Sunday, March 15, 2020


A tired dusty man met a tired dusty woman at noon
     on a hot day.
It was inappropriate for Jesus to speak to her.
It was unlawful for him to ask for a cup of water 
    from her hand.
But Jesus struck up a conversation anyway,
     an ironic conversation 
    in which each word the woman uttered
     revealed the frustration of her futile, 
     repetitious outer life in the world.
Each word Jesus spoke called her back to eternal life
     lived inwardly in faith and prayer.

She was there with her jar to carry the household water
     -- a tiresome task made more so 
     because she could not come
     at dusk when other women gathered 
     because she was a social outcast.
She had to come alone in the heat of the day.  
So when a strange man of a different race and religion
     asked her for a drink, to share the fruit of her labor,
     she reacted with surly defensiveness, 
     throwing up their differences
     to show how wrong it was of him to ask.

But Jesus said, If only you knew the gift of God . . . .
That is perhaps the most profound subordinate clause 
       in all Scripture,
easily the most poignant If only.
What a difference it would make in any of our lives 
     if only we knew this one thing – the gift of God.
If only you knew the gift of God, he said, and who I am
     -- that is the same thing said twice,
     for Jesus is the gift of God.
If only you knew the gift of God . . .  
       you would have asked me 
and I would have given you living water. 

But the Samaritan woman’s mind was stuck 
     in the way of the world with its futile repetition
     -- so she said, You have no bucket. 
Jesus ignored her literalism and said,
     Those who drink the water that I give  
     will never be thirsty again.
     (It) will become in them a spring of water 
      gushing up to eternal life.
His words echoed what God said in Jeremiah,
     My people have forsaken me . . . 
     the fount of living water,
     and dug for themselves cracked cisterns 
    that hold no water.
Jesus was telling the woman 
     if she wanted real life, real peace, real joy,
     she was toiling in the wrong field. 
She was looking to the world for something 
          only Christ can give. 
She was looking out there for something 
      that can only be found in here.
She was just beginning to get it, so she said,
     Sir give me this water so that I may never be thirsty
                 or have to keep coming here to draw water.

Then to help her really understand, Jesus said, 
    Bring me your husband,
so it came out she had five husbands 
    and was working on number six.
This daily trek to draw water was a sign 
     of the futile repetition of her personal life 
      – going to man after man
     looking for a sense of lasting well-being 
     -- and people just don’t have that to offer.
We can love each other. We can nurture each other. 
We can comfort and support each other.
But we cannot make each other whole.
We cannot fill each other with life and joy. 
Christ does that.

So each of her relationships was doomed
     -- not that the men were bad --  
     -- not that she was bad --
     but just because she was looking outside herself 
                 for what can only be found within,
                 the gracious gift of Christ Jesus
     --  a gift that comes when we stop trying to haul water
     from the world’s wells and ask him to give us his life.

Some insight began to break in.
Aha! the woman thought, we’re talking about religion. 
So she asked a religious question that amounted to,
     Ok where should I go to Church?
But that showed she still hadn’t gotten it.
Churches can be worldly wells with religious names.
Jesus said, It isn’t about that. It’s about spirit and truth.
It’s about grace poured into our souls by Christ,           
     and gushing up to eternal life. 

The road to salvation begins at the end of our rope,
     when we admit the futility of our own efforts 
      to make life work.
It begins when the repetition of our old ways 
     of thinking and feeling
     -- even religious thinking and feeling – 
     wear out from overuse. 

Then we surrender.
We sit still before God 
     -- just as I am without one plea
     and ask for the grace of life and hope and joy.
We ask for something 
      that cannot be fabricated, constructed, or earned.
It comes only as a gift to the heart broken open 
      by life’s disappointments.

If only you knew the gift of God, Jesus says,
     you would ask me, and I would give you living water,
     cool, sparkling, flowing water 
     that will become a fountain
     in your soul gushing up to boundless life.