“Are You Thirsty”
John 4: 5-15,
March 19th 2017
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Let us open our ears and hear the words of this morning’s lesson from the gospel account according to John, Chapter 4, Verses 5-15:
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Having heard the opening scene between this Samaritan woman and Jesus, let us now open our hearts and minds as we grapple with the meaning of this encounter in our lives today.
How good a listener are you? Do you stop what you are doing to take the time to ‘fully’ be there, for the one who wants to share? Do you affirm their candor without judgement? What about you, do you take time to reveal and tell another about the feelings, the emotions and the experiences you have had, or are having? Can you remember the first time you were really understood; and you knew someone was truly listening to you? Can you follow the rhythm and the rhyme of a good poem? Listen and you shall soon know.
Everything’s easy after it’s done;
Every battle’s a “cinch” that’s won;
Every problem is clear that’s solved –
The earth was round when it revolved!
But Washington stood amid grave doubt
With enemy forces camped about;
He could not know how he would fare
Till after he’d crossed the Delaware.
Though the river was full of ice
He did not think about it twice,
But started across in the dead of night,
The enemy waiting to open the fight.
Likely feeling pretty blue,
Being human, same as you,
But he was brave amid despair,
And Washington crossed the Delaware!
So, when you’re with trouble beset,
And your spirits are soaking wet,
When all the sky with clouds is black,
Don’t lie down upon your back.
And look at them.
Just do the thing;
Though you are choked, still try to sing.
If times are dark, believe them fair,
And you will cross the Delaware!
By Joseph Morris
Did you listen? Did you really hear? Have you crossed over your Delaware?
The Reverend Elaine Blanchard, was the keynote speaker at the retreat I attended the week before last at the Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center, in Olivia; not too far from our Florida Conference office on 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL. She guided us on an exercise designed to increase our listening skills and helped us by lifting up and affirming the importance of telling stories; true stories about our own journeys, and experiences along our travels in our own lives. She did this primarily by sharing several powerful stories about her own journey as a child. Her stories opened up for us all to view, through the eyes of a child: racism, bigotry and abuse, at many different degrees and levels. It was a powerful retreat, meant to renew and refresh us, yet propel us into new discussions and open pathways to new opportunities for ministry, for ourselves and for those we serve.
How will you tell your truth, your story, your understanding of where you have been, and what you are all about? Who will listen?
It takes strength to be firm,
It takes courage to be gentle.
It takes strength to conquer,
It takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to be certain,
It takes courage to have doubt.
It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to feel a friend’s pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to endure abuse,
It takes courage to stop it.
It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on another.
It takes strength to love,
It takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive,
It takes courage to live.
When have you felt the strength of another? When have you seen the courage of another? Can you feel and see your own? Share that with someone… it is your story.
Pastor Elaine, also shared a great deal about her own ministry which entails her work at prisons, where she has encouraged inmates to openly share their stories with her and with others. With their permission, she has used their stories to create dramas played out by real actors in order to take these inmates stories out into the community. A powerful ministry to be sure. One of the dramas she played out for us was her rendition of this scripture passage, which I had chosen for our lesson several weeks prior to the retreat. ‘The Samaritan woman at the well’. Through her eyes and in her words, Elaine gave us a modern version of this account, bringing it to light in more personal ways. Try to imagine yourself as this woman, going down to the well, or to one’s local convenience store, as was her daily custom, and encountering this stranger, a Jew named Jesus. As she was a Samaritan woman, she knew that speaking with a Jewish man was virtually unheard of, Samaritans were shunned by the Jews, and a Jewish man would never speak to a Samaritan woman. This is the backdrop to this encounter between her and the man named Jesus.
You are walking into the store looking for something for dinner and you ask the butcher for some advice. But he is too busy to help you now. You curtly tell him how he has hurt you and leave, empty handed. Or possibly… you hear his overworked frustration of an all too busy day. You acknowledge his situation, smiling as you say “I can wait till you have a moment.” When you do leave, you not only have a roast to serve, you now know how long and at what temperature to cook it. Possibly, you learn the butcher’s name and he now knows yours. By truly listening you changed a negative into a positive.
As we get into the mode of listening to someone we need to think about how we want to be listened to, as we clear our minds of clutter, preparing ourselves to be present to their time for communicating with us. For the person who experiences being listened to, it can be a very powerful and valuable event. The encounter between the woman at the well and Jesus begins when Jesus asks her for a drink. Try to imagine this from the eyes of the woman. She was not expecting anyone to be at the well, yet, here is this Jewish man asking her for a drink of water. The irony surrounding this encounter is that the story is ‘upside down’! This is not a story about Jesus asking for a drink, it is about the woman’s thirst for the touch of God in her life. The thirst that we are told about, through the words of Jesus is her thirst, not his! The setting is at this community well, the only available water in the area. Jesus was perhaps thirsty for water, yet, the dialogue he gets into with the woman is all about the hunger and thirst of the woman, who represents all of us who are in need of God’s grace and mercy.
The trip to the well, for the woman, was an opportunity to get her chores done: wash the cloths, fill the water buckets and cart them back to her home. She was not expecting to get into a discussion with a stranger about living water and eternal life. Nor was she expecting to meet the Messiah who reaches across the barriers, the walls that separate ethnic groups, nor did she expect to break down the shackles between ancient customs and traditions. She certainly, was not planning on meeting someone who was interested in listening to and talking with her. If you were to read the next twenty-seven verses of this encounter you would learn the depth to which Jesus listened and understood this woman. He affirms her in a way that no one else had. Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” /John 4: 16-18/ It is at this point that the woman realizes she is talking with someone who deeply understands her, for Jesus did not condemn or censure her for her background, rather he affirms who she truly is. It changes her life and the life of those who she shares the details of this encounter with.
Have you been listened to at such a level? Perhaps you have had the opportunity to listen to another’s story and felt their needs as you listened. Has someone affirmed you for who you are? Or are you still waiting for this to happen? Try talking with someone today, and we shall pray that they are ready to truly listen to you.
We all have tasks which need to be done. Some are fun and others heavy laden. As we go about them things may happen or persons may enter in who were unexpected, or perhaps someone does or says something quite different or new. No one truly knows what the next moment shall bring. Are you prepared to receive that moment with grace and look for the rose, the gem or precious stone shinning bright, in the midst the assortment of verbs and nouns being served? We need to always prepare ourselves for that next unexpected moment. Stay open to it when it arrives, knowing that God is there at your side, as something new unfolds within your space and all around you, encompassing all of who you are.
Both Jesus and the woman had a choice that day. Upon seeing the strange man at the well, the woman could have turned around, going back to her home, to come again at a later time. Jesus could have sat and waited quietly till his disciples returned from town. Surely, they would have let the bucket down into the well, bringing up fresh cool water for Jesus to drink. There was no need for him to have asked the woman for a drink.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
By Robert Frost
What story do you have to tell? Is there anyone who will listen? Stories can be shared orally, or put to paper, pen in hand. Digital records like to be spoken to, capturing every word without comment… later to be heard by countless others. Silently in prayer, we can share with open heart allowing our redeemer in to hear every thought, sound and syllable, as we empty the load of our troubled day. Perhaps the sun is burning brightly in the midst the dark glum of the night, as your heart bursts with bright shining joy, over a new-found treasure or toy. The prisoner yearns to share her journey, her version of it all. The father, filled with remorse cries out to tell of his pain and regret. The lonely mother wants to share her fears with a non-judgmental ear. The Spirit of God waits with patient love to hold the words of a lost soul seeking comforting peace, in the dark silence of the night, as-well-as in the bright shining light in the middle of the day.