woman at the well

John 4:5-42

”Come and see the a man who told me every thing I have ever done!”

Talk about burying a lead!

But maybe not. Maybe receiving this kind of good news is too much to take right after hello. But maybe its not as complicated and not as onerous as we think. Maybe it is a simple as taking a drink.

Have you ever been thirsty before? I don’t mean you could use something to “wet your whistle” but I mean the kind of thirst that survivalists talk about when they say you can go three days without water. I know I’ve felt that way before in my life, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a place where lack of fluids put my life in harm.

Maybe you have thirsted before, but it wasn’t for something to drink, but you’ve thirsted for the dignity that comes with steady, honest work. Or maybe you craved a way out of isolation and longed for deep connections and relationships. Maybe you have been rendered parched by the way elected officials seem to ignore the thirst being articulated by the people. Have you ever thirsted for a faith… or maybe faith is not even the right word…but you longed for a connection to something that was deeper, more significant. Have you ever been thirsty?

This woman at the well was thirsty. She was thirsty on a very basic level in that she was coming to the well to drink—That daily need to replenish herself as well as her water stores for cooking, cleaning. In that very mundane action, she experienced something she had not planned, she had a different kind of thirst quenched.

It is said that the average American walks around just a little bit dehydrated… not so much so as to cause confusion or for our bodies to start doing things like imagining that sand is water. But neither do we go around functioning as well as we could.

So the research goes, we go about our days drinking enough fluids each day but we drink the wrong kind. Either we go one way: soft drinks, beer and wine, or powdered drinks. But we forget that chemicals like caffein and alcohol works against the hydration process. And we forget that there are studies proving that the body metabolizes certain sugar substitutes that are supposed to be zero calories but actually your body treats in some ways as real sugar. So we’re not really hydrating, even though we think we are.

Have you ever been involved with something you thought was life-giving and it turned out to not be healthy at all? Maybe a job or a relationship. Maybe there was part of your faith journey that was not pointing you to life.

Or we go the other way, thinking that we need to have all these sports drinks that offer electrolytes, salt, even energy replenishment when the only people those drinks really help are folk like professionals or the folk who ran the marathon today. For most of us regular folk, water will do. And we do even need to water from the South Pacific, water that has gone through reverse osmosis or even water from a coconut. All we need is simply, water.

Have you ever been thirsty, even though you thought you were doing what you needed to and the thirst abided—it didn’t go away?

I wonder sometimes—and maybe this is just me—if with our evolved sensibilities we make things more complicated than we should. Have you ever wondered about that? I don’t mean that we need to force our faith into something that is simplistic or two-dimensional, something that ignores context, nuance, science, or history. Rather, I wonder if sometimes we need to remember that what are about is a relationship, its about having Jesus stand in front of us, too at the well, telling us everything about ourselves… him doing that with a sense of grace and invitation—not spite, wrath or judgement—and being invited to consider our lives in ways we never have before?

Simple? I would hope so. Difficult? Most definitely.

One of the stories I love to share about just this thing is a story from I think Florida. Imagine, if you will, it being summer time. Locked away in the basement of the church was a really great youth room with, among a bunch of other cool things, was a pool table. Like many youth spaces, this room was only used on a Sunday.

And so these two neighborhood middle school boys would perennially try and succeed in finding their ways into the church and the youth room to play pool. I can imagine that that church was not that different from ours and many others where, despite all best attempts, there’s no 100% way to ensure that our building is 100% secure all the time.

Well, one day, the pastor of the church finds the two boys playing pool in the basement. Instead of throwing them out, instead of calling the police, instead of giving the boys a lecture about respect of private property, what does he do? He gives them the keys to the church and tells the boys that they can come play pool any time they want. I’m not sure that would pass muster today, especially given child safe-guarding procesdures. But I think it proves a point about sometimes we “err” on the side of grace. And you know what? One of those two boys grew up to become a United Methodist clergy.

Have you ever been so thirsty that you’d soon defy convention just to drink?

Yes, I thirst for a church and a faith that is a little more intuitive, a little more trusting, a little more hope-filled and not so much caught up in helping everyone live into the letter of our polity—and that’s saying something coming from someone who is a rule-follower, like myself. And you know what, I think that most of us are like that, too. We go about our days, doing our daily ritual and all we really want is for that moment of cognition, of being known to someone.

I thirst for a church that calls for a return to something that we all seem to know—community built around the table, nurture that is rooted in the study and exploration of Scripture, and service to the world that puts the vision of the Reign of God before anything else. I’m sure that the slick ministry plans, timely title sequences with video production that would make Spielerg jealous, and exquisite lighting and smoke machines provides some body with a glimpse of how God desires the world to be, how God wants the church—the people of God—to be. I’m just not entirely sure I know who the are. That’s not to downplay technology, but which is in service to which? What’s primary?

Maybe a better question, given the day, is what’s in the water we’re drinking.

But I think that a better sense would be what happens here in Scripture. Here, this woman, as soon as she is offered this gift from Jesus and she turns and goes to share the news—the good news. Meals are shared, stories are told, people believe. People come into relationship with God and each other.

Are you thirsty? Are you thirsty for a church like that? Are you thirsty for a people like that? I am.

Let’s go to the well. Let’s go to the well and drink, Let’s go to the well and find out who is there waiting to tell us everything about ourselves.

Are you thirsty?