Exodus 17: 1-7
John 4: 5-30
I’ve been thinking about it: What is satisfying?
We can name many things that are unsatisfying…that is not difficult. You
don’t even need to close your eyes to call to mind something, maybe from
just earlier this morning, that left a bad taste in your mouth, or rubbed you
the wrong way. Anything can be unsatisfying…
It’s much more interesting to me to ask the more difficult question: what
truly satisfies our needs?
When they were first freed from slavery, the Isrealites found freedom
unsatisfying. They complained to Moses, “If you were just going to let us
die of thirst in the desert, we should have stayed in Egypt!” And Moses
complained to God, “LORD, your people are getting on my nerves.” And
God prepared Moses to draw water from a rock…as a sign of God’s eternal
presence and power. God satisfied their thirst for freedom…and then God
satisfied their thirst for water to drink in the desert.
This sign seems to point to a simple fact of human nature: When we focus
on a small part of the story–an object, a person, a tragedy–it is easy to be
dissatisfied. But when we remember that God is One, and God sent the
Living Word in the form of Jesus to the world so that we might “be one” as
Christ is one with God (John 17:21), then we remember that God is
interested in our whole story, the cumulative tale of our lives. This is what
Jesus meant, I think, when he proclaimed God’s desire for Spirit and Truth.
God delights when we can tell the truth about our whole lives…and when
we allow ourselves to move into wholeness.
We just heard the gospel narrative of Jesus and the Woman at the Well.
But I wonder if spending a little more time with that woman…coming tounderstand the cumulative tale of her entire life…I wonder if it might
illuminate how each of us might go in search of that satisfying LIving Water:
There was once a woman in the Samaritan town of Sychar. Ever since she
was a teenager–still a child, really–the woman woke up…she rose from
her bed and headed off to Jacob’s well to gather water. She can still
remember that first day. The air was a little dry, the breeze a little cool,
the walk to the well with an empty water jar was actually quite nice, it may
have been the first time in her life she walked anywhere completely alone.
She got to the well, which she had already been to most days of her life,
when she was helping her mother, and she knew just what to do…there’s a
hand-made rope tied to a pulley system, you tie your jar to it, you lower it all
the way down the well, let the water flood into the jar, and then you hoist it
back up. The water increased the jar’s weight exponentially. She was
worried she would not be strong enough to pull the jar up, not strong
enough to get it home to her father…but she kept pulling, determined to do
it. She detached the jar…without spilling a drop…and that’s when she
heard a question, “Woman, please give me a drink from that jar.” The man
seemed nice, he was very handsome and was obviously very thirsty, so
she said, “Ok,” and gave him a drink from her jar.
He gladly took the drink, and smiled at her brightly, “OK, now, you
know the custom. We are to be married! Take me to your father so we can
So she carried her water jar back home…stopping along the way
many times…her fiancee was not happy with her. Her father provided a
good dowry and shortly after she was married.
And every day of her life looked exactly the same.
Wake up, get out of bed, grab the empty jar, walk to the well, dry air,
cool breeze, lower the jar, fill the jar==oof! heavy!–HOIST the jar up,
lug the heavy jar all the way to her husband’s house.
Every day was the same…until the day that her husband returned her to
her father declaring in front of everyone she had ever known, “She cannot
produce me a child.” And he left.The next day was the same: Wake up, get out of bed, grab the empty
jar, walk to the well, lower the jar, fill the jar, HOIST the jar up, carry
the heavy jar all the way back to her father’s house.
And then one day another man asked for a drink. He wasn’t handsome like
the last guy…and he seemed younger and more helpless than her…so she
took pity on the man and gave him a drink. The boy greedily drank down
the water and grabbed her by the wrist saying, “I guess you’re mine now.
Take me to your father.”
When her father agreed to marry her off a second time…it’s impossible to
know who cried more…the bride or the groom.
And every day was the same. Out of bed, jar, walk, well, lower, HOIST,,
lug the jar home.
And one day she found out her husband was dead. It was never publicly
explained how he died.
She sat shiva for him, and the got back to it:
wake up, empty jar, cool breeze, long walk, well, HOIST the jar, lug it
Each day was the same. The only thing that changed were the men. #3
left her for the rabbi’s daughter, #4 returned her when he went broke after
his pig herd ran themselves off a cliff…the darndest thing…and #5…well,
we don’t talk about #5.
