernacles in the time of Jesus, what would you have expected? You would have expected an amazing time. Each morning for seven days, the priest drew water from a well and marched through Jerusalem to the Temple. Crowds celebrated with music, waving palm branches and dancing in a sacred procession. At the Temple, the trumpet would blast three times as the priest circled the altar to pour the water and proclaim Isaiah 12:3, “With joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation!”
Then, on the final day the priests circled seven times. So astounding was this celebration, that according to ancient rabbis: “He who has not seen the joy of the water-drawing has not seen joy in his whole lifetime.”
The Scriptures tell us that at this climactic moment of expectation, “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘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’” (John 7:37). Imagine the stunned silence of the crowds who were ready to bring the Festival to a rousing conclusion, only to hear Jesus’ proclamation. It is as if you’re at wedding, the bride and groom have exchanged vows, the minister is about to declare them husband and wife and everyone is straining forward with rapt attention. Then, someone shockingly stands up and declares: “Wait a moment, I have something to announce!”
Jesus has a way of interrupting our moments with important announcements. We began 2020 with all sorts of expectations. Many of them had to be tossed. Whether out of exhaustion or eagerness, we now deeply sense our thirst for renewal and for a fresh encounter with Jesus. But before we rush into a new set of expectations, we should pause to reflect and recalibrate. The streams of living water are ready to flow, but they may not flow in the direction or the ways we anticipated. May interruptions of Jesus become an invitation to him, so that we may draw deeply from the well of salvation.