Lent 3, March 15, 2020
“Finding the Source”
Loving God, give us the water of eternal life, that we may never thirst again, but may know the richness of your Word, here and now. Amen.
She felt safer by herself. The crowds started early in the morning, and gathered again before the evening meal. Jostling each other, exchanging gossip, pushing her out of the way, even though she had just as much need to be there as anyone else. Rather than endure the glances and the whispers, she crept out in the middle of the day when others were resting in the heat. Nobody was offering to help her draw the water from the community well, but she would manage by herself. That’s the way it’s always been.
But today is different. Today there is a stranger sitting by the well. A Jew. She is about to turn away when he has the nerve to speak to her. “Give me a drink.” How dare he even ask? Hundreds of years of hostility lie between Jews and Samaritans. She doesn’t know what he is even doing here in her village, when most Jews avoid this area in their journeys from Judea to Galilee. Even more, for an unknown man to speak to a lone woman violates cultural norms. Most shocking of all is that his request implies that she should let him drink from her bucket and cup. He may be thirsty, but he’s asking the wrong person for help. She’s got enough problems to deal with without reaching out to this stranger. Curiosity gets the better of her, however, and prompts her to overcome her social distance. “How can you ask this of me?”
Jesus is asking her because he loves her, and he wants her not just to survive but to have an abundant life. That’s the reason he didn’t detour with his disciples around the territory called Samaria. Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans. They didn’t like or trust each other. They didn’t agree on religion or politics. There’s a lot of history that kept them apart. But Jesus’ mission is to reconcile the world that God loves, and that includes the Samaritans. And so he comes specifically to this village, to this woman, and to this well to make that point.
The well is special. Its origins go back to the ancestor that both the Samaritan and the Jewish people honour: Jacob. That same Jacob that appears in the stories of Genesis. The Jacob that sat by this well and met his wife Rachel. It must have been a romantic place, because a generation earlier, Jacob’s mother and father Rebecca and Isaac courted in the same spot. Wells are places of intimacy, gathering places for a community. After all, everyone needs water.
For those of us in developed countries on water systems, we don’t have to make a daily trek to a shared source of water. We turn on the tap in our home, and fresh and clean water comes out. We take it for granted, although we shouldn’t. There are still towns here in Canada that do not have safe drinking water, and it is a matter of shame that there are boiled water advisories in so many First Nations communities. There are other districts that have experienced drops in the water table so that their wells are no longer functional and water has to be trucked in from elsewhere. Saying thank you every time you turn on the faucet and receive the gift of water is a good spiritual practice. It makes us more mindful of this precious liquid delivered through pipes directly to our homes, which we didn’t have to walk for kilometers in the heat of the day to fetch.
A private tap can be a means of isolation, however. We don’t have to go outside our house or interact with anyone else unless there is a problem with the line. We have what we need to survive. But physical water is not all there is to life. The Samaritan woman was getting by, with her solitary expeditions. But she was cut-off from village life. We don’t know why she was an outsider- Jesus certainly didn’t shame her for having a succession or husbands or for living with a man who was not her husband. He was just stating the facts. And what he offers is that there is something more to life than what she has been experiencing. He invites her to reach out to God and to others to find a more abundant way of living. There is living water to be had!
We are thirsty for more than just getting by. To believe in someone who loves us and who can help us to love is far more wonderful than living a lonely existence. Jesus shows us the source of all our desire is in God, who will quench our longing. “Everyone who drinks of the well’s water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
What an antidote to the fear that causes people to hoard and stockpile and resent the sharing of resources with those who have need! You can only use so much toilet paper or bottled water or Spam! The richness of God’s word, on the other hand, is always available to us. It is so abundant that we can share it with others as much as we are able and still have more. Look for the living water in the pages of the Bible, and in the prayers that we lift for each other and the world. The ways we are moved to connect with each other allow the living water to flow through us to others, to reach the thirstiness and loneliness of our neighbours.
When the woman came to the well, she found so much more than what she needed to survive. She found abundant life in meeting Jesus. Consider how God wants to meet you. Find your well. This week, how might you read, pray, and connect to the source of Life? What will sustain you not just to survive but to experience life more fully? Ask God to give you this water, so that you may never be thirsty again. Amen.