I have been talking about water the past two weeks: first Jesus walking on the water and then the healing pool in John 5.  I think a lot about mineral / hot springs and how they are a grace (gift) of God. I thought I might be good to pull back the curtain and share part of why they mean so much to me. 

Saratoga Springs, New York, is a unique little city that has grown up around a set of natural springs in the area. There are almost a dozen springs that are still in use. People come, sometimes from great distances, to drink, soak, and enjoy them. 
Some springs have heavy mineral content while others are high in certain nutrients but each is useful as medicine. A few springs are crystal clear and provide perfect drinking water.
 I was a young pastor in Saratoga Springs when I learned that the founder of the denomination with which I was ordained had come to soak in the springs more than a century before me, to deal with chronic health issues.  I was intrigued by this and began to look into the history of these natural wonders that had made our little city a destination for more than two centuries.

It turns out that long before the arrival of Europeans on this continent the native tribes saw Saratoga as a destination. They called it Ten Springs.
I learned that amongst the Five Nations of Iroquois the place of the Ten Springs (Seneca) was a safe zone.  When there would be war between the tribes and their neighbors, wounded warriors (both friend and foe) would be brought to soak in the springs and drink their healing waters. There was to be no fighting allowed in this sacred place.  It was set aside and designated for rest, recuperation, and restoration.  It was also a place where peace could be made.  This continued to be the case during the early European conquest and into the American Revolutionary war. It was during the conflicts in the 1700s that wounded European soldiers were first brought to the springs by Natives. 

 As I continued to study the natural phenomenon and the geological particularities that both enabled the springs to exist and gave them their unique content and flavor, they became a spiritual enlightenment for the congregation over which I watched. Because we believe that the springs were a gift from the creator and not merely a geological coincidence, we received them as a gift and looked to them to see what we could learn about the creator’s heart. 

The water is pressed up from far underground through the layers of earth and crust.  The water picks up minerals and vitamins as it comes to the surface and delivers them in a unique location. Sometimes, springs that are visible from each other taste as different and hold as uniquely distinct elements as one could imagine. 

 We bought in as a congregation, the insight that the health and healing that we as individuals, families and as a community so badly needed, came from a place that was beyond our access. We saw that the health and healing we needed would have to break through the crust of our lives and the layers of our story (history) to bubble up and bring to the surface the refreshing and restoration that we were crying out for and that God promised in the Gospel of Jesus (John 7:38) “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them“.   

We recognized that in each place that God “broke through” there would be a unique content to that expression and so we confessed that each local congregation where Christ was at work would have a unique flavor and contribute distinct elements – that this was not an accident nor was it a problem. 
 We saw this as a revelation of God’s distinct gift to our location. In our congregation we began to pattern our prayers around the language and imagery of springs. We embraced passages like John 4:13-14 where Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (NIV) Over the next decade the Lord answered our prayers and brought us into a season of restoration and revival where we saw lives changed in powerful ways, miraculous physical healings of cancer and other serious sickness, as well as broken relationships that were restored and reconciled.

This was beautiful imagery that both framed and inspired our prayers and dreams for what God wanted to do among us. We were taking our cue from the physical place that we lived and the work that God had done to grace that place with the gift of the springs. [part 2 here]