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A Sermon for July 31, 2016

Anna V. Copeland, Preaching

Text: John 4:14

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Living Water

I love this cool refreshing water. Most experts agree that we need about eight or more glasses of water a day, depending on how hot it is outside and how hard we work. Yesterday when I rode my bike to the beach with Ellis, I drank about four glasses of water, I was so thirsty.

When a bunch of us from First Parish Church went to Guatemala on a mission trip three years ago, we met a vegetable grower who supplies beans and squash to markets in the United States. His town has no running water. Can you imagine trying to grow your garden without water when it doesn’t rain? Their biggest need was for the infrastructure to get water from the mountain springs down to their village: for the crops, for washing clothes, for drinking water, for bathing their children. They knew what it meant to be thirsty.

The part of the world where Jesus lived was so very hot and dry. Their very life depended on being close to a well in the desert, or knowing where to find one. You wouldn’t head out with your gas tank on empty across the desert in Arizona today, and you wouldn’t have headed out on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem then without knowing exactly where you could find water along the way.

One day as Jesus was passing through a small village by the name of Sychar, Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, hot a dry, found himself without a drinking cup and he was thirsty. As he sat down there about noontime to rest, a Samaritan woman came along and Jesus asked her to give him something to drink. The woman was shocked. You see, in those days a Jew wouldn’t be caught dead talking to a Samaritan woman. She asked him, “How is it that you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan for something to drink?” Jesus answered her, “If you knew who it is who is asking you for a drink, you would ask him for living water. Everyone who drinks from this well will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of God’s living water will never thirst.”0

         The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to come here for water.” She didn’t understand that Jesus was offering her the Living Water of God.

Jesus ignored the question and went right to the point, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Notice that He does not say that He is the living water, but that He would give living water to her, and when she received it, she would never thirst again.

 “Go and get your husband and bring him here,” Jesus told the women. “I don’t have a husband,” she replied.” “You’re right,” Jesus answered. “You’ve had five husbands and the one who are with now is not your husband.” She was astonished. “You must be a prophet because you know everything I’ve ever done.”

The woman is an outsider, a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans didn’t like or trust one another. Though they both believed in one true God, their religious background and cultural heritage divided them. This woman would have been an outside to Jesus religiously, culturally and by gender. Men and unaccompanied women did not speak to one another in public. And she came along, an outsider to her community because she had a checkered past, and a number of husbands. She came to the well at noon, the worst time to come, but the very time she would most likely be left alone.

Jesus does not blame her or shame her or expose her secrets. He approaches her with compassion as a fellow human being. Most likely she was widowed or divorced five times, and now is counting on a sixth man to take care of her. Jesus, then, is not chastising her or calling her to account; rather he sees her, compassionately naming and understanding her circumstances. This is why she calls him a prophet and risks asking him the central question that divides Samaritans and Jews: the question of where it is proper to worship.

While she came to the well to get water, now that she has met Jesus, "who told me everything I have ever done," she leaves her jar -- the token of her present difficult and dependent life -- behind to go tell others what she has seen and experienced. She has, indeed, encountered living water, has been freed by her encounter with Jesus, and wants to share this living water with others.

The woman was so excited that she ran into the city telling everyone, “Surely he must be the Christ.” Because of what the woman told them, because she left her burdens and her past at the well, because they could see that she had been changed, many Samaritans came to know God.

God promises to see us for who we are, with all our flaws and our mistakes, the things we’ve said that we wished we hadn’t, the opportunities we’ve missed. God loves us as we are, people who hurt the feelings of others whether we mean to or not, who perhaps unintentionally ignore those around us who are hurting. Whether we mean to or not, we hurt people. God forgives us, that is God releases us from those hurts and disappointments we carry around, those worries and those burdens and those judgments that separate us from one another.

We don’t ever have to say to ourselves, “If only others knew my past, what I did last night, the ways that I’ve been unloving towards others or myself, the times I’ve forgotten God. Jesus sees us. Jesus gets us the way Jesus got the Samaritan woman. He knows who we are too, and in our hurt and in our brokenness, Jesus has compassion towards us. He wants us to lay our burdens down the way the woman at the well of Samaria lay down her water jar and ran to town to tell everyone about all that she had heard and experienced.

In what way can you identify with the woman at the well? What is the one question you would ask Jesus if you could? What token of your difficult life would you leave behind as she left her empty jar behind at the well?

There may be a burden that you’re carrying this morning. There’s something that you’re struggling with today: a challenge, a problem, a doubt, a fear or a worry. Jesus is willing to break through whatever boundaries or barriers there may be that keep you from being set free.

Jesus promises us not only water to drink that keeps us refreshed on a hot day, not only the waters of baptism that cleanse our spirits and give us a new life starting today. Jesus also invites us to leave our burdens behind, and receive the living water of God’s spirit that can do all things, heal all things, restore all things, take away every burden, heal every trouble, and soothe every fear.

This morning I invite you to prayerfully come to the living water of God. Bring your pebble and toss it into the waters of life. Bring your pebble as a token of whatever burden is weighing you down and let it go. God will take care of you.

No one will know what burden you bear. No one hears your prayer but God who loves you unconditionally. So come when you’re ready.

Silence

Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Come, and let go of your burden, and I will give you Living Water, that you may never be thirsty again.