Text study on John 4:5-42
Lectionary text for March 27, 2011
Images of destructive water flash across the screen all day. As I write, Japan is reeling from the damage done by the earthquake and tsunami just a few days ago. The world gasps at the footage of entire villages submersed and lives lost. Even as the floodwaters subside, many survivors are left without drinking water and food.
For our sisters and brothers in Japan, and in many other places around the world, the raw power of water is real, and thirst is a life-threatening reality.
How many ways do we take water for granted? Turn on the tap and have a drink. Dirty clothes are quickly washed clean. How have we tried to “tame” water and forgotten its power to move earth and turn lives upside down?
The Samaritan woman approached Jacob’s well to quench her daily thirst (John 4:5-42). There, she is shocked by an encounter with Jesus. She is surprised that Jesus, a Jew, would interact with her, a woman from Samaria. She expects to be ignored, but instead Jesus offers her living water.
Through this encounter with Christ, the woman realizes her true thirst for God. Certainly we require water to live. This physical, primal thirst cannot be ignored. But stagnant water — whatever is not sustaining our souls — pulls us back to the well day after day without truly being satisfied.
The season of Lent offers an opportunity to pay attention to our deep hungers and thirsts. And not only our own thirsts, but the thirsts of the whole world. When we see horrific suffering in Japan or Haiti or across town, are our hearts moved to pray? Are our congregations stirred into action? Do we hunger and thirst for righteousness?
Our bodies are made up of more than 50 percent water. Consuming water every day is necessary to sustain us physically. So too, the living water of God’s word, pulsing through our lives, sustains us spiritually. Not only do we need it on the day of our baptisms when we join in Christ’s death and resurrection through the sacramental waters, but our lives are soaked in the living water of God’s word day after day. We are shaped and moved by it.
As our sisters and brothers are reeling from the devastating effects of tsunami and flood, we humbly remember the promises of God to meet us at the places of our deepest hunger and thirst. We join the woman at the well in proclaiming “I know that Messiah is coming.”
• Just as the woman at the well encountered Christ in the midst of her daily task of gathering water, how have you encountered Christ in the daily patterns of your life?
• This Lent, how are you thinking about your baptism — where do you encounter the living water of Christ’s death and resurrection?
Callista Isabelle serves as associate university chaplain of Yale University in New Haven, Conn. She is associate pastor of the University Church in Yale, an ecumenical congregation. Originally from Iowa, Callista served on the volunteer staff of Holden Village for two years before entering divinity school.