Central Idea: Jesus comes to give us “living water” so we do not have to struggle so much to be freed of the thirst of life.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
We live in interesting times. But if you think what we are going through is bad, and it is, hang on, because I am about to help you put everything in perspective. I hope that after you hear this homily, you will never look at a faucet (or a swimming pool for that matter) in the same way again.
According to the World Health Organization over a billion people do not have access to improved sources of drinking water. This simple fact of life impacts nearly every aspect of their lives. A gallon of water weighs approximately eight pounds. The average person in sub-Saharan Africa uses about four gallons a day. (BTW, we use per person 82 gallons, probably more since we are washing our hands at every turn.) If you have a family of four, we are talking sixteen gallons, or 128 pounds. Because there is no running water in the home, all the water for cooking, for cleaning, for drinking, must be carried from the nearest source, all 128 pounds of it, every single day. If the nearest river or lake or creek or well is far away, say two miles, you have quite a task, a task, I may add, that is often taken up by the women or the children of the family. The women normally carries the water on her head or back or hip, which often times leads to backaches, inflamed joints and even permanent deformities caused by neck and spinal damage. If this wasn’t bad enough, to make the job of collecting the water even harder, it often has to be pumped up from many feet below the ground. To do this, a deep, narrow hole called a borehole is dug down to the water level. Women and children then pump up the water they need from the borehole, usually using a hand pump – it takes about ten minutes of pumping to produce the water needed. To make matters still worse, the water is often contaminated with disease carrying organisms and parasites.
For us, getting a drink takes all the effort of simple twist of a wrist or push with the hand. For many people throughout the world, it is a strenuous, daunting, time-consuming, back-breaking, exhausting, tedious and dangerous chore.
That is why the phrase “carrying the water” for someone means doing something for them that is difficult and unpleasant. And it is the simple reason why the woman at the well, both is put off at first by Jesus and intrigued by him.
The Samaritan woman is one of those many nameless hardworking everyday people whose task it was to “carry the water.” But on this particular day she runs into Jesus, a person who should not even be conversing with her and he simply asks her for a drink. That simple request opens us up to one of the most unlikely exchanges in the gospels. To summarize, Jesus should not even be near the woman, let alone talk to her. But their conversation reveals the depths of thirst in the woman’s life; thirst not just for water, but for understanding, compassion and kindness. In the end, the woman realizes that it will be this bold and unconventional man who will “carry the water” not just for her, but for the whole world. By his death and resurrection, this man Jesus, will do the difficult and unpleasant work of our salvation. His sacrifice is strenuous, daunting, time-consuming, back-breaking, exhausting, tedious and dangerous, but it will become a fountain of new life, a river of hope, a spring of justice.
And all we need to do to tap into this cascade of refreshing grace, is a simple push of our hands together in prayer, in contrition of our sinfulness, in petition for our thirst for love, in thanksgiving for all that we have been blessed with and in praise for a God who called us by our baptism to new life.
But it doesn’t end there with us. Just like we are called care for and share our natural resource of water, we are also called to care for and share the “living water” of God’s forgiveness, reconciliation and peace with one another. We are called to “carry the water” for one another in love.
One of the things I have learned over the past eight months since landing here at Holy, are the stories of tragedy and grief this parish has endured over the past several years. Some of you carry a heavy load. Indeed it has been strenuous, daunting and upsetting. And yet, I hope you look back at these ordeals as a turning point, a moment of strange grace, a time when you were willing to “carry the water” for each other, even though that water was 90% tears. This doesn’t diminish the sadness and loss, if I could I would turn back time and stop these horrible things from happening. Nevertheless, these often brutal occurrences put our lives into perspective and we begin to realize how precious we are to each other. Even in the worst of situations people can dare to love, and are willing to do the difficult and unpleasant, yet ultimately redemptive job of compassion. This often weighs way more than 128 pounds and it may break you a bit, but it will brace and fortify you to be people for others in the future.
So whenever you turn on a faucet, whenever you just simply stop for a drink at the drinking fountain, recognize how blessed you are and how you are now commissioned to “carry the water” of God’s life to everyone you encounter.
“but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life”