SERMON 3-15-20 Lent 3A St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, Naples FL
Water and Life
Jesus said to (the Samaritan Woman), “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.” Was Jesus talking about the well water essential to the health and vitality of that little community, or the water found in the rivers and streams, or the water in the vast and enormous oceans, or was he talking about something entirely different?
Most of us know that 71% of God’s earth is covered by water and 96.5% of the water on earth is contained in the oceans. 60% of the human body is made up of water. Without water, all life dies and thus, there is a distinct connection between all life and the common waters of air, rivers, streams, canals, and oceans. I read an article on LiveScience website, which explains the essential necessity of water for life to exist. It states, “At heart, all life on Earth uses a membrane that separates the organism from its environment. To stay alive, the organism takes in important materials for making energy, while shuttling out toxic substances such as waste products.” (1). Knowing this, we come to realize that there is only one source of water, and it is a commodity, a gift, an elixir of life that we all share; like the common life we all share.
I wonder when we hear these words of Jesus are we confused about the connection between the waters of life, and the Living Water Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel. I wonder when we consider the specific need for using water today such as washing our hands, cleansing ourselves and protecting ourselves from viruses and other frightening things, do we ever think of the Living Water Jesus tells us about? Living Water cleanses our hearts, purifies our souls, and washes away our iniquities. So, maybe the next time when we wash our hands, we should consider the Living Waters of Jesus’ love, peace, and grace that are essential to life, and life everlasting. We should consider how we are all connected by this common bond.
Gospel Comfort Zone
The people of Israel, although freed from their slavery and set on a path to a new way of life, when things became a little boring in the desert and they stopped to rest, they lost their trust in God’s provision. They cried to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” They forgot the rescue from the Egyptians through the waters of the Red Sea. They forgot the gift of God’s holy navigational guidance through the cloud during the day and firey pillar at night. They forgot the promises of God period, and when water was not clearly in front of them to quench their thirst, they were afraid, uncomfortable, and then they complained.
When we face trials sometimes or even if things get a little boring, we often choose either to trust God and give thanks to God, or we sometimes complain, feel threatened, or maybe we even feel a little guilty. Sometimes, being a Christian is joyful, full of peace and full of hope. Sometimes being a Christian is not easy because by the nature of following Jesus, we are challenged to stop and face our own circumstances, our own sin, and our own failures and complacency.
When we turn to introspection like we do in Lent, we can become uncomfortable with the Gospel. A 19th century comedian once penned a poem and from it, some preachers have gleaned this phrase, “the Gospel comforts the afflicted, and afflicts the comfortable.” The Good News of God in Christ can be a comfort to us in times of trouble, because God promises that he will never abandon us, and that God’s love is inseparable from us. The Good News of God in Christ also afflicts us, because it calls us out of our comfort zones, because it shines the light of grace on areas our lives that need work and transformation.
Like water, the gospel quenches our thirst, refreshes our body, and cleans away the dirt and grime. Also, like water the gospel is regenerative and takes away parts of us that need to be cleansed, challenged, and reconsidered. It is in this time of troubling trials that we may most likely suffer some. Paul writes, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Like beautiful smooth pebbles in a stream our hearts are reformed by the never-ending flow of Living Water, gently and sometimes roughly, moving against the rough and superfluous parts of the areas of our life that need to be regenerated and changed. It is the common water of sanctification that we humans share, which works in and through each of us, breaking down the barriers that divide us, that separates us, and that keeps us apart from loving God and loving neighbor.
Troubling Times, Troubling Waters
Linda Clader wrote in a recent article, “When he (Jesus) used the image of water to talk about wisdom, about the gift of the Spirit, was he also talking about the waters of the Deep, over which the Spirit hovered at creation? When he offered the Samaritan woman living water, was he offering her the very mixed-up stuff of creation itself?” (2). I believe Clader is alluding to the fact that Jesus offered the Samaritan Woman and he offers us, a liquid elixir of truth, which is that we all share a common life and we are utterly dependent on one another.
As I traversed the aisles of Publix this morning doing our weekly grocery shopping, it was abundantly apparent to me that we are living in very frightening times. Watch the news and read the posts on social media, and you will find that some of us move between living in outright fear ,or succumbing to a misguided overzealous confidence. The Coronavirus is a health crisis looming all around us, and its threat to our health is real and it is apolitical and non-tribal. The threat this malady poses transcends all that divides us as sisters and brothers of God’s creation.
At times like these we find a commonality of humanity, which seems to have disappeared over the last few years. The recent divisions that have sprung up among former allies, the growing sense of independent arrogance emerging between governments, and the rejection of the common life that binds us as a species has taken a back seat to party affiliation and political tribalism. However, now we find ourselves in a common crisis, an event of common need, and we begin to realize that we are one people stretched across many lands, and all living under the grace and loving arms of a common Father God.
In times like these the gospel comforts us and afflicts us. We are fearful and the promises of God comfort that fear. We are hoarding and distancing from one another, and the Gospel afflicts us to help each other cope. We are more dependent upon one another than we want to believe, because we are all made from the same water, we share the same connection to the waters of the earth, and thus, we have a common mission together. We are offered the elixir of Living Water, and it is that water we must share, and we Christians share that water through our baptism and our common mission with Christ, in love.
At our baptism, the Thanksgiving and blessing over the water includes these words, “We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting 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 Spirit.” (BCP, p. 306). We followers of Jesus, sharing a common journey with Christ through baptismal water are sent out in times like these as beacons of hope, peace, and an assurance that God’s love is with us in all trouble, and in all joy. Like the Samaritan Woman, we have come in contact with Living Water, and it is an elixir we must share.
Trusting the Living Water
The Samaritan woman went around town and told everyone, “He told me everything I have ever done.” Richard Lischer explains that “The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman turns out to be a love story after all, for only one who loved you knows you as you are and not as you pretend to be. Only one who loves you knows your deepest desires. Only one who loves you can look at your past without blinking.” (3). Sisters and brothers, we are beloved children of God and in all things, we have a wellspring of Living Water in Christ from which to draw, even in troubling times like these.
The Psalmist today writes, “The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands have molded the dry land. Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!” In these times of fear my sisters and brothers, we have a common well of hope from which we can draw. We have the living water of the promises of God in Christ Jesus that will sustain us in all things.
When we thirst for assurances that all will be fine when it seems so ominous, we can draw from the Living Waters of Jesus presence and promises. When we need the refreshment of hope in the midst of fear, we can draw from the Living Waters of Jesus presence and promises. When we need consolation in times of uncertain despair, we can draw from the Living Waters of Jesus presence and promises. Even now, in times like these, we can be at peace, if when you hear and rest in God’s promises, and trust in the Living Waters of Christ’s love and then, drink deeply. Immerse yourself in the Living Waters of God’s promises and the hope of Christ’s presence even now when fear is at our doorstep. Trust God’s promises, but please, do not forget to wash your hands.
(2) Clader, Linda L. “One Water Washes over Us All.” The Living Pulpit, vol. 14, no. 1, Jan. 2005, pp. 6–7.
(3) Lischer, Richard, “Strangers in the Night,” The Christian Century, 1999.