Quenching a spiritual thirst

The following message was given on Sunday, March 23, 2014 in St. Paul’s UCC in Eureka, SD. The scripture used was the common lectionary for that day. I would ask that if anyone uses this message, they would ask. I don’t mind if you look to this for ideas, but I reserve publication rights for myself. Besides, I have used sources for this message, and permission would be needed before publication could be done. Thanks for stopping and taking time to read, skim or peruse through it.

Common lectionary scripture: John 4: 5-42, Exodus 17: 1-7, and Romans 5: 1-11.

Quenching/living waters

Though the weather has been improving as of late, and the temperature is getting warmer, the air outside still has a bite. Looking out the window, seeing the sunshine makes me feel like I should be able to walk right out and enjoy the day without a cap or a jacket or anything, but the picture from inside is a bit of a fool. In fact it looked so good on Thursday that I hung a few clothes outside for a bit, but when I realized what the wind was like, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. The sun, though it has more power than a few weeks ago, it hasn’t quite gotten to the summer heat that today’s scriptures remind me of.

By the time we are finished listening to the story from Exodus about the Israelites wandering around in the desert, and Jesus walking along a dusty road, we are ready to grab a tall glass of water. I am thirsty just thinking about it. I am reminded of days out in the field working on stacking hay. When I was very young, we made stacks of the hay. There were days and in my case it was only one, inside a hay cage stomping down hay making sure the corners were filled as well as the middle. I say only one day in my case because after just one experience I had enough. My father was running the farm hand that lifted the hay into the cage. He was not a patient person when working on –well anything. I didn’t quite enjoy looking at those teeth of the farm hand coming at me either from the pointy end or from the top as I was trying to duck out-of-the-way. My brother and I quit that job early. The hay had to settle on its own.

Years later when I was old enough to operate a tractor, I drove the hay mover from bale-bundle to bale-bundle, as my uncle or father stacked the bales that someone dropped onto the mover bed. It was a tedious job, done in the height of the summer heat, as that is haying season, and I thought of those days because it is probably the closest weather time of year that we have to experiencing what it is like in the hot dusty desert of these Bible stories. Those stories make me thirsty.

After reading them I want something to slack my thirst. I want a good cold drink like the ones being asked for in the stories. I want a drink like Laura’s mother made for her and her father in one of those Little House on the Prairie stories. I remember the story about her working in the field and the mother bring something to drink that was more than just water, but I couldn’t find the exact passage this week to figure out what she put in the water. I know it wasn’t lemonade because they wouldn’t have been able to afford lemons. I was sure it was vinegar, but I couldn’t find proof of that, I only found a recipe for ginger root in water connected to her books, but I will keep digging because my curiosity is piqued. I may end up reading the series over until I find it.

We all know how essential water is for our survival. As farmers or ranchers or even lowly gardeners, we know that without the life-giving quality of water no plant or animal or even we, ourselves, can survive for very long, and the hotter the temperature, the less survival time we have. Water is not just a staple like bread or milk or meat; water is life. The Israelites grumbled against Moses. I can almost see them heckling him about it. “Why did you bring us here, just to die of thirst?”

In their agony and desire for cooling waters, they have forgotten the hardship and the pain and the torture that they endured at the hands of the Egyptians. They don’t remember how their sons were slaughtered in the time when Moses was born so that they wouldn’t outnumber the people of Egypt; they only remembered that they had homes to live in and water to drink while they lived there. They couldn’t take it any longer, so Moses called out to God, and God in his compassion made water to come out of the rock as Moses struck it with his staff. Again, God provided for his people even though they were impatient and critical and always pushing for more.

Jesus in another place and another time sits down beside a well and asks a strange woman to share a drink with him from the water she draws from the well. The well that Jesus is sitting beside is Jacob’s well on land that he gave to Joseph, so it would be land belonging to Jesus ancestors at one point. Jesus was heading to Galilee from Judea. He is leaving the area where he and the disciple had been baptizing people near where John the Baptist was working, and apparently there had been some issue with John’s disciples and a Jewish man and somehow the Jewish leaders became involved, go figure that they get stirred up.

Instead of sticking around to argue with them, Jesus decides it is time to move on to another area, and having decided to go to Galilee, he heads through Samaria, which even though it is a somewhat hostile area, it seems to be easier to deal with the Samaritans than the Jewish leaders. Now, the argument between the Israelites and the Samaritans dates all the way back to the days of Nehemiah, but it becomes much worse when the Samaritans built a temple for themselves on Mt. Gerizim which is just outside of Sychar.

According to historical information, Roman rule was actually fortunate for the Samaritans because they were allowed to carry on their religious beliefs without hassle from the Jews as long as they followed the Roman rules. Knowing that the Jewish leaders usually didn’t have time of day for a Samaritan, it is no wonder that the woman was a bit hesitant to have anything to do with helping Jesus a Jewish man with anything, let alone a drink of water. She must have been wondering, “What was he doing there all alone?”

From the scriptures we get the idea that the disciples were with Jesus, but they had gone into a town to purchase some food for their meal. Jesus had stayed by the well to rest and wait for their return. This is a long passage, and has several parts or several different points of focus. If we strictly stick to the idea of water and life, we would have enough to discuss, given that Jesus eventually gets the woman to realize that he is talking about more than just the quenching of thirst we as humans get from tangible water. He has more than regular water that is in the well or the water that flows from a stream. Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman about the water that comes from him; the life-giving water that quenches the need that all of humankind has that is of a spiritual nature.

There is much more to this passage, so much more. We could go on and on taking it apart, looking at all of the details in how the disciples reacted when they returned to find Jesus with this woman, this Samaritan woman, this woman of questionable morals. Yet for today, we will stop here with the idea that Jesus took the time to talk to this woman, this really no one of a person in terms of what Jewish leaders and followers of the law might seek out as someone to further the kingdom of God. Jesus speaks to her, he tells her who he is and why he has come, and through that one conversation, it sets her on a task that ends up bringing many, many people to believe in Jesus.

What I get today from this passage, is that if Jesus can take one little incident when he sits in the sun, after a long day of walking in the heat and the dust, cutting through what appears to be slightly hostile territory, if he can take that incident and turn it into an opportunity to share the message of his Good News with others, it shouldn’t be such a big deal for us to share what we know about Jesus with others.

Jesus accepted, and even more than that allowed this woman, this Samaritan who had five husbands and was likely living with a man who wasn’t her husband at the time of their encounter, he chose her to bring others to know him. There are so many things we can do to help others find their way. It doesn’t have to be standing on the street corners proclaiming the word. Each and every one of us contributes every time we show up in the pews, and more than that when we leave here and share a smile, a conversation, a handshake, a reason to carry on, and during our times alone all those prayers for others. Remember we have mentioned it before that they also serve who only stand and wait. I know that as a church our denomination does not go for the fasting and the denial that others believe in, but I would challenge that if we had to come up with a list of 40 ways that we have and do serve to further the kingdom of God, I think it might be an interesting list. One thing is for sure, in a congregation this size, no one should get lost and no one should get left out. Amen!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Garden Walk Garden Talk
    Mar 25, 2014 @ 18:41:32

    What an interesting post. There are many ways to interpret scripture and I like how you did in this post.Many lessons to learn.



  2. glenda zimmerman
    Mar 23, 2014 @ 14:09:45

    Good sermon, LuCinda!!



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