Propel Water, Vitamin Water, Smart Water we are now surrounded by many different choices of water. Of course, none of them is as good as plain water from the tap. Some of these waters give you 200 calories as they are providing needed nutrients and taste. Think how many crunches or laps you would need to do to take for 200 calories. The entire enterprise of selling water is truly a marketer’s dream. We willingly buy water in a bottle when we have free-flowing water at our finger tips. But water is big business, with flavored water, enhanced water, and water on the go. They have even come up with a “green” water bottle that uses 30% less plastic. But our abundance of water, both from the tap and with added bling, goes to show our take it for granted nature when it comes to water.
The context of our morning’s passage is anything but that. Water is a very scarce commodity in the deserts of the Holy Lands. People have fought over water for centuries. Water is hard to come by and dependable wells are one of the few good sources. Jacob’s well, the location of our story, has for centuries provided life for those who drew from it. Today the Samaritan woman and Jesus meet at this well in search of water.
Nobody goes to the well at midday. Typically, women came to the well in the cool early morning to both socialize and to secure the needed water for the day. The Samaritan woman comes at high noon, because she had fallen from grace. She is not wanted at the well early in the day because is a woman who has had 5 husbands. So within her community she is an outcast. But not only that, the very fact that she is a woman and speaking to a man in the broad day light is unheard of, a scandal! Women were not to be seen or heard; they could not converse with strangers, to even acknowledge Jesus would be forbidden!
But beyond her marital status, beyond her gender, she is also an outcast because she is a Samaritan. This makes her a half breed and a full pagan, completely rejected by the faithful Jews. She is a triple level outcast. Yet amazingly, Jesus speaks to this Samaritan woman longer than he speaks to anyone else in all the Gospels: longer than he speaks to his disciples, longer than he talks to his accusers and longer than he talks to his family.
Let us ease drop on the situation as Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest, writes of this passage: “So imagine her surprise when she comes in the heat of the day with her water bucket balanced on her head and sees a strange man sitting beside the well. He could be anyone, but when he lifts his head and asks her for a drink, she sees the olive skin, the dark eyes, and the strong nose. He is no half breed. The man is a Jew, but what in the world is he doing there? Has he lost his way? Has he lost his faith, to be talking to her like that? The Jews have endless rules about what they may and may not eat and drink. She knows that much at least, and she know that this man will be breaking the law if she lets him sip from her bucket.” (Jesus Talks, Christian Century 2/12/08, pg. 19)
It is into this moment that water is requested, and a gift proclaimed. Jesus seeks water from the well, but also declares the gift he has to offer; the gift of living water. If you look up “living water” it is water that flows from a stream or a river, water that brings life, water that nurtures all that it touches. Jesus is taking a common term and a basic commodity and giving it new meaning. Jesus’ living water is better than any enhanced water we have. This living water is the spiritual well spring of life in Jesus Christ. The water is the promise of eternal life.
Baptismal water is much the same. It is an ordinary commodity, water from the tap, but it is water that gives us life. Through baptism, Jesus transforms the ordinary into the holy as we are grafted into Jesus and embraced into the family of God. Today we celebrate God’s love and light within Brianna. Through baptism we proclaim and honor the welcome she has already received into God’s family. Through the sacrament of baptism, we participate in the living force that comes from God and we know through Christ. Baptism reminds each of us here today of the living water we have from Jesus through our own baptism. Because sometimes we forget. When you leave today touch the water, as you honor your own baptism. Touch the water to be reminded we never have to thirst again, that life is grounded in spiritual growth, and the rivers of hope flow from our faith. But how do we get it? Let us return to the story and see.
When offered the opportunity of living water the woman is intrigued to the point of asking Jesus for some living water. Then the conversation goes deeper. Jesus and the woman share a dance of intimacy, when he advances, she retreats. I want to return the article from Barbara Brown Taylor as she captures this dynamic. “She looks him in the eye and says I have no husband. With that shred of truth from her, Jesus tells her the rest of the truth about herself. Note he does not pull away from her. If anything, he gets closer. He still wants a drink from her, and he wants to give her one too, only the intimacy of it all seems suddenly too much for her.
So she changes the subject back to religion again and you can hardly blame her. If he knows about all her husbands, there is no telling what else he knows about her, and she decides she would rather not find out. So the woman seeks to cover herself again.
But it does not work. When she steps back, he steps toward her. When she steps out of the light, he steps into it. He will not let her retreat. If she is determined to show him less of herself, then he will show her more of himself. “I know that Messiah is coming,” she says, and he says, “I am he.” It is the first time he has said that to another living soul. It is a moment of full disclosure, in which the triple outsider and the Messiah of God stand face to face with no pretense about who they are. Both stand fully lit at high noon for one bright moment in time, while all the rules, taboos, and history that separate them fall forgotten to the ground.
By telling the woman who she is, Jesus shows her who he is. By confirming her true identity, he reveals his own, and that is how it still happens. The Messiah is the one in whose presence you know who you really are- the good and bad of it, the all of it, the hope in it. The Messiah is the one who shows you who you are by showing you who he is- who crosses boundaries, breaks all rules, drops all disguises- speaking to you like someone you have known all your life, bubbling up in your life like a well that needs no dipper, so that you go back to face people you thought you could never face again, speaking to them as boldly as he spoke to you. “Come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done.”” (Jesus Talks, Christian Century 2/12/08, pg 19)
“Come and see” that is what knowing Jesus is like, we want to share that love, that acceptance, that understanding with the people around us. Being known gives us courage to face the things in our lives that need to be faced, courage to see ourselves for who we really are and to see the ways God is leading us to the well.
Today we celebrate the gift of water, the gift of baptism, the gift of living water we find in our relationship with Jesus Christ. My prayer is that one day Brianna will grow into a fine young woman and venture to the well of faith and draw long on the living waters as she comes into her own walk with Christ. But until that day she will be blessed and nurtured in her faith as we, along with Brianna’s family, water the seeds of God’s love into full bloom.
May we each come to the well of living water, soaking up the essence of what Christ has to offer, being engaged in a discussion of who we truly are, and sharing our discoveries with others so that more will worship in spirit and truth.
Drink of Living Water! Amen.