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03.23.14 Keeping Hydrated John 4:1-15

by on March 25, 2014

Think there are too many strikes against you spiritually, and that you’re about to be called “Out!”? You’re wrong; just ask this woman.

Summary Points

  •          The importance of keeping hydrated
  •          The woman who was spiritually dry
  •          How Jesus sees us
  •          Taking one more swing
  •          Questions for Discussion and Reflection

20140325_212210There are times when we’re very conscious of hydrating, like when we’re exercising. Think about the cyclists on the Tour de France, reaching out their hands and taking a cup of water as they peddle by. Or traveling in developing countries; we drink filtered water when it’s available because we don’t know if there will be any where we are in an hour.

Low-landers hiking in Colorado can avoid a headache if they drink more water. In the hospital, they’re either pouring water down your throat or denying you any at all. I’ve visited people who were begging for one more teaspoon of ice chips. When we are in physical distress, the need for water is obvious. That’s the case spiritually also.

One time early in his ministry Jesus was in Samaria, the region between Judea and Jerusalem, and Galilee where Jesus was from. The Samaritans were remnants of the old Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was conquered by the Assyrians in 740 BC. Under occupation, they developed their own traditions: they had Mt. Gerizim vs. Mt. Zion, for example, and they recognized only the Pentateuch as authoritative. Despite being more conservative and traditional than their Southern Kingdom survivors, the Jews of Judea regarded Samaritans as inferior.

In Samaria, Jesus stopped at a well near the city of Shechem, where Joshua famously called the ancient Israelites to covenant with the LORD. There he met a Samaritan woman. She was drawing water alone at noon, which suggests that she was a very lonely person. She has lots of religious questions. She talks to Jesus about their ancestry in Jacob, Mt. Gerizim, and the Messiah. She has had a hard life: five husbands plus a man she’s not married to. She’s had five failures, or five disappointments, or five victimizations. Her soul needs hydrating.

The Samaritan Woman is the poster child for Psalm 63:1, “O God my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” or Psalm 42:1, “As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

John tells us that Jesus is “tired out by the journey.” He has just come from a time of baptizing many people. When he met this woman, the waters of baptism were on Jesus’ mind, and he was tired out. How many people had he met seeking repentance, redemption, and forgiveness? How many were looking for religious renewal? How many were people just trying something new, anything with promise? Jesus had eyes to see the Samaritan Woman’s dry spirit, and being at the well, he asks her for a drink.

The Samaritan Woman is somewhat taken aback, because she has two strikes against her: she’s a woman, and she’s a Samaritan. She also listens to Jesus literally, whereas he is speaking metaphorically. This happens a lot in the Gospel of John. Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again. He told the religious leaders that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He told the crowds to destroy the Temple and he would rebuild it in three days. He told his disciples that Lazarus has fallen asleep. In each case, the audience took him literally.

What’s really happening is that Jesus takes the ingredients of our lives, and uses them to take us into a deeper encounter with God. He’s able to do this because we’re all spiritually thirsty—we need hydrating. In the middle of our lives is a well, in the driest desert, in the heat of the day, and Jesus is sitting there waiting for us to come. He wants to talk about it. He wants to satisfy our thirst.

To do that for the Samaritan Woman, Jesus asks about her husband. Here is her third strike, the one she hoped to keep secret. She was sure to be sent away a failure now, but instead of being called “Out!”, she was healed. John tells us that the woman leaves her water jar, goes into town, and brings back other thirsty souls.

It’s easy to take hydration for granted in ordinary life, when things are going well. It’s like forgetting to hydrate when you’re swimming just because you’re surrounded by water. It’s like forgetting to hydrate when you’re eating salty food and getting a headache as a result. When you’re training for a big event, they tell you to hydrate frequently because by the time you feel thirsty it’s too late; you’re already dehydrated.

It’s like that spiritually also. We need to hydrate frequently and regularly. If wait until we feel the need, we’ve waiting too long unnecessarily. Jesus is available all the time, waiting to hydrate our souls. The easiest way to take advantage of this is through prayer. We can go to Jesus who’s waiting at our well, even at the place where we go over and over to try to satisfy your thirst. He’s waiting to deliver us from a spirituality of trial and error in which we think, “Maybe this will work.” He wants to help us past—or better, through—all our religious questions and distractions.

All Jesus wants to do in your prayers is have a conversation about the ingredients of your life. We bring these to Jesus in prayer, and he turns them into metaphors of meaning. In prayer with Jesus, we find the spiritual interpretation of our lives.

We give you thanks Creator God for you are also creative. You hydrate this world through humidity and rain, through rivers and lakes, and through snow. Through the history of your people you have used water to cleanse the earth, you provided a path through water to liberate us from slavery, you provided water from the rock to hydrate us through the desert wilderness. For our souls you provided the law and the prophets, to guide us in the way that most pleased you.

Because we depart from this way so often, neglecting your Word and wandering from your will, you came to us in Jesus Christ. He turned water into wine, told the blind to wash in the ritual waters, and shared baptism with us that we may have life.

Jesus promised us streams of living waters that would well up in abundance and bring us eternal life. Send us your Spirit in fulfillment of this promise, that we may find refreshment at the well of your table. As your Word transformed Jacob’s well into a place of divine encounter, so send your Spirit that we may encounter the risen Christ in the breaking of bread and the sharing of cup.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  •          Has anyone ever made you feel religiously inferior? Perhaps you have been judged for not knowing your Bible better, or for just being a person of faith. How does it make you feel that Jesus doesn’t judge the Samaritan Woman? Do you think Jesus judges you?
  •          How often do you reflect upon the waters of baptism as a source of spiritual hydration? How do these waters address the spiritually dry places in your life?
  •          What are the “ingredients of your life” that you take literally, but that Jesus can use metaphorically to take you deeper into God?

 

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