Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-15
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
March 15, 2019 – Third Sunday in Lent
We are blessed to live in interesting times. The woman at the well lived in interesting times, too. She was a Samaritan, living in a land that respectable Jews looked down on.
In fact, her neighbors, fellow Samaritans, may have looked down on her, too. After all, she had been married five times. She was coming to the well in the middle of the day when no one else was there. Maybe they were shunning her.
But maybe she had just had bad breaks. Maybe they all died or abandoned her. She had everything to lose when she lost a husband… her place in society…a place to stay …a meal to eat.
And whatever had happened had happened five times. Once is painful enough, and she had been through that pain five times.
But there were others in the village who had had to endure pain, too. They would understand her in a way the fortunate ones could not know. They would be as friends to her… and they would know what it was like to be without friends.
Maybe one of them was ill and needed water. They had not gone early because they were sick, but because they were sick, they needed water now, in the middle of the day, when no one else would go there.
Maybe she was the only one willing to go to the well for her sick Samaritan neighbor.
Maybe Jesus saw a frightened heart, calloused by a multitude of sins, and knew who he was talking to. Maybe he saw someone who had done everything for everyone she knew… even those who had never cared for her.
Either way, he was talking to a person who was out of the mainstream of daily life. So was he.
He was talking to someone who had been humbled by the circumstances of their life and had no choice but to be honest and direct, both in what they understood and in what they had to say. So, too, Jesus.
They were both without peers… alone in a very isolating way. The nice thing about such a circumstance that it reveals to us what is important and what is not.
We know longer have the luxury to believe what we want to believe. We have to believe what is true. And if we don’t know what is true, we have to watch…and listen…with all the gifts that God has given us.
I wonder what will happen next.
Our Hebrew Bible reading this morning tells us of people who found themselves in just such a situation, but chose instead to complain.
They had chosen freedom over servitude, hope over fear, but that did not guarantee them that everything would be easy and happy. When the consequences of their choices led them into hardship they blamed the one…Moses…who had brought them that far.
In both of these readings there is one thing that brings the leader and the followers together. Thirst. Jesus sits by a well that Jacob had dug. Moses has to find water where there is no well.
Moses turns to God and asks what he is to do with these people who complain against him and test the Lord. Jesus is the Lord and he is confronted by one who knows hardship, but accepts her position in life, without complaining.
“Why did you bring us here to die?” God’s people in the desert ask Moses. “What shall I do with these people?” he asks God.
In our land today, we thirst for answers to our questions. We want to know the way through the hardship we now face with a pandemic abroad in the land.
We come to the same fork in the road that both of our readings present to us today. Do we cry out for someone to do something? Or do we do what we can to keep the situation from getting worse?
Do we blame someone else? Or do we change our own behavior, make room in our lives for a time of quiet reflection, in order to get in touch with the truth we know…but have not had to listen to for so many years?
The people of Israel cry out to Moses, but the Samaritan woman simply asks why Jesus would compromise himself so greatly as to speak to one who is unworthy of recognition.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” The tribes traveling through the desert thought that Moses owed them a free pass. The woman at the well thinks that Jesus is stooping to even speak to her.
They will both get what they need, by the grace of God, but they receive it in very different ways. The tribes in the desert get it in spite of their sin in testing the Lord. The woman at the well will get it by giving the Lord a drink.
Jesus knows more than Moses and he can respond to the situation without complaining. Instead, he invites the unworthy one into a place of greater understanding.
Moses provides the water as the instrument of God. Jesus gives the woman at the well living water… water that will keep her from ever thirsting again.
Are we not all unworthy in some way? Who are we to complain about anything? We live in the greatest, richest nation in the history of the world…and we complain more freely about anything and everything than any nation in the history of the world.
But the Lord has a way of humbling those who have become proud… and a way of lifting up the humble. The strong become proud in their power. Their pride becomes their downfall.
The meek become attentive to all around them in their weakness. Their humility saves them.
The rich man can believe what he wants to believe and be on his merry way. The poor man has to see the truth around him or it will kill him.
And we are all poor.
It is not our leaders or one party or the other that has produced the difficulties we now face. We have created our own crisis…and it is our own crisis…with our own decisions.
When the truth comes and stares us in the face, we need to ask questions about what we can do, instead of saying it was someone else who put us in the tight spot we find ourselves in today.
So I love the woman at the well. “Why do you even stoop to ask something of me?” she asks someone she knows is better than she is. And the Lord responds with a challenge…and an invitation.
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Society says she is not worthy to ask anything of him, and here he is, telling her she should ask something great of him.
And I love the question she now asks of him. “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well?”
And I find power to face whatever comes in the answer Jesus gives her. “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.”
Paul writes to the Romans and to us this morning that we are justified by faith…we come alongside our Creator and our Redeemer and Sustainer…by trusting in them and trying to walk with them…rather than expecting them to walk with us.
We are the tribes in the wilderness with Moses this morning. We are the woman at the well, astonished that the Lord would even stoop to speak to us.
May we come out of this time of trial and challenge where Paul came out…after a headstrong youth and a humble adulthood.
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.”
The gift we are receiving in all of the anxiety that surrounds us today is a clearer understanding than we have had in years what is important to us and what is not important.
It is not important that we get what we want. It is important that we get what we need.
It is not important that we figure out whose fault our present situation is. It is important that we find a way to see our troubles coming and to prepare ourselves to work through them.
Paul puts it this way. “If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”
May many be saved by the witness we bear of our faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ…even though we have no bucket and the well is deep.
O Lord, what is it that you want to do in the world through us… through me…this day? Amen.