13 May 2012
Why would anyone in their right mind go to get water at high noon? Getting water, back then, was hard work. It wasn’t a job you’d want to do by yourself. And it certainly wasn’t something to do in the heat of the day. Yet there she was, day after day, in the heat of the day, coming to the well. But this day something was different. A man sat there—a Jew. He sat by the well, tired. Whether we recognize it or not, we put up little walls around ourselves. There’s the wall between the sexes, the wall between social classes, the wall between old and young. It requires extra effort for us to approach someone who’s different than we are. We have to climb these walls first. At the well that day, that tired Jewish traveler broke down all the walls—it was as if they didn’t even exist for him. First he talked to her. “Woman, give me a drink.” She was shocked, and pointed out the walls. “How can you, a Jewish man, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Now that he had her attention, he shocked her. “If you had known God’s gift, and who asks you, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” She was confused. Living water? Who did he think he was? So she tried to put him into context. “Our father Jacob gave us this well to drink from; are you greater than him?” See how gently, yet powerfully he replies. He doesn’t compare himself directly to Jacob. He points out that Jacob’s water doesn’t really satisfy our thirst…but that his water, the living water, will become a spring inside us. (Talk about indoor plumbing!) So she commits herself to him. “Sir, give me this water, so that I might not thirst, or have to come here to draw.” Her heart is opening…the walls are down…all, that is, but one. “Go call your husband,” he tells her, “and come here.” “But I have no husband,” she answers. “You speak truly,” he says, “for you have had five husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband.” Now the last wall comes down. Now we understand why she came every day at noon, by herself. She was a woman scorned by all the others, an outcast, a misfit. He knew it all…but still he loved her. But she was also a woman with insight. She confessed him to be a prophet, and asked him the most burning Jewish/ Samaritan question: where is the right place to worship, in Samaria or Jerusalem? She wasn’t ready for his answer. “Soon,” he said, “neither here nor Jerusalem. For God is looking for those who worship him in spirit and in truth.” Who was this weary traveler? Clearly he was greater than Jacob. He even seemed greater than a prophet. So she brought up the Messiah. “When Messiah comes, he will explain everything to us,” she said. “I who speak to you am he,” Jesus replied. Now her life was truly turned upside down. She forgot all about getting water. She even left her water pot there at the well. She ran into the town and broke down their walls by saying, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he be the Messiah?” We often hear this text preached as an evangelism text…and so it is. But this morning, I invite you to put yourself in the place of this woman, Photeini...to see how Christ deals with us. Her daily trip to the well represents the things we thirst for every day…our desires. In Jeremiah, the Lord says, “My people have committed two great evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed out for themselves broken cisterns, which hold no water.” The walls we build around ourselves, to protect ourselves, simply don’t exist for him. He knows us as we are. Yet still he loves us. He offers us the living water—his Holy Spirit—so that we may be refreshed and energized day after day to live for him. The mediaeval write Thomas de Celano meditated on todays text and wrote, in Latin, Quarens me sedisti lassus; Redemisti, crucem passus; Tantus labor non sit casus! Translated, it says, “Seeking me, you sat weary (by the well); you redeemed me, suffering on the cross; (O Lord,) don’t let such labor go for nothing! It won’t go for nothing, beloved, as we open ourselves to Christ like St. Photeini…when we receive from him this great gift he gives…the gift of living water. Thirsty? Come and drink!