Lent 3 A Water Sermon 2023
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Water. Water is something that we need on a daily basis. The experts tell us that we need to consume 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. Some experts state that we may need even more than this amount.
Water is necessary for us to live. Most people could not live longer than three or four days without water or another fluid that contains water.
Water is important because water is the primary building block of cells. Water is necessary because water acts as an insulator, regulating our internal temperature. Water is essential because water is used to process proteins and carbohydrates.
Water is vital because water lubricates and insulates the brain and spinal cord and other major organs. And of course, water is needed to flush waste and toxins from our bodies.
Yes, water is important for our physical bodies. But did you know that water also plays an important part in our spiritual lives? And did you know that the “image of water” is used 722 times in the bible?
Well, it is true. The Bible is full of images containing water used to symbolize cleansing, and new life, and the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Today, in our Gospel reading, we have such a text. Our text begins by informing us that Jesus was on his way to Galilee from Judea. And to get to Galilee, Jesus had to travel through Samaria because Samaria was situated between these two regions.
We are told that around noon, Jesus and His disciples arrived at Jacob’s well which is located just outside the town of Sychar. And this is an important fact to know, because the well had been in use at that time for over 1800 years.
Jacob’s servant had dug that well in order to secure drinking water for his family. And over the years countless generations had gone to that well for water because they all had been dependent upon that well for their survival.
Like countless folks before Him, Jesus sat down to rest beside the well to recover from the 25 mile walk He and His disciples had hiked that morning. And as He did so, His disciples went to town to buy food for them to eat.
As Jesus sat and rested from his travels, He witnessed a Samaritan woman approach the well to draw some water for herself.
Now, I need to inform you that the Samaritans were a mixed group of people by birth and by faith. Inter-marriage with the Assyrian people centuries before had produced a group of people who were half Jewish and half Assyrian by race and religion.
And as a result, many pagan aspects had been introduced to their faith and to their culture. And so, these folks were different from their Jewish cousins. And they practiced their faith in ways that a good Jewish person would not.
It is no wonder then that the Jews looked down upon the Samaritans and kept their distance from them to protect themselves from being influenced by the corrupted Samaritan religious practices.
But that is not all that we are told about this woman this morning. The text this morning implies that the Samaritan woman was a person with a history of broken relationships. We learn that the woman had been married five times and now was living with a man out of wedlock.
Back then, this was not acceptable. And the good old folks were only too eager to judge this woman and ignore her and not want to associate with her. And that is probably what we want to do, too. And we forget the fact that this woman had probably very little choice or control over her life.
Think about it. If this woman was divorced, it is because the men divorced her. Women at that time had no right to a divorce. Divorce was a man’s right.
And if this woman was not divorced, then this woman had probably suffered the death of five husbands. Or maybe some of her husbands divorced her and some of her husbands had died. We do not know. But either way, divorce or death, this woman had suffered tragedy after tragedy.
Let us therefore not be too quick to judge this woman. We don’t know the details of her past. Maybe we are not supposed to know the details of her past. Maybe it is enough that this woman mirrors for us our own lives.
Because we too are a people with a past. As a Pastor I have heard plenty of people tell me that they have done things that they were not too proud of when they were in their 20’s. 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even later in life.
And the fact is that people like this woman, people like us, often live in fear of being found out. And we are afraid that people will judge us, and reject us, without ever really seeing us for who we are and without ever truly knowing us.
When Jesus asked this woman for a drink, Jesus gave this woman an opportunity to let herself be known. For you see, to be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known.
But to be found out without ever being known leaves one dry and desolate. To be singled out for wrongdoing without being known leaves one dehydrated and thirsting for something to quench the hurt inside of us.
And so, we go looking for wells to satisfy our thirst. For some, like the Samaritan woman, it is the marriage well. For others it is the well of power and control. For others it is the well of busyness or denial. For others it’s the well of money, possessions, fame, or fortune.
Each one of us can name the wells that we turn to in our hour of despair. And we return to these wells time after time hoping that our thirst will be quenched only to find that we are drinking from the well that never satisfies us.
There is, however, another well that we can drink from that will satisfy our thirst. It is the well of Jesus Christ. It is the well that washes us clean from our past. It is the well that offers us new life and new possibilities. It is the well that frees us from the patterns and habits that keep us living as thirsty people.
That is the well that the Samaritan discovered today in our reading. The woman had intended to go to the same old well she had gone to for years, the well her ancestors had drawn water from for 1800 years. But that day was different.
At the well sat Jesus, the One who held before her two realities of life; the reality of what is and the reality of what might be.
Jesus brought this woman’s history into the light of the noonday sun. He said to her “You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.”
Jesus said this not to condemn this woman, but to simply state the truth. The woman has been found out.
But it doesn’t end there. Jesus is more interested in her future than her past. Jesus wants to satisfy her thirst more than He wants to judge her history.
Jesus knows her. Jesus looked beyond her past and saw a woman dying of thirst. Jesus saw a woman thirsting to be loved. He saw a woman yearning to be seen, and accepted, and forgiven and to be known in her community.
And Jesus knew that her thirst would never be quenched by the external wells of life. And neither will our thirst be quenched by the wells to which we turn, too.
Jesus said: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again.”
Jesus offers us all the living water of new life, the water of new possibilities, and the water that will free us from our past.
When the Samaritan woman received the living water of new life, we are told it became in her “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” In other words, the woman was healed. And the woman’s sins had been washed away. And the woman was set free from her past.
Just as water is necessary for our physical bodies, Jesus is necessary for our spiritual bodies. Our reading today urges us to come and drink from the well of life. Come and return to the Lord our God and stop drinking from the dry wells of this world, for these wells only dehydrate the soul and separate us from God and each other.
Let us pray: Almighty God, by our baptism into the death and resurrection of your Son, you turn us from the old life of sin. Grant that we who drink the living water given to us through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, may live in righteousness and holiness all the days of our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.