Thirsting for God

On February 4, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Thirsting for God Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Feb. 4, 2018 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Jesus is traveling in today’s gospel lesson, and his journey takes him through […]

Thirsting for God
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Feb. 4, 2018

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Jesus is traveling in today’s gospel lesson, and his journey takes him through Samaria. Jesus finds himself alone in Sychar. His disciples have all gone into town to shop for food, and he is alone in a region whose people don’t particularly trust Jewish folk, and, Jewish folk often don’t think highly of Samaritans. So, basically, Jesus is alone in potentially hostile territory. And he’s thirsty.

I think it’s important that we see this vulnerable moment in Jesus’ life. He’s alone, surrounded by people who may dislike him on sight, and he’s thirsty. This is a scene that could turn pretty ugly without much provocation.

Jesus is the stranger.
Jesus is the foreigner.
Jesus is the uninvited.
Jesus is the undocumented.

Jesus, tired and thirsty and alone, cops a squat on the edge of a famous well, on a plot of ground that that legend says Jacob gave to his son Joseph. He’s sitting at the well, but he doesn’t have a jar or bucket to lower into the well.

Along comes a woman, a Samaritan woman (it is, after all, Samaria). You know what? We aren’t going to spend the next 14 minutes calling this person “the Samaritan woman”. She had a name. We don’t know what it is, but to honor her I am going to lend her one. Since we encounter her at Jacob’s well, let’s call her Jacoba.

Jesus, rather abruptly, says to Jacoba, “Give me some water.” Surely the word “please” simply got lost in the translation.

But actually, Jesus is doing something rather subversive. He, a man, is talking to a woman. He, a possibly unwelcome traveler, approaches one of the locals. He, a member of the Jewish faith and ethnicity engages a member of the Samaritan faith and ethnicity. There were socially constructed walls of fear and prejudice that were meant to keep these people apart, and Jesus tears down those walls!

“Give me some water” is one of the most radical statements in the Bible, because it places Samaritan and Jew, man and woman, religious and political adversaries on the same, human level. “Give me some water” are the magic words that rebukes and destroys walls of separation.

Jesus does something else with those words: he admits need. He’s sitting at the edge of a well…but Jacoba is the one with a bucket. He addresses her straight away by saying, “I need help and I recognize that you are someone who can help me.” He affirms her dignity, her agency, her power to help him if she is willing. He basically places himself at her mercy.

Jacoba’s a little shocked. She says, “You know…most Jews and Samaritans wouldn’t share a drinking vessel.” But Jesus won’t let that wall stand. Jesus from John chapter 4 rebukes the idea of segregated water fountains and lunch counters, of walls meant to keep people apart and trapped in fear and hatred.

And, while Jesus needs the water that Jacoba can draw with her bucket, he wants to give her something as well. He’s already given her the gift of acknowledgment and of trusting her with his vulnerability. But he gives her something else…he affirms her sacred value. She mentions her husband and he, maybe because he’s been listening to the gossip as people walked past him treating him as if he were invisible, or maybe because the writer thought that would be a dramatic bit to drop in, Jesus just knowing something about this stranger, but Jesus tells her, “you’ve had a few husbands and this one isn’t really your husband.”

Maybe she’s been abandoned by 5 cads, or maybe she has been tragically widowed 5 times. Jesus knows she’s a rough time, and he her past does not define her. She is a child of God, made in the image of God, and she is forever held in the love that God is. Period. And he shows her that with their visit at the well.

Jacoba goes to tell her village about her encounter and she persuades a lot of folk to come see Jesus, making her an evangelist, a preacher, a disciple. A woman…a Samaritan woman…the Disciple Jacoba.

Jesus and Jacoba, because they really are partners in this story, tear down the walls religious bigotry, ethnic prejudice, regional animosity, and assumptions about gender roles.

Jacoba reminds Jesus that his people like to worship in the city, while hers like the mountain. How are they going to keep this love fest going when they can’t even agree on where to best encounter God? And Jesus answers, ”the time is coming, and in fact it is already here, when people won’t limit God to mountains or cities, but they will realize that God is omnipresent life, God is spirit, and is best worshiped in spirit and in truth”…which is what Jesus and Jacoba have been doing. How?

By giving. They gave hope. They gave respect. They gave kindness. They gave compassion. They gave encouragement. They gave time. They gave a listening ear. They gave up their preconceived judgements and assumptions. They gave each other the benefit of the doubt. That’s how to worship in spirit and truth.

Jesus tells Jacoba, “GIVE me water.”
He tells her that she is unaware of a GIFT that God has given.
She reminds Jesus that Jacob GAVE the well.
Jesus tells her that God, as love, as power, as presence, as spirit is like a stream that is forever gushing, that is, forever GIVING.
Jacoba says, “GIVE me some of that spirit water.”
And when she runs to tell her neighbors about this amazing encourager, Jesus, she leaves her bucket behind for him…she GIVES him the means to quench his thirst.

Lives were changed because Jesus and Jacoba gave each other a chance, and then continued to give from their hearts to one another.

Jacoba was thirsting for an awareness that she was God’s miracle and not God’s mistake. Jesus quenched that thirst by affirming her and seeing her as the child of God that she was. We’re all thirsting for God, and Spirit is an eternal gushing stream of love that we can access at any time. We’re here, like Jesus in Samaria, to help people believe that the spirit stream is for them, is part of them, and it will never run dry.

Being generous. Being compassionate. Tearing down walls. That’s how we worship in spirit and in truth. That’s how we relieve those who are thirsting for God. And this is the good news. Amen.

My soul thirsts for the living God.
Gushing streams of God’s goodness satisfies my thirst.
Thank you, God.

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