“Water is Life”
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
Exodus 17:1-7 & John 4:5-42
In a few moments we will pray the words of the Collect for this Third Sunday in Lent.
You know we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault the soul.
My friends what we have been experiencing these past few weeks and what is happening right now in our city, our state, our country… yes, our world is unprecedented, it has shaken us to the core. There is a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. There has been nothing like it in recent modern-day history. We are indeed venturing into unchartered waters and for so many, frankly it’s scary. It is at turbulent times such as these that the song made popular by Take 6 “If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need him now.”
We need the one who can speak “Peace be still” to the stirring storms of our lives and of this wind-tossed world we live in.
We long for the one who can transform our fear in faith.
We yearn for the one who promised give water that would be a spring gushing up to eternal life.
Yes, we like the woman at the well mentioned in our gospel reading cry out for that water, that common yet all so essential supply of daily life.
Water is a key theme in both of our scripture passages assigned for this Lord’s Day. In the Exodus passage we hear of water gushing forth from the rock Moses struck when the Hebrew people were wandering in the Wilderness. Then from our gospel reading.
Did you notice that the gospel text says it was at the apex of the day---at noon when Jesus had this encounter with the Samaritan woman from Sychar. It was after Jesus who was weak, worn, and weary from his journey did the unexpected. Jesus asks for drink of water. But before we get to what type of water it was, there are problems here. First of all, he didn’t bring a bucket. Or a cup. Or in today’s jargon, a water bottle. And as the woman say: the well is deep!
How deep was it?
Well, when I took a trip to the Holy Land with Bishop Ed our tour group had an opportunity to stop by the church that historians say is built over Jacob’s Well. The place where this story is taking place. And while we were there, one of the monks gave us the opportunity to drink some of the water from that well. But before we drank, he took a metal ladle that he had drawn from the well and poured in inside the and we counted how many seconds it took before we heard a splash. It took three seconds before we heard the splash 135 feet below. Then he gave us, well,…..rather he gave the women in the group the privilege of cranking the long rope that held a bucket to the surface. But after what seemed to be an eternity, we all tasted of fruit of their labor, the water was clear, crisp and frankly delicious.
That’s saying a lot from me. Because I’m not one who loves just plain water. You have to add a little something to it to get me to drink.
But that’s only the beginning!
There’s a scandal. Jesus has crossed a social boundary. He’s gotten too close. A Jew talking to a Samaritan. Jews hate Samaritans. They flirt with other gods after all. Their religion is defective. And then a man asking for water from a woman he does not know. Her culture taught her to believe she was worthless. She was from the other side of the tracks. Not to mention her complicated marital situation causes her to be shunned. You wonder what kind of self-esteem issues she is living with.
Any why Jesus approaches her. What he sees in her. What he hopes for in her.
One writer says that Jesus is the fullness of life roaming the world, trying to find people with whom to give this life. This living water.
You know, water is everywhere. Then why so much thirst? How can there be shortage of H2O?
This past week is one which I’m quite sure most of us will never forget. The stocks have risen and just as quickly fallen. The coronavirus seems to be on rampage. The price of oil has been plummeting, schools, businesses and even churches right and left have been closing early out of an obligation to protect those who work for them and those served by them.
You could go to the local Walmart and see lines of people just wanting to get common supplies such as: eggs, bread, toilet paper and yes, good ole H2O. There was none to be found. This week has been the great equalizer for all of us. Rich or poor. Male or female. Black, brown, yellow, red or white. Gay or straight. Saint or sinner. Politician or people. It mattered not. It has awakened us to a new reality, not to take anything or anyone for granted. People are at a point where they are just about willing to do anything to acquire something as simple as, water.
Why? The bottom line is: Water is Life!
The USDA recommends that the average person needs to drink about 8-12 cups of fluid per day to stay properly hydrated. That comes out to about the same number of bottles we have placed around this ambo today. That’s 56 of these bottles each week.
Which is why, I think, water is such a powerful and common symbol within the scriptures.
Water is life. Dare I say it’s more than a symbol of our physical life, but represents our spiritual life as well.
The truth is, so many may be getting their daily allowance of fluids. After all there are over 700 brands of water produced all over the world. You can get it bottled or canned. Spring, mineral or sparkling…with gas. And sorts of flavors! Kiwi, cranberry mint, mandarin orange, peach, watermelon. Water from Wales, San Pellegrino, from Italy, Perrier from France.
But the fact remains so much water and yet so many are spiritual dehydrated. They are walking around thirsty, parched, empty and they don’t even know it. They are thirsting for living water but don’t know that’s what they need any more than the woman at the well.
Spiritually dehydrated people will do all sorts of things to try and quench the thirst of their souls. Trying to find meaning and purpose and value in all kinds of transient things: trying to fill their lives with material things and busy-ness. They try to quench their thirst with substances like drugs and alcohol and obsession of all kinds.
Yes, we are always aware of our thirst, our desire, our longing for more. Obey your thirst, so says the Sprite website.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that, for all of us…. for both the seriously dehydrated and the merely thirsty…. Jesus offers living water.
While we are still weak. While we are still ungodly. While we are still sinners,
Christ pours out his love for us, Pours out his life for us on the cross.
And then demonstrates the power of his living water by bursting open the grave on the Third Day.
It is from that well-spring of life and love that we can drink every day.
During Lent there are rocks in our baptismal font. And no water… more thirst. Wilderness and emptiness. And so, we long for spring, Easter. We thirst for water, baptism, for renewal.
God is our thirsting. Or let’s say it this way: God thirst for us. God longs to fill our open hearts and deep need within is, no matter how vulnerable it may be.
Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land. A shelter in the time of storm. Amen.
~ Fr. Joseph Alsay
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.