Sunday’s sermon: A Persistent Hydration Station

living water

Texts used – Exodus 15:22-27 and John 4:4-15, 25-26, 39-42

  • Step … step … step … One foot in front of the other. Step … step … step … One weary, arduous mile after another. Step … step … step … just as the feeling of being parched and depleted are about to become too much to bear, there it is: water.
  • In 2005, I had a brilliant idea. I was sitting at my parents’ house over Christmas break. It was my senior year of college. My brand new husband of 6 months was spending Christmas in the Kuwaiti desert courtesy of the Wisconsin National Guard and wouldn’t be home for another 10 or 11 months. I knew that after graduating from college in the spring, I would be taking a year off before starting seminary while I waited for that husband to come home. Bottom line: I needed something to do! And then I saw this commercial: “60 miles. 3 days. A walk to end breast cancer.” And I thought, “Why not?”
    • Somehow convinced by mom to embark on this crazy journey with me
    • 11 yrs. later (last summer) – inspired to do it again and somehow convinced Jenny Rand to do it, too
      • [ADVERTISEMENT: Jenny liked walking 60 miles so much that she’s doing it again this summer – so be on the lookout for ways to support her and help her reach her $2500 goal!]
    • After having been through it twice, Susan G. Komen 3-Day = actually pretty similar to a boot camp experience
      • Challenging
      • Strenuous
      • Intense
      • Now, we’ve been talking about boot camp experiences during Lent this year – the challenge, the strenuousness, the intensity. And we’ve tied that into the self-examination and soul-work that we do as individuals and as a community during the season of Lent. Challenging. Strenuous. Intense.
    • One of the most crucial elements of an experience like the 3-Day and like boot camp = WATER
      • 3-Day: strongly encouraged to carry some form of hydration with you at all times (either water or Gatorade) → big hydration stations at each rest stop (every 3 miles or so)
      • Water = critical need for our bodies
        • Bodies = 60% water
        • Drinking enough water affects all aspects of our health
          • Joint health
          • Weight control
          • Skin health/elasticity
          • Flushes toxins out
          • Boosts immune system
          • Increases energy/relieves fatigue
          • There is not a single system in our entire bodies that is not positively affected by drinking water.
        • Need becomes even more crucial in the face of strenuous activity – things that make us sweat … Things like boot camp and experiences like the 3-Day. Those hydration stations were more than just a fun idea. They were essential to the health and success of our endeavor.
      • Today’s Scripture readings – all about water → hydration stations for the soul, necessary for the health and success of our journeys of faith
  • Step … step … step … One foot in front of the other. Step … step … step … One weary, arduous mile after another. Step … step … step … just as the feeling of being parched and depleted are about to become too much to bear, there it is: water.
  • The Israelites had only been out of Egypt for a short time. They had been so excited when Moses came to them and told them that the Most Holy God had sent him to lead them out of slavery and bondage in Egypt to a land of freedom – a land that God was giving them. A land like that which God had promised to their ancestor Abraham – one flowing with milk and honey and all good things. That was what they had been longing for, dreaming for, desperate for for so long … and the time had finally come. Through the slave masters’ punishments, through the plagues, through the waters of the Red Sea, they had stuck with Moses. And now, they were expecting results. … But instead, they got desert. They got wilderness. Step … And they started to worry. Step … And they started to fear. Step … And they started to doubt.
    • Text: Then Moses had Israel leave the Red Sea and go out into the Shur desert. They traveled for three days in the desert and found no water. When they came to Marah, they couldn’t drink Marah’s water because it was bitter. That’s why it was called Marah. The people complained against Moses, “What will we drink?”[1]
      • “What will we drink?” = question motivated by fear and doubt
      • “What will we drink?” = question motivated by desperation and an attitude of scarcity
      • In that moment, the Israelites’ belief lay not in their God but in their deficiency. They trusted not in God’s abundance but in their own anxiety. Their thirst extended deeper than their physical bodies. They were thirsty in spirit. They were thirsty in heart.
        • Found themselves in a parched landscape
        • Found themselves full of parched landscapes deep within
        • And yet, even in those parched and doubt-filled, fear-filled, anxiety-filled places, God provided.
          • Moses cried out to God
          • God pointed a particular tree out to Moses
          • Moses threw the tree in the water
          • Water became sweet and potable
          • Further provision – text: The Lord said, “If you are careful to obey the Lord your God, do what God thinks is right, pay attention to his commandments, and keep all of his regulations, then I won’t bring on you any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians. I am the Lord who heals you.” Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. They camped there by the water.[2] → In the face of utter scarcity, God’s plenty was literally overflowing.
  • Step … step … step … One foot in front of the other. Step … step … step … One weary, arduous mile after another. Step … step … step … just as the feeling of being parched and depleted are about to become too much to bear, there it is: water.
  • Those parched places inside of us can be just as frightening and disconcerting as a vast, empty wilderness. Sometimes those weary, arduous miles come in minutes and days and weeks, not in distance. And sometimes the water that we need is more for our spirits than our bodies. Such is the story of the woman Jesus found at the well.
    • So much in this encounter, we could spend all of Lent talking about just this story
