March 23, 2014 (Lent 3)                                                 Exodus 17:1-7, John 4:5-42

In today’s scriptures, we read about thirst.

In Exodus, we read about how the people grew thirsty in the wilderness, which is understandable and even to be expected.

It’s not surprising that a bunch of people wandering through the desert become thirsty, as happens in the Exodus story. Putting forth effort, makes you thirsty.

It’s just that simple.

It’s not surprising that the people get grumpy, even angry, and begin to complain to Moses and demand water.

It’s to be expected.

But as the story unfolds, we come to learn that God works in some very unexpected ways. He quenches their thirst by providing water from a rock.

In the second scripture, from the gospel of John, Jesus has grown thirsty from the efforts of his journey. Again, as this story unfolds, at first there’s really not that much that would come as a surprise, is there?

Jesus and his disciples are on a journey, and their journey takes them through Samaria…you know, a place that was not their own…a ‘wilderness’ of sorts.

As they’re traveling, they come to a well and Jesus stops to rest.

The disciples have gone to find some food, but He stays back by the well.

It’s safe to assume he’s tired and hungry…and it becomes clear that he’s thirsty too, as he asks a woman who approaches for a drink.

None of that is unexpected. None of it should come as a surprise.

Until she confronts him with the absurdity of his own request. How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?

(you know, the more I read this story, the more respect I gain for this woman).

Her response grows in its greatness the more you reflect on what was actually happening. Remember, she didn’t know it was Jesus. She didn’t know he was the son of God.

She didn’t know he was the Messiah.

She didn’t know that his aim was to save humanity from itself.

…all she knew was that he was a Jewish man waiting by the well in the middle of the day, and that he was thirsty.

The story she had heard her whole life was that Jews were a little full of themselves, right? That they thought they were better, that God favored them more than Samaritans…

The story she would have heard was that the Jews were just a couple of notches higher on the measuring stick than the Samaritans every would be.

And yet suddenly, here she found herself in a position where she had the power over a Jewish male…after all, she had the bucket, not him.

What’s she do?

She forces him to acknowledge her humanity.

She forces this stranger, this Jewish man, to admit that when it comes right down to it, when all the conventional social trappings are laid aside, when power and privilege and status and religiosity are all deemed irrelevant…thirst is still thirst.

Sure, you might be a male Jew, and sure, I might be a Samaritan Woman…and back in the village those things might mean something.

You might be a teacher with 12 disciples and I might not be worthy of much respect from anyone…but out here, where it’s just the two of us, none of that matters.

Especially because you’re the one without the bucket.  🙂

Enough about that…do you see what I mean?

The human condition is marked by thirst.

The wilderness wicks moisture from our bodies simply through our act of breathing (and we’re all in a wilderness of one kind or another).

So we grumble, as human beings do.

We thirst, therefore we grumble until our thirst is quenched.

And even if the quenching water comes straight from a rock in the desert, even if God Himself provides a miraculous stream in the thirstiest of places, even then all we can do is drink, knowing that by its nature, the wilderness will bring us back to this point of merciless thirst.  

No one can drink enough water at one time to carry them through the desert. No one can even take enough water with them to carry them through the desert. Water is like fuel…you use it as you go, and you need to replenish on the journey.

The same is true of our spiritual thirst. That’s the thirst Jesus exposes in the gospel story, in this interaction with the woman at the well.

See, we all thirst on a spiritual level, but it’s hard for us to acknowledge.

We thirst for acceptance.

We thirst for affirmation.

We thirst for fulfillment.

We thirst for healing.

We thirst for change.

And in the most surprising of ways, God rises to the task of quenching! He brings water from the rock; physical stones in the desert of our experience become the source of life-giving streams.

Have you noticed that often times, the people who have dealt with something hard are the ones who are most helpful as you yourself begin walking through that valley? That’s one reason alcoholics anonymous is so successful and why the program has been replicated to address so many addictive behaviors…it’s because the recovering alcoholic knows the terrain of alcoholism far more intimately than those who haven’t been there themselves.

That’s a rock in the wilderness that for many has been struck to give water.

Is there a rock in your wilderness that needs striking? Our rocks are easy to avoid, because they can be painful places to visit. But if you’re not willing to let God use it, you’ll always have a spiritual desert inside of you.

The good news is that Jesus still waits by the well within us. Even when our hearts are as hard as stone, he can coax them to weep spiritual moisture from the depths of our souls…the result is whole communities welcoming Jesus among them!

Christ is the living water, the word made flesh who dwells among us as the Holy Spirit.

This living water is for all who thirst; not as a once and done kind of thing, but rather a source of life we return to time and time again as we fashion our lives for the Kingdom of God.

What rocks are in your wilderness?

What are the things in your life that seem least likely to quench your thirst or anyone else’s?

Consider what those might be this week, and ask God to strike them as Moses struck the rock we heard about this morning.

Consider your thirst, as well…when all else is stripped away, when you’re left alone in the desert, what is it you thirst for on a spiritual level?

Let Jesus quench that thirst.

We’re not spiritual camels…we don’t store up spiritual water that will last days at a time.

We’re human beings, seeking to follow the Way of Christ.

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