It has been long a long hot summer hot thus far. The sun makes your feel like you are baking and the humidity makes it feel like a sauna. The reports on the news highlight lost crops across the Midwest and raging fires in the West. Deaths are reported as frequently as triple digit days on the Fahrenheit scale. Relief is hard to find unless there is Air Conditioning or Ice Cream nearby. For every beach loaded with people seeking refuge in the cool water, there are many more people without access, without reprieve, and without any way to take a break as they are working in the hot, hot sun.
Jesus knew the heat. He spent his forty days in the wilderness without any comforts. Lemonade and popsicles were not invented yet. People living around the Mediterranean probably didn’t even know what ice was unless they saw it on a mountain. They didn’t know how refreshing little cubes of it in a glass of water could be. Later when he was executed on the cross, two of his last words were, “I thirst.” I think in that moment he felt the thirst we all feel. Not just the thirst of a hot summer, but a deeper longing, a more constant angst, a drier cracking of the soil that scorches the land as much as our very lives.
During his ministry Jesus was on a long walk from the south coming back to the Galilee. It is always cooler by the lake. But it was a hot journey, and rather than walking the conventional way around Samaria, he decided to go straight through it. He found himself in the midday sun in the town of Sychar. Samaritans and Jews didn’t mix. It is not a direct comparison, but it reminds me of modern Israelis and Palestinians – two people sharing the same land at odds with one another. As Jesus approached the town, he looked for the well. He was parched, sweaty, exhausted, so he took a seat. It is hard to estimate what an offense this would have been for the community, I am sure looking at him from the shade.
A woman approached to fill her jar with water from the well. This was an oddity as well. The women would have gotten their water in the morning – a chance to retrieve what they needed for the day while it was still cool, to see each other and catch-up, to begin their work on a long hot day and get things moving. But this woman was different. It was midday and she was alone. She must have been at odds with the community somehow – scorned from approaching the well at a decent hour. Yet here she was, an outcast – getting her water, probably her first waster for the day after a hot and dry morning. Jesus spoke to her. Again, this was an offense. Samaritans and Jews did not speak to each other. Men and women did not speak to each other either, but here Jesus was sitting at the well of an outcast, the well of a foreigner, the well of a woman, and he asked for drink.
She was understandably curious, skeptical and a little cautious of this stranger. She must have thought – Who was he and what was he doing here? Why is he talking to me? Who does he think he is anyway? Yet she was coy enough to engage him in conversation. First about their differences; then about their shared thirst. They shared the water of the well. But more importantly they shared “the Living water that leads to eternal life” – as Jesus promised. What he offered her was a cool breeze, an oasis, a running brook, in the open desert she had been living in – exiled in her own home town. Jesus named her shame – and yet he called to her to faith. He asked her to take a deep long drink.
She replied, “When the Messiah comes he will proclaim all things to us.”
Jesus simply responded, “I am,” the very name of God’s self-disclosure to Moses at the burning bush. Here is an irony to consider deeply – out of a burning bush – comes Living water.
The woman; no longer parched from her broken life; no longer thirsty from the hot sun she has endured from a community that shunned her; ran to tell the neighbors. Her confession to a crowd that new her every indiscretion was, “He told me everything I had ever done.” Yet she heard that as grace. She received it as Living water. She had what Jesus promised, no longer being thirsty every again. Her angst, her shame, her scorched desert – was now quenched with her encounter with Christ.
This is the gift Jesus gives to us as well – he meets us in the scorched places of our own lives, the cracked soil of our hearts where we believe we are no longer able to bring forth fruit, the hot scorching sun beating upon us without shade in sight. Jesus sits beside us and asks us for a drink. How can we give a drink, we are too dried up? Yet the women did – she sat with him, talked with him, debated with him, shared with him, and before you know it they were sipping on Living water. We have that same opportunity. Jesus is here, waiting for you to pour.
But there is more to this story than our own repentance and call to follow Jesus. By our baptism we have been washed in that same Living water, and it gushes in, with, under and through our dried up lives as the promise of God is made alive in us by the Spirit. Called by that same water, Living water, we are called to gather others around the well to see Jesus, and if they won’t come we, like the woman, are to go around town and bring with us that Living water to share.
As this hot summer lingers on, I ask you to consider your own talk with Jesus by the well. What would he tell you? What would you tell him? How might you offer a drink as he shares with you the Living water where we will ever go thirsty again? I also ask you to consider – who in your life is dried up, scorched, burned-out, and lingering in the hot, hot sun? Follow Jesus’ lead. All you are asked to do – is go to them. Sit. Listen. Care. Ask for a drink. You will be bringing Living water with you.
Look closely. Green shoots are sticking up out of the ground.
(The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is found in John 4.)
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.” (Titus 3:3-8)