A Reading from the Book of Exodus (17:1-7)
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
(Psalm refrain to be sung by soloist
and repeated by all)
1 Come, let us sing to the Lord; *
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
3 For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture
and the sheep of his hand. *
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!
8 Harden not your hearts, as your forebears did in the wilderness, *
at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,
when they tempted me.
9 They put me to the test, *
though they had seen my works.
10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said, *
“This people are wayward in their hearts;
they do not know my ways.”
11 So I swore in my wrath, *
“They shall not enter into my rest.”
Refrain : Roy James Stewart
A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Romans (5:1-11)
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (4:5-42)
Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “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. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
What are you thirsting for? Do you even know?
The Israelites in today’s first reading thought they knew. They had been traveling for about two months since the day they had left Egypt, traveling through the dry and barren Sinai Peninsula; and they were thirsty.
They were coming near a mountain, a mountain that had been considered by generations of people before them to be a sacred place, a mountain that was called Sinai or Horeb. And there they complained to God and Moses, calling out for water. God listened to them and gave them water to satisfy the thirst that they knew they had. But God also gave them another kind of water: one that had the ability to satisfy a much deeper thirst, a thirst that they did not even recognize. God gave them Torah.
The word “Torah” is often translated “Law,” but it was and is much more than that. It was and is God’s teaching: God’s instruction to lead them through and to life. And it was in that gift, and in the acceptance of that gift, that they were to become God’s people: bound to God in solemn covenant.
Some 1300 years later, a descendant of those people was also thirsty. John never tells us her name. That might be due to the fact that she serves as a representative for an entire group of people, called by God to new life. John calls her simply, “a Samaritan woman.” She came to the village well around noon, apparently thirsty for water. But she obviously was thirsting for much more than that. Here, at this community gathering-place where all the other women came together, she sat alone. That really wasn’t surprising considering her past — and her present. She had already been married five times – way beyond anything permitted either by the law or in decent society – and now she was living with some other man. At least she was when she left home to come to the well. Her relationships obviously never lasted very long.
A group of men cautiously walked into the village square, but then all but one of them left. She and this stranger were left alone. Any hope of finding anyone with whom she could talk was shattered when she realized that this was no friend. He was a Jew: one of the long-time enemies of the Samaritans. The two groups had written each other off centuries ago, and their mutual hostility had, at times, erupted into attacks on each other and even killing each other
This stranger shocked her when he came over to the well and spoke with her, asking for a drink of water. Why in the world would he speak to her? And why in the world had he come to the well to begin with – come without a bucket? If she hadn’t been there, he would have had no way of drawing up water to satisfy his thirst. Little did she know that he would end up satisfying her thirst: not her thirst for water, but her deepest thirst: her thirst for forgiveness, for acceptance, for hope, for life.
Like the Israelites approaching the slopes of Mt. Sinai and like the Samaritan woman at the well, we, too, are thirsty. But do we know what we are thirsting for? Maybe and maybe not. It just might be that the things that we keep looking for and working for all our lives – our “water” – will never satisfy our real, our deepest thirst. But then maybe we are looking in the wrong places.
There are many facets of these two marvelous stories that can guide and lead us in our journey of Lent and in our journey of life. Let me point out just three of them for you to think about and consider over the coming week.
First of all, in the Exodus story, the Israelites seemed to have been looking for some sort of miraculous, divine intervention to provide them with water. After what had happened during Passover night in Egypt and what had happened in their crossing of the Sea, they might well have been looking for another glorious display of God’s power. But God told Moses: “You already have what you need to solve your problem and satisfy the people’s needs. Take the staff that you have in your hand, and strike the rock.” That must have been a real let-down. They were looking for something spectacular, but all they needed was a stick and a rock – along with trust in God. God often has a way of telling us that we already have all that we need to find life and do God’s work. We waste our time looking for some silver bullet or magical approach to our life and mission. All we need to do is use what God has already given us and trust that God will do the rest. Christians and churches tend to forget that.
Second, in the gospel story, the woman found that her real thirst, her deepest thirst, wasn’t quenched by any of her failed relationships; nor was it quenched by her going off to some exotic place for any sort of special spiritual experience. It was quenched when a stranger – more than that, a stranger who was an enemy – came to her asking for water. And in focusing on her enemy’s need instead of worrying about her own, she found that all of her greatest needs at last were met. That’s a very important reminder to us, as well: where our focus needs to be.
Finally, the story does not end with the woman’s encounter with Jesus. It doesn’t reach its fulfillment until she — still a little afraid to believe that God had given God’s great gift to her – until she went out to share that gift with others. She instinctively seemed to recognize the fact that the gift she had been given was God’s gift for all. And so she immediately went to tell others in the village about what had happened and about what Jesus had said and done and to raise the question in their minds that Jesus had raised in hers: “Is this, at last, the one for whom we have all been waiting? Is this at last, the one who brings the living water, the one who has come to satisfy our deepest thirst?”
What are you thirsting for? Do you even know?
It’s all too easy for us all to expend our time and our energy and our resources looking for things that we try to convince ourselves will satisfy us, only to find that, after we have them, we are just as thirsty, just as dissatisfied, just as unfulfilled as we were before. Maybe we need to try a new approach, but an approach which is actually an old one. Instead of looking for some secret formula or some new gimmick that will solve all our problems, maybe we need to look at using what we already have. Instead of looking for happiness in what other people can do for us and give to us, maybe we need to look at how we can satisfy the thirsts of other people, including our enemies. And instead of focusing so much on ourselves, maybe we need to focus on sharing God’s gifts and Good News with others. In doing so, we might just find what we really need: the One who alone can satisfy all our thirsts.