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/ Weekly Message / 05-06-07: Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

05-06-07: Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

The old saying is true – April showers bring May flowers, especially given the record amount of rain we had in April.  The grass got a really good soaking, as well as the flowers and the plants outside.  In fact, the rain is essential for their survival.  Plants need water to live -- and so do we.  Without water, plants will dry up and die. And so will we.
If we are without physical water, we will die of thirst -- and from what I understand, that's not a very pleasant way to go.

If we are without spiritual water -- the kind of water Jesus speaks of in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well -- our souls will begin to wither, dry up and eventually die. And I know that's not a very pleasant way to go.

To set the scene of today’s Gospel reading, we find Jesus is again traveling with his disciples, on his way from Judea back home to Galilee. The direct route takes them through Samaria, a land of people whom the traditional Jews despised. Why? Because the Samaritans had what Jews regarded as a different set of beliefs than those who worshipped at the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, when Jews so much as spoke the word Samaritan, they would grit their teeth, utter a curse and spit on the ground. And the feeling was mutual. So we're talking strong animosity and real distrust among these people -- in modern terms, maybe, think of Yankees fans and Red Sox fans.

It was about the noon hour of the day . . . Jesus was tired, and he was thirsty, as he sat down at the well in the Samaritan town of Sychar. His disciples had gone into town to buy food, so Jesus was by himself when the Samaritan woman came to draw water. She came at mid-day, rather than in the evening when most women normally came to fill their water jars; perhaps it was a sign that she was somewhat of an outcast even among her own people. We don't really know.

But we do know that what was about to transpire was very unusual.

Jesus talked to the woman . . . he asked her to get him a drink.

In and of itself, this was amazing, not only because she was a Samaritan and a woman . . . but also because such a person was regarded as impure by Jewish religious standards, and no Jew could drink from any vessel handled by a Samaritan.

Despite that, Jesus asked her for a drink of water.

As the story unfolds, Jesus and the woman engage in an amazing and almost brazen conversation, a verbal back and forth in which Jesus gradually reveals his identity to the startled woman. It is the single, longest conversation recorded in the Bible that Jesus had with anyone.

He begins by telling her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

She misses the deeper meaning. How are you going to get this "living water?" she asks. "You don't have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep."

And Jesus tells her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst . . . Indeed, the water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."

As our Gospel lesson continues, we subsequently learn that this Samaritan woman has been married five times, and that the man she now living with is not her husband. It seems Jesus has known this all along, to the dismay of the woman -- who quickly changes the subject.

The story continues. She engages in some theological banter about the differences between the ways Jews and Samaritans practice their faith. Then Jesus discloses that he is, in fact, the Messiah whom her people are awaiting, just like the Jews. By now she is totally blown away. And as the disciples return -- astonished to find their Master speaking with a Samaritan woman -- she leaves behind her water jar and goes back to tell the people in town about this man who told her everything she ever did.

The story of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman tells us many things about God, about ourselves, and about our relationship with God.

For one thing, it demonstrates that God knows all about us, all of our faults, all of our shortcomings, all of our sins and our sinfulness, and wants to be in a relationship with us anyway. He wants to give us the water of new life.

As I said at the beginning, relationships are a lot like plants, and a lot like our very own souls. They need to be tended to if they are to live. They need to be watered, or they will dry up, and they will die. That is true for relationships of all kinds -- our relationships with each other, and our relationship with God.

Jesus wants to share with each of us today his gift of living water, the water that brings and nurtures eternal life in Him. Whoever drinks of this water need never thirst again.

Do you know what it is to be thirsty -- really thirsty -- and unable to find anything that really satisfies your thirst?

Or have you found something that seems to quench your thirst, only to find yourself plagued by the same need again a short time later?

Jesus is offering us the water of life today. He offers each one of us living water, through an ongoing, vital relationship with him. This is a relationship in which we dare not to be indifferent.  This is a relationship to which we must be committed, and attentive as if our very lives depend upon it -- as indeed, they do.

Jesus said, "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Jesus is calling us to partake, to drink deeply of the water of new life in Him.

Obey your thirst! . . . your thirst for a relationship with the living God


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