Surprises on the way
by the Revd Robert Jordan M.A.
23rd March 2013
Bible Readings: Exodus 17:1-7; John 4:4-15, 39-42
Loving Father, so often it is the little things in life that get to us and there seems to be so many of them each day. We ask you Lord to make yourself known to us in our weakest moments and in our greatest fears. Teach us to receive Your love in a way that enables us to show it to others, especially those closest to us. Amen.
When I was about 7 years old we were living at the end of a close, the last house, so it was great for playing out in the street...no traffic. One summer morning a couple of guys who were walking past asked me for a glass of water - easy to provide, and when they had finished and returned the glasses, they gave me a coin with a "Thank you". I ran inside to tell my parents of this. I can still remember their reaction. Great to have given them a glass of water, but never accept payment for a glass of water - it's not something anybody should pay for, it's a gift. Fifty years later I still remember this. Lesson learnt !
Water was not, is not, a commodity, it is a gift, a sign of God's grace. It is life. And this is what the readings remind us of.
1) Soon after leaving the land of slavery and crossing the Sea, living their first experiences of freedom, the people of God face the lack of water - a true problem when in the desert. They have faced problems before; lack of bread, lack of meat. God instructs Moses what to do, and water flows. They were concerned about the presence of God; is he among us or not? But let us not judge them too soon - they were at the early stages of learning; we take our time learning to trust God, why not them? They didn't know what was to come, it wasn't that easy for them. What this incident points to then is to God's grace - Water in the desert.
2) The very well known passage of the gospel of John is set very early in Jesus' ministry, a way of pointing to what was to happen, a setting of priorities, and weren't they different ones ! This happens in Samaria, which is a lesson in itself. Most Jews would prefer to take a long detour round Samaria, rather than walking through it - not Jesus, he walked right into it. The person involved is a woman; again something to bear in mind. A place loaded with history. A time of the day which is quite unsociable. A totally unusual situation. A brilliant setting even before anything substantial happens.
A woman with no name - Jesus speaks to her, he needs water, a similar situation to the people of God in the desert, and he has no means to access water, in this sense she is in a better situation than Jesus is. While the woman reacts within the traditional life pattern of the time, Jesus confronts this pattern. Simply recognizing her existence, addressing her with respect, Jesus creates a situation of life. He speaks to her of a new possibility, a new life - similar offer made to Nicodemus in chapter 3. The woman responds to the "water" situation without grasping yet that Jesus is talking about something more.
This situation brings out from the woman something she doesn't know is there. We are told she leaves the water jug and runs to share her discovery. The first announcer of the Good News is a Samaritan woman - an unexpected twist to the gospel. And this allows Jesus to stay in the town and relate to the people. When he continues the journey life will never be the same for any of them, the woman, the people of the town and even for Jesus. A mutuality has been created that overcomes boundaries, preconceptions, limitations. Life is at the centre of all this situation.
Water in the world today has become a luxury for so many; and we believe God wants something quite different. At this time of Lent we are invited to look at our relationship with the basics of life and the needs we see, and nurture our faith so as to be signs in the world of a different way of living life. Our voice as a sign of God's presence today. God coming to us with surprises on the way, involving all people, even those who would least expect it. Thank God for these surprises. Amen.