First Reading Exodus 17:1-7
Despite all the mighty deeds that God has performed in bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt, they still doubt and complain whenever things seem uncertain.
Second Reading Romans 5:1-11
God does not demand that we change before he comes to save us but sends his Son to die for us long before we respond. So, we have no grounds for being proud of ourselves but only of God.
Gospel John 4:5-42
Jesus declares his messiahship to a woman who is regarded in her time as being both immoral and a foreigner – an unacceptable person to the Jewish leaders. Yet it is her testimony that brings others to meet Jesus.
HOMILY “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.” (John 4:10)
This week’s theme for our Lent study is ‘Water’. Essential for life, water is something we use all the time and perhaps even take for granted. We are being encouraged to wash our hands regularly for 20 seconds, that’s the length of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ through twice in an effort to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Water is practically important for cleansing and understood to literally clean us. Spiritually it is also a sign of new life and cleansing from sin. In the liturgy of Holy Baptism the prayer over the water reminds us of the significance of water to our faith:
“Over water the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through water you led the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. In water your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us from the death of sin to newness of life. We thank you, Father, for the water of baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spiri, that water” (Common Worship 2000 – Initiation – Prayer over the water)
Climate change is forcing people around the world to re-think their relationship with water and recognize how precious a resource it really is. Yes, the UK often has regular, dependable and sometimes prolific rainfall (Thorpe knows all about the issues of flooding!) but we also experience periods of drought. One possible action raised in our groups was the idea that we should seek to conserve water by fitting water butts to the downpipes around the Rutherwyke Room for use in the Churchyard. I’m sure there are many more possibilities. I’m quite sure that Jesus’ society knew the importance and value of water too. With no water on tap, every drop had to be carried from the well home. Therefore, water was used carefully; wells were places of importance to community, a bit like a supermarket today. Indeed, wells feature again and again in scripture, places of meeting. Abraham’s servant found Isaac a wife by the well when she helped him get water for his camels. We may recall how Moses met his wife-to-be by a well; she needed to get water and needed some assistance. In biblical times the task of collecting water for the family often fell upon women who, like the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel, went to wells, ideally early in the morning or evening when it was cooler and where news was shared. The midday sun is not a time for drawing water and gives us a clue as to why this Samaritan woman may have been there; but today she is not alone as she comes face to face with a 30 something year old man. This well has biblical significance too, located on land where Jacob's Well was constructed. Jesus is easy to talk to but, wait a minute, this is unusual; he is a Jew and she is a Samaritan and a woman. Why would he be talking to her let alone ask her for anything? What is going on here?
Jesus asks for a drink and she is a little surprised. Then our Lord responds, “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.”(John 4:10) Living water – what is that she questions. Indeed, what is this living water that our Lord promises? Of the well water Jesus comments, “everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again” (v13). No, he is speaking of spiritual water, “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.” (v14,15)
Then the conversation turns as Jesus points out the truth about this woman’s life and her several husbands. He was not about to be the next! Yet, there is love in his challenge. This encounter is all part of God’s plan and her life is to be transformed by their meeting. No wonder many Samaritans believed in Jesus after the testimony of that woman, “He told me everything I have ever done.” (v40) Living Water is a biblical term which appears in the Old and New Testaments. For example, the prophet Jeremiah describes God as "the fountain of living water, the Lord" (2:13 & 17:13). Jesus talks many times about water and its spiritual, not simply physical, meaning. Did her meeting with Jesus change her life? We don’t know for sure but given her response we may assume so, because her encounter led her to share her story of faith.
John’s Gospel speaks of living water as the Holy Spirit, perhaps knowing that we would no longer understand the significance of living water and Jesus’ bold claim to upset the existing religious system and open the access to God for everyone. That’s right, Jesus promised living water is utterly inclusive of all people, whatever mistakes they have made or sins they may have committed and he offers us that same living water today – the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us into all truth. And don’t be need that living water right now, at this time of real challenge for the world and our country – this community? Jesus offered the Samaritan woman the water of life and she chose to use it wisely, to irrigate her village with the truth. Because of her many people came to drink from the water that Jesus was offering, the only water that can truly satisfy, the gift of faith revealed by the Holy Spirit. The same gift is offered to you and me today, a spring of water gushing up to eternal life! This water is a precious resource and never to be taken for granted – the gift of the Holy Spirit no less. It looks like the coming weeks, perhaps months, may be challenging for all of us. We will have fears, we may have to forsake some of our plans or make changes to our daily routine but no virus can take from us the gift that is God’s Holy Spirit – the water that gushes us to eternal life. At a time of challenge Jesus calls on us to be fountains of hope and reconciliation, that we may irrigate the lives of all around us as we overflow with the love of Jesus. We need to seek out the lost, the lonely and the spiritually thirsty, that all may drink from the well of new life and know the healing power of Jesus our Lord to love, forgive, restore and save. Amen.
1. This week "Water" was our theme for our #LiveLent Course. We recognised it is essential for life.
2. The Samaritan woman may have been hoping to draw water alone but wells are places of ‘meeting’. It may be the middle of the day but Jesus is there and desires a drink – and deep faith!
3. Jesus speaks with her regardless of her gender or faith background. He offers her water that will mean she will never be spiritually thirsty again. This Living Water is truly inclusive.
4. She brings her neighbours to meet Jesus and many are converted. She allows the Holy Spirit she has found to overflow into the lives of those around her bringing healing, hope and restoration.
5. We are called to overflow with Living Water and bring hope at this time to all in need.