Just Give us the Water


Preached by The Reverend Paul D. Allick on 3rd Sunday in Lent (Sunday, March 19, 2017)

Jesus is thirsty and tired. He sits down at the well to rest. He could have just gotten himself some water. Instead he enters into a long conversation with a Samaritan woman. Why not just get the water and move on? Why string out this encounter?


Likewise in the story from the Exodus: Why does God lead the people out of slavery only to have them wander aimlessly in the wilderness? The people are thirsty; they holler at Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us with thirst?” Why doesn’t the Lord just give them some water? Why all of the drama?


This is the enduring question: If there is a “God” why all of this messing around? Just fix it. We live our lives with our mistakes and misfortunes and wonder if our faith and prayers are moving God at all.


If God just gave us the water we would not be gathered here sharing a life of prayer, worship and fellowship. We wouldn’t know each other. We wouldn’t be compelled to get to know ourselves. We would not really know God.


Through our Baptismal Covenant God has called us to himself not to simply fix things for us but to establish a relationship with us. God is not a puppet master. He invites us through our own free will to enter into a Covenant with him. This New Covenant leads us into a reconciled relationship with God, each other and ourselves. This ever developing relationship is about revelation. Revelation requires discernment. Discernment requires prayer and deep listening to our lives. 


In the end this makes our life so much richer than having a puppet master manipulate us and take away our free will.


Like our religious ancestors in the wilderness our journey with God happens in stages and it happens in ways we often do not expect: Water from a Rock? Why a rock? Is it because God is the rock on which the people stand? What are the composers of this story telling us?

Revelation is about unfolding mysteries and brilliant surprises. We don’t follow God because we know exactly where we are being led. We follow because we trust that we are being led right where we need to be when we need to be there. Along the way we discern as we sort through all of the twists and turns. Those twists and turns carry meaning if we look for it.


Everything in this story about the woman at the well is unexpected. Women drew water in the cool of the morning or the evening. This woman is there at midday. Have the other women shunned her for some reason? In their time a man would never speak to a woman in a public place, especially alone. Jews and Samaritans did not intermingle. Samaritans were Israelites who had gotten it all wrong. They intermarried with gentiles and kept the wrong traditions and worshipped in the wrong place.


This woman was an outsider of the outsiders. She is exactly the type of person Jesus seeks out. He enters into this deep conversation with her and leads her to listen to herself on  a deeper level. 


What is living water? How will we identify the Messiah? Where is the correct place to worship? How do we worship correctly? What have my five husbands been about?


Jesus develops a relationship with her and she becomes an evangelist. She goes into the city to tell her people to come and see this remarkable man. Jesus spends two days with them. I bet his disciples were a bit dismayed about spending two days in a Samaritan village…more suprises.


The story of the Exodus has the same purpose: God is building a lasting relationship with the people. They go through many misfortunes and missteps together. Their bond with God, Moses and each other is growing stronger and stronger.


The Church exists now in these last days, not to solve a problem but to develop a lasting relationship. It doesn’t matter how many disruptions we find in the road. There is power in the journey. There is new life in the conversation with God and each other.


Too often we fool ourselves into thinking that our relationship with Christ it is all about heading to some destination. We are already there; we know Christ now; there is no destination to wait for. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the moment we are being transformed by our relationship with Christ. Now is the time to proclaim the Good News and to pursue our ministry of reconciliation.  The kingdom of God is within and among us now.


Can we engage in the conversation with Jesus and let his word penetrate our hearts or will we focus on the literal water?  Can we be present to the journey through the wilderness or will we focus on how perfect everything will be when it is over?


In this conversation and ongoing journey of revelation we are wise to heed this teaching from St. Paul: “we… boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”


Insights on page 2 about woman at the well gleaned from Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John by B. Malina & R. Rohrbaugh, Fortress Press Minneapolis 1998