“Life Giving Water”
March 19, 2017 – Lent 3 – Year A
My sister and brother-in-law have a home outside of Phoenix, Arizona. This year has been an unprecedented wet one. Day after day there has been rain. Being desert, the rain has no-where to go, so newly formed creeks overflow their banks and flooding results. My sister tells me that the blooming cactuses are spectacular. Never has she seen such a glorious array of blossoms. Rain sure helps to brighten up the otherwise dull desert.
Water – such a precious commodity. Long ago, Moses and his entourage could not find water. Stuck in the wilderness, thirsty as all get out, they grumbled and complained among each other and to God. Help us, they cried. As the story goes, Moses took his staff and struck a rock and water gushed forth. Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? However, it is not so improbable when you realize that likely the rock had a pool of water in the centre and a large calcium deposit sealing it. Hitting the rock on just the right spot would knock off the cap and water would be revealed.
Water – such a precious commodity. Long ago, a Samaritan woman came to the community well and sought to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. Stunned – the woman – an outsider – a foreigner – a woman of ill repute – a broken person, was engaged by Jesus. While the woman could offer Jesus water from the community well, Jesus offer her Living Water. Talk about restoration and healing. Precious grace!
Donna Sinclair, in a book entitled “A Woman’s Book of Days 2” writes the following: “In Kenya, where I was traveling with other women all sent by the church, two of us stayed for a few days in a very small village named Dumbeni. The people were Lua, and they were members of the African Church of the Holy Spirit.
Every morning in Dumbeni, when I went to the bathhouse – a tiny roofless brick enclosure – a large basin of hot water was waiting for me. I could stand and wash the dust out of my hair, and pour hot water over my head and all down my body… Every morning.
The women of the village had to carry water for a long distance. They had to collect firewood piece by precious piece. There were no taps, no water heaters, and there was no electricity. Every basin of water, heated over an open fire, represented hours of work. The women who did this did not count those hours. They referred to us as sisters.
Although I did my best afterwards to tell their story as clearly as I could, as often as I could, I cannot measure up to this love. Which is, I suppose, like the Holy Spirit itself; free grace, undeserved. Generous love, unconditional.”
Our scripture texts encourage us to examine what it means to be fully alive. With every cell of our body quenched with hydrating water, we flourish. With every cell of our spirit bathed in Living Water we are set free to live lives of grace and abundance. I understand this as being gentle lovers. I see this lived out as Marianne and Dolores distribute food hampers every weekday morning. I hear this when you seek out and enter into conversation with a newcomer to our congregation. I believe it as I join you for worship each week.
A traveler dying of thirst in the desert came across an old pump. Attached to it was a can of water. And attached to the can was a note. It said: “There is lots of water in the well. Use this water to prime the pump.”
Consider the choice facing that person.
The water inside the can is a sure thing. It’s there right now. It may be the difference between life and death.
But drinking that water eliminates that possibility of getting more water from the well. For that traveler, or any other later traveler, that would be the reality. Because there won’t be anything with which to prime the pump.
Using the water to prime the pump is an act of faith. That the unknown writer of the note told the truth – that is an act of faith. That there really is water in the well – that is an act of faith. That the pump will work – that is an act of faith. And that there’s enough water to prime the pump – that is an act of faith.
A dehydrated person would need extraordinary self-discipline to pour the can of water into the pump.
That story reflects the dilemma that faces our world today. People are not confident that the well has water in it. Or even that there will be a tomorrow when they need that water – of there is any.
So what’s the point of self-sacrifice, or self-discipline, if you have no assurance it will work. Why not get what you can right now: a drink of water, the oil and gas laid down by millions of years of life, a good time, a profit from the tropical rain forests.
The message of Jesus for the Samaritan woman at the well becomes even more compelling: “If you drink of this water, you will thirst again. But if you drink of the water that I can give, you will not thirst.”
The words roll so glibly off our lips. But in a parched world, most people will choose a drink of water right now, rather than wait for something that may or may not work out.
It is easy to say, like Peter, “You are the Christ.” It’s not easy to stake your life on there being water in the well.
The Christian church is in a time of flux. At the “Once and Future Church” forum 2 weeks ago, we were told that every 500 years or so, there is a major time of upheaval and dramatic change for the Christian Church. It would appear that we are once again in that 500 year cycle. It is a rather frightening time for some of us. We see nearly empty churches and we are scared. We look to our neighbours and watch them close their churches. Many are facing financial crises. Leaders are burning out. And we have a new generation of people who describe themselves as “Spiritual but not religious.” We don’t know what to do. We try offering programs that are interesting, and few attend. We bring in new music and that draws a new group of people but it offends the established folk. We offer alternate services, but there isn’t the money to cover all the costs. What do we do, that is faithful and Living Water?
Jesus would answer that it is not in our doing, per se, but rather in our faithfulness. Prioritize your faith and the church as first and foremost in your life. That means that prayer, meditation, and financial giving are a way of life for you. Daily prayer and meditation is the cornerstone of being a follower of Jesus Christ. So too is tithing. An examined life of giving generously to the ministry and mission of your church is a sign of faithful living.
We are called to be a people who believe that the water is pure and fresh. We are embraced by a God who lavishes us with Living Water. Won’t you come to the well and drink deeply? Won’t you strike the rock and see the water pooling in the crevices? Water – such a precious commodity. Faith – such a precious commodity. Amen.