    • Today = focus on the woman, Jesus, and the living water
    • Woman = often described as “a woman of the city”
      • Woman of questionable background
      • Woman of dubious reputation
      • Down throughout history, she has been put down and called out based solely on a tiny bit of information that Jesus revealed about her – during part of the story that we didn’t read today: Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.” The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.” “You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus answered. “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”[3]
        • Makes me think of a country song from the early 90s: “Alibis and lying eyes and all the best lines / Lord knows she’s heard them all / She’s been cheated on and pushed around and left alone”[4]
        • This is why the woman is at the well in the middle of the day – the hottest, most sun-baked, least popular time of the day. In this part of the country, no doubt the rest of the women of the village had done the challenging, strenuous, intense work of going to the well and drawing up the water they needed early in the day – when the air was still cool and the sand had not yet reached blistering. But this woman, this woman whom Jesus encountered, waited until the middle of the day when it was hotter than hot … because only at this insufferable time could she be alone at the well.
          • Away from the prying eyes
          • Away from the judgmental stares
          • Away from the whispers and veiled comments
      • In truth, we know almost nothing about this woman’s life, but by her timing and her actions, we do know that she had been ostracized to the point of venturing out in the boiling heat of midday to draw water from the well. She was so parched in heart and soul that she had purposefully isolated herself.
    • Makes Jesus’ encounter with her all the more disturbing → She was looking to avoid anyone and everyone, and instead she came face-to-face with a man … a Jewish man … alone at the well … who had the audacity and the gall to ask her for water.
      • Persistent Jesus
      • Pesky Jesus
      • Jesus that just won’t leave well enough alone
      • As a single Jewish man, he had no business talking to a single Samaritan woman, let alone asking her for a drink of water.
        • Hear it in the woman’s response – text: Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”[5]
          • Read skepticism
          • Read irritation
          • Read disbelief
          • “Really, man? Really? You’ve got no bucket, and this well is deep. Where do you think this ‘living water’ is going to come from? Who do you think you are? This is Jacob’s well. It was good enough for him. It was good enough for his sons and his livestock. It’s been good enough for our ancestors. You think you’re better than all that?”
  • Step … step … step … One foot in front of the other. Step … step … step … One weary, arduous mile after another. Step … step … step … just as the feeling of being parched and depleted are about to become too much to bear, there it is: water.
  • This woman at the well was parched, parched, parched. She had been mistreated. She had been marginalized by her people. She had been isolated. … But even in the face of all her desolation, all her insecurities, all her fears and doubts and every wall she tried to put up, Jesus persisted. Jesus knew she needed more than just plain old well water. She needed living water – something to quench her parched spirit and renew her weary soul.
    • Text: Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water! … I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.” And Jesus said to her, “I AM – the one who speaks with you.”[6]
      • Jesus brings reassurance to wash away all her uncertainty
      • Jesus brings affirmation to wash away all her self-doubt
      • Jesus bring hope to wash away all her pain and grief
      • And she was so moved by her interaction with Jesus that she ran back to the village – to the people from whom she had so carefully and deliberately isolated herself – and she told them not only about this man but about herself. – text: Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” → This is where we see her parched places overflowing with living water! Before her encounter with Jesus, do you really think she would have said anything to her neighbors, let alone anything pertaining to whatever past they may have assumed she had?! Of course not! The woman was venturing out in the scorching heat of midday for water just to avoid all the gossip and comments and stares and cold shoulders! And yet, after her encounter with Jesus, she went directly to those same people whom she had so painstakingly tried to avoid and admitted to them, “He told me everything I’ve ever done” … and all that that statement implies. Think about what that would mean for you for a minute: “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” Mmm hmmm. The part of that that we don’t hear her say: “He told me everything I’ve ever done … and he still talked to me. He told me everything I’ve ever done … and he still accepted me. He told me everything I’ve ever done … and he still loved me.” A spring of water … a spring of hope … a spring of everlasting love bubbling up into eternal life.
  • Step … step … step … One foot in front of the other. Step … step … step … One weary, arduous mile after another. Step … step … step … just as the feeling of being parched and depleted are about to become too much to bear, there it is: water. Whatever miles you’ve traveled … however parched you may be … whatever doubts and despair linger within … leave your bucket and come to the well, because Jesus is waiting. “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.” And Jesus said to her, “I Am – the one who speaks with you.” Amen.

[1] Ex 15:22-24.

[2] Ex 15:26-27.

[3] Jn 4:16-18

[4] “Alibis” by Tracy Lawrence from Alibis album, 1993.

[5] Jn 4:10-12.

[6] Jn 4:13-15, 25-26.

Advertisements

One response to “Sunday’s sermon: A Persistent Hydration Station

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Dead Ends and Dramatic Comebacks | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s