Sermon - 27th March 2011
Lent 3: The woman at the well - Faith outside the gate
Scripture - Exodus 17:1-17, John 4:5-42
Today’s reading from the book of Exodus finds the Israelites feeling very thirsty in the desert. We heard that ‘the people murmured against Moses, and said, Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’
Thirst is life threatening. We all need water to survive. I can think of a few occasions over the years when I have been walking in hot weather and not had any water or access to any. I can remember feeling very shaky indeed and really quite desperate to get water. So I can only begin to imagine the physical symptoms the Israelites were experiencing in the desert. They protested to Moses and we know that although he felt frustrated with the people he did cry to the Lord about the situation. Water was miraculously provided. However, there remained issues about the people’s ability to trust God in a difficult situation and Moses felt the brunt of their protests.
Protest. This is a word which we are hearing more and more these days. Only yesterday we saw a massive protest against cuts in public spending on the streets of London.
In the last few weeks we have seen unprecedented protests in the Arab world. New forms of communication technology have enabled people to organise protests as never before.
Protest is therefore pretty universal. It was part of the experience of the people of the Bible and it is part of our experience today here in the U.K. and in so many other countries.
Today’s Gospel reading from John Chapter 4 contains protest too. Here we find Jesus sitting by Jacob’s well in Sychar in Samaria. His journey from Judea to Galilee took Him through this region. We heard how He asked a woman of Samaria for a drink of water from the well. She protests, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’
Jesus answers, ‘If you had only known and recognised God’s gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’
Jesus and the woman enter into a conversation and Jesus explains that the person who takes a drink of the water that He gives, the living water, will never be thirsty any more. This water will quench the deepest of thirsts and is life-giving. It is like a spring of water welling up within us, flowing into eternal life.
So, in our Old Testament reading we saw how God met the needs of the thirsting people with the gift of water. In this Gospel passage, we see that God provides living water through Jesus, the Messiah.
Through talking with Jesus, the woman recognises that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One. She tells other about Jesus and they come to believe in Him through her testimony and by meeting and listening to Him themselves.
Whilst the woman has gone into the town to tell the others what is happening, Jesus has a conversation with the disciples whereby He declines their offer of food because He is nourished by doing the will of ‘Him who sent me’.
So today’s scripture readings indicate that faith in God’s provision will meet our needs. We see that God quenches our thirsts, our longings.
The human family has many longings today. In our own country many long for secure employment and helpful local services. Further afield, people long for freedom. Politicians are full of ideas and make decisions that seem pretty drastic both on the domestic front and globally too. Are they getting it right? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that we really need to be listening to God these days. The Samaritan woman basically said to Jesus, ‘Are you talking to me?’ Well, He was and she listened.
God speaks to us too in this generation with all its thirsts and longings. There is living water for us today and always. It is Jesus who offers us this. But are we listening to His offer to help? Are we ready to be refreshed?
I wonder if our politicians and world leaders are listening to God? Are those who protest? I guess the answer will be different for each individual.
What I do know is that God speaks to us all, whoever we are. In all our own needs and all our concerns for this country and the global community, there has never been a better time to start listening to God so that we too can be refreshed and sustained for the ongoing journey which God truly accompanies us on.