12 March 2023

It’s common to thinkĀ  about ‘living water’ – the powerful metaphor from this week’s readings – as something we receive. We focus on our own dryness and thirst, and feel rightly grateful that God comes to us with the offer of gracious refreshment and life. But, to stop there is to leave the extraordinary message of this passage incomplete, and to allow the Gospel to support what can become little more than selfishness. As we follow Christ, the call this week is to move from being only recipients of living water to givers of it – especially to the poor and the marginalised. This was the journey of the Samaritan woman, and it is the inevitable, and even uncomfortable, journey for anyone who is serious about living life under God’s reign.

May our worship this week fill us and refresh us, even as we are sent out as “water-bearers” into the world.

Exodus 17:1-7: The people of Israel grumble against Moses because of their thirst and the lack of water, so God commands Moses to strike the rock, and when he does so, water gushes out.

Psalm 95: An invitation for God’s people to worship God, and not harden their hearts as Israel did at Meribah, resulting in them not entering God’s rest.

Romans 5:1-11: In Christ we have been made right with God, and have the Holy Spirit as assurance of God’s love. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us, and now we are God’s friends.

John 4:5-42: Jesus, while resting at Jacob’s well in Samaria, meets a Samaritan woman, speaks to her about living water and reveals himself as the Messiah to her. In delight she returns to her village and brings others to meet Christ, and they too believe.

The image of water is strong this week, primarily in the Gospel and the Old Testament lesson. Moses provides water for the thirsty Israelites in the wilderness – although their grumbling and hardness of hearts remains a problem throughout their wilderness journey. Jesus offers the living water that only he can give to this outcast, Samaritan woman of dubious sexual history. In the light of these two stories, the Lectionary calls us to respond to Christ’s offer of life – in the Psalm to reject the Israelites’ hardness of heart in favour of faithful, trusting worship, and in Paul’s letter to the Romans, to embrace and enjoy God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, which is our assurance of God’s grace and presence, and which sustains us through whatever hardships life may throw at us. The living water is still given for us, and we still face the choice: to receive it with faith, thanksgiving and worship, trusting in our Messiah and the life he offers, or to complain, grumble and allow our fear, self-interest and hard-heartedness to keep us from enjoying this life.

GLOBAL APPLICATION: The image of water in this week’s readings offers us two ways of approaching this week. The one is to highlight the very real issue of clean drinking water which is a massive justice issue in our world today – and which will only continue to be more of an issue in the foreseeable future (one writer even suggested that the next world war will be fought over water). The other option is to focus more broadly on living water as the symbol of God’s life brought to us in Christ, and the call for us to seek to bring life wherever it may be restricted or destroyed. Either way, we can’t help but come face to face with the poor and marginalised – because in both cases, they are the ones who suffer from desperate need. Much like the Samaritan woman who was driven to the well in the heat of the day when no one else would be there, and who clearly expected nothing good from this Jewish man she found there, the poor are the ones for whom life is a daily struggle. If there is anything that Jesus’ engagement with the Samaritan woman teaches us, it is that we need to befriend the least in our world, and seek to bring them life, both by providing physical and living water for them and by bringing them into the centre of our communities. In truth, the real living water is the relationship we develop with those who are cast out – much as in Christ, God has befriended us and brought us into relationship with God’s self.

LOCAL APPLICATION: In every community, in every church, are those who are on the edges – if not completely excluded, certainly unsure of their acceptance and right to belong. In every community there are those who are ‘thirsty’, who struggle to make ends meet, who have little access to fullness of life. And in every community there are those whose lives are dry and desolate, whether from their own destructive choices, or from the effects of what others have done. In all of these cases, what people long for is a community that will embrace and include them, bringing them into a safe place of love and belonging. What they long for is a place that they can be supported and enabled to create a vibrant and meaningful life for themselves and their families. What they long for is a place where they can be healed, restored and discover fullness of life in freedom and connectedness. This ‘living water’ which we have access to as followers of Christ can easily and freely be given to the ‘Samaritan outcasts’ in our midst, and can make all the difference for them. We cannot afford to keep our life to ourselves, nor can we allow ourselves to become grumblers and complainers when the world doesn’t fit our ideas. Rather, we need to be those who lead others to the water, who soften our hearts and trust that God can and will give life to us and to those we seek to serve, and who learn to freely embrace those who need friendship with God and people, and who long for the life that can be found in such friendship. As we share this living water, so we will find, slowly but surely, that we have less need for grumbling, and that the world begins to be infused with signs of God’s reign.

Around The Well

Hymn Suggestions:
As Pants The Hart for Cooling Streams
Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing
As Water To The Thirsty
I Hunger And I Thirst
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
As The Deer (Link to YouTube video)
All Who Are Thirsty (Link to YouTube video)
Hungry (Link to YouTube video)
Let Your Mercy Rain (Link to YouTube video)
O Let The Son Of God Enfold You (Spirit Song) (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for Communion

Video Suggestions
A Spring Within