One would go, the next would ask her for a drink…and every day in
between was the same: wake up, jar, walk, well, HOIST the jar, lug it
The jar never grew lighter.
Her life never got easier.
Some days she wondered just how deep that well really is…
And every day was the same…
I wonder how aware we are of the story we tell with the lives we live…
We are busy, important people…our lives depend on our ability to manage
all the disordered stuff in our every day life. So you’ll forgive us if we stop
paying attention to some parts of our lives, for the sake of getting
everything done.So we slowly let go of pieces of who we are…because we don’t have time
to tend to every part of ourselves.
Life is often beyond our control, and sometimes incredibly
disappointing…so best to keep your head down, stick to a routine.
Except…sometimes…routines become habits. In certain situations, bad
habits can turn into life-altering addictions. We very often get stuck,
weighed down by things we’ve done…or things we’ve failed to do…lives we
hoped to live…all the parts of who we are we always hoped would be
celebrated…but faded away over time.
When I think about God coming to live as a human for a time on this
planet…that reminds me that we are all paradoxes. We are both
human–fragile dirt creature, requiring patterns, habits, routines,
infrastructure to meet our daily needs–and we are also HUMAN…we bare
the Divine Image in our bodies and in our lives. We are made of stardust.
God made us in the divine image…so like Christ himself, we do have the
ability to imbue our ordinary lives with extraordinary welcome and
We don’t have to get so wrapped up in our own hardship that we don’t have
time for the cries of the needy.
We don’t have to develop layers of coping mechanisms to put up with daily
offenses and normalized harm.
We don’t have to settle for a life that strips you of your dignity.
God loves you. All of you. No matter who you are or what you’ve failed to
do…Dignity is yours. Kindness is your reward. God has entered into a
covenant relationship, a mutual compact with us, “Love me and serve my
people…and anything becomes possible.”
Life from God is a gift…not a punishment. Reality as God made it does not
require escaping or numbing or neglecting…it invites our care and love and
We were not put on this earth to file our annual taxes and organize our lives
around unfulfilling, low paying jobs.We were not nurtured in our mother’s womb and birthed and brought up
just so we can turn a blind eye to the world’s suffering.
We don’t need to find ways of managing the unmanageable, repeating
violence and pain some of us encounter every day…because, if needed,
we really are free to move into another way of living.
God has promised us Living Water. God has invited us to move into who
God has called us to be…to encounter reality–what IS…the good world that
God made, not the digital, busy, overwhelming reality we’ve tried to
construct for one another…
God has brought you into being as a sign to others of God’s unending,
unrelenting, transformational presence in the midst of these ordinary lives.
LIke water bursting out of a desert rock…or an abandoned water
jar…moving with what is can demonstrate to everyone in your life that we
are all so much more deserving than we think…you deserve to be
satisfied…and even in this room Christ continues to pour out that Living
Water for us in Spirit and Truth…movement and reality.
One day, the woman WOKE UP…out of bed, jar, walk, dry air, cool
breeze, and just as she approached the well…UGH…a Jewish guy is
just lounging by himself at the well! She was married to #6, and the guy at
the well wasn’t even Samaritan…she no matter what he said, she would
just ignore him and go about her day.
He looked at her and asked,
JESUS: Will you give me a drink?
WOMAN: (screaming!) NO! You’re not even Samaritan! Get away from
me!JESUS: I don’t want to marry you, I’m wondering if you have water to
.WOMAN: You don’t even have a bucket, go away!
JESUS: –because I do have water to share…living water. Buckets and
jars are good for surviving…the Living Water I can offer is meant to bring
you fully to life.
WOMAN: Yeah? How’s that work?
JESUS: Spirit and Truth. Have the courage to listen to Spirit…and tell the
whole Truth about your life…all of it…and then get moving. Whatever
Spirit teaches you…begin moving with it…don’t work against it…don’t
stand still…you can set your jar down and move into the life that awaits
WOMAN: If you can help me let go of this jar….please tell me how.
JESUS: Who do you belong to?
WOMAN: No one but God.
JESUS: That’s right, the men in your life don’t own you, this town doesn’t
own you, this water jar doesn’t own you…the only one who has authority
over your life is God. God craves people who don’t just survive…but
people who come to life. What are you waiting for?
And she abandoned her water jar.
It broke into countless pieces.
The next day of her life…was different. Finally. Forever. Amen.