‘Reflection on the Living Water’ -John 7:37 -39 – ‘The Hand Pump’

Updated: Jan 22

by Chet Harris

Kentucky was not only the home of my father’s family; Kentucky was a place of wonderment for me during summer vacations. One of my discoveries as a second grader was the hand water pump. We had one back in Ohio, but it was surrounded by beautiful flowers in my Mother’s garden. I had no interest in the garden or this piece of junk painted bright red that was situated in the middle of the forbidden territory for kids to play.


We were visiting one of my Father’s brothers when I asked for a drink of water. My uncle gave me permission with instructions to get my water in the kitchen. The house was not large and the parlor as they called this room filled with chatty family was adjacent to the kitchen. The adults could monitor my every move. This was always a good thing. I secured a glass as directed from the sideboard and just stood before the sink with eyes filled with bewilderment. Positioned over the sink was a hand pump, although I am naming it in this description, I had no idea of the purpose of this piece of junk sitting over the sink. It was not painted red, point of fact it looked older, kind of worn, and the handle was shiny. My Dad spied my frozen state and walked in to rescue me. “It is a pump, not like a faucet we have back home,” said my Dad in his old Kentucky lilting voice. He moved a small bench obviously placed near the sink for kids to use to reach the pump. He lifted me so I could stand on the bench and placed my hands on the handle and gently, yet firmly began to move the pump handle up and down. Suddenly water began to appear and flowed down a trough into the sink. Dad placed the glass in my hand and moved it to the flowing water. He intentionally allowed the glass to overflow. The water was cool and had a distinct smell to it. Remember, I was a city kid and our water was ‘purified.’ I must have returned to that pump a dozen times that week to feel the handle go up and down, detect the water rising and finally feel the cold, clear, and refreshing water pour into the glass and over my hand.


When we arrived back home in Ohio, I meandered over to the child forbidden flower garden with the brightly painted pump at the apex. I hesitated for a few moments and almost robotically walked through the flowers with eyes riveted on the pump. I placed my hands on the handle and began that rhythmically and maniacal pumping of a young kid anticipating clear cool water. Nothing happened. I continued until I felt a gentle, yet firm hand on my shoulder. Dad knelt down beside me and smiled his everything is ok smile and whispered in my ear, “This pump is not connected to a well of water. It is just stuck in the ground. Sonny, the pump looks like it should work, but it will never give you a glass of water to drink. Now, we need to get out of your Mother’s garden.” Latter that day Dad took me to a house having a well drilled and explained in more detail about fresh water and pumps.


Years have passed since that day in the middle of Mom’s flower garden with the pristinely painted hand pump. The image of that experience has never departed from my memory. I can envision our denomination as that red pump with beauty all around it and appearing to be the ready to pump clear cool water to a thirsty child of God. But as the saying goes, appearances are often deceiving. I do not believe the United Methodist Church is intentionally deceiving us, rather I believe in this season of life the leadership have failed to dig deep and tap into the Living Water. Harsh words? I suspect some will think such thoughts. The choice of not giving Scripture the place it deserves and the failure to follow what is taught in Scripture comes up dry for evangelicals. Succinctly put, as an evangelical I cannot countenance the waterless wells of no accountability, disregard for human life, dismantling Scripture to fit one’s objective, and myriad other acts of disobedience to God’s Scriptural truth. There are moments when I truly believe my progressive friends have drilled their own wells into a different pool of spirituality. They appear happy, content, and passionate about what they believe. But, alas I cannot and will not drink from their brightly colored pristine pumps. I prefer that traditional and proven pump with a shiny worn handle to provide the richness of God’s Living Water.


Chet Harris, East Ohio Wesley Covenant Association Regional Director.


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