St Andrew’s Scots Kirk Sunday 15 March 2020
Readings: Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4: 5-42
What do you thirst for?
We know about thirst in Colombo in March, don’t we?
It is hot by 9.00am and piping hot by noon.
The heat makes our lips parched, our throats dry, our body begins to sends signals from our skin and stomach and organs requesting fluid, the messages become more urgent hour by hour until thirst become a pain, not a request rather a demand and after a remarkably short time just one day our bodies begin to shut down. Yes we certainly need water.
When you are really thirsty we can imagine ourselves after a long journey in the desert reaching a water hole, an oasis or a well and then slowly beginning to drink glorious, sparkling, free, cool water .
What an experience …. thirst quenched, calm restored and body strengthened by a cup of water. Gradually we can begin to think about something other than water.
Water and a well are central to this story, but it is the story of an encounter between a man and a woman.
We know the man, this Jesus sitting by a well waiting for his friends. In the course of a few words we discover a good deal about the woman.
She is a Samaritan. Now Jews and Samaritan were enemies at this period. They did not share much together, not conversation, nor drinking vessels and never worship.
The woman should not be there. No one collects water at noon in a really hot country. This reveals to us that she is not respected in her community. She has been attacked verbally or physically or both. The story tells us why? The women are jealous of her and the men are sexually attracted to her. The men want to go to bed with her and she has been married 5 times. This was not common practice in the 1st century. So this woman has acquired a reputation. This is why she was alone in the noon day heat without the protection of the other village women.
The story concerns a woman and a man.
The solitary man sitting at Jacob’s well is Jesus. Jesus is remarkably by any standards, even 20 centuries later open to women. This is underlined most evidently in Luke’s gospel where he is so generous to women – helping, healing and supporting them. They are part of his group. However, perhaps, he knew his family genealogy and lived out of that long story. If you read the first Chapter of Matthew’s gospel. You will see for yourself that Jesus family descends from an adulterous relationship between David and Bathsheba, a descends through a refugee Ruth about whom a whole book is written and he descends through an incestuous relationship between Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38). Jesus is, of course, exceptionally close to his mother, Mary.
So this story concerns a man and a woman with very unusual hinterlands and back stories.
How do these two remarkable people interact at a place and time that they should never ever meet?
He, tired from the journey says, “Give me a drink of water?”
She said, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan—so how can you ask me for a drink?”
He said, “If you only knew what God gives and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you life-giving water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you don’t have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where would you get that life-giving water?
Jesus answered, “Those who drink this water will get thirsty again, 14 but those who drink the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life.”
15 “Sir,” the woman said, “give me that water! Then I will never be thirsty again.”
This is an extraordinary interaction between that man and that woman and there is more to it, which you want to reread in your own time. In essence it takes a causal chat about water to reveal the background to both characters. The woman is valued, changed, restored. She returns to her village to change others. They come to Jesus and plead with him to stay with them.
Jesus reveals that a relationship with him is not one dimensional, it is not about heat, water or bodily needs. It is about etemity.
He invites us into choices concerning our todays, tomorrows and forevers and we need not be worried about our families, nor held back by our past failures or our poor reputations.
I repeat the question I asked at the beginning of this sermon,
What do you thirst for?
In a world where the stock markets have collapsed, the powerful are suddenly looking very vulnerable and stupid for not accepting expert advice, the wise may be getting a chance for their thoughts to be heard,
What do you thirst for?
As a person I invite you to live with that simple question this week. I remind you of a memorable woman’s response,
15 “Sir,” give me that water! Then I will never be thirsty again.”
Thanks be to God. Amen.