Water of Life

Watching for the Morning of March 19, 2017

The Third Sunday in Lent

California reservoirs are full now. We have been scrimping in our use of water, taking brief showers, flushing only occasionally, saving the water in which we cooked the pasta to pour on the plants outside the kitchen window, saving the water that runs while waiting for the hot water to arrive. Lawns were allowed to die – or were replaced. If a half-drunk cup of tea got left behind, I poured it out on the rose bushes. I worried about the trees withering on the church property. And yet we still had water. No one went thirsty. No children perished. No livestock had to be slaughtered.

Sunday the texts are about water. Israel is in the desert, fleeing pharaoh behind them and fearing the deprivation ahead of them. The little words in our text, “there was no water for the people to drink,” are truly fearful. Water is life.

In one of the great metaphors of the scriptures, Moses marches ahead to Mt. Sinai (called Mt. Horeb in this text) and there, at God’s command, strikes the rock. From it gushes forth a river of water pouring through the wilderness until it reaches the people. The Word of God is life. The voice that speaks at Sinai is a river of life.

On Sunday, too, Jesus will meet the Samaritan woman at the well, this shamed and exiled woman, unwelcome in the community of women who gather in the cool of the morning at the well in town, this woman reduced to drawing water outside of town in the heat of the day. Jesus will offer her “living water”. It is the Biblical expression for flowing water, that cool, clear, wonderful, refreshing water pouring down a rocky stream from the mountain heights. Life-giving water. But Jesus carries no bucket; the water he offers is heaven’s love, God’s word of grace.

The psalmist will warn us not to harden our hearts as Israel did in the wilderness. And Paul will write about the love of God that has been poured into our hearts. And we will be invited to drink deeply again from this water of life, this font of mercy, this heavenly draught that flows like a river from the mountain of God.

Your Will Be Done

Our focus on a portion of the catechism during Lent takes us into the Lord’s Prayer this year. Sunday we will consider the third petition: “Your kingdom come.” Here is the heart of all prayer: for God to come and bring his reign of grace and life, to govern our hearts and our world by his Spirit.

Reflections on the themes of each week and brief daily devotions related to those themes can be found on the blog site for our Lenten devotions.

The Prayer for March 19, 2017

Almighty God, Holy and Tender,
who spoke to the woman at the well
as a daughter of your own household:
Grant us to seek and find the Water of Life
which is your Word made visible in Jesus;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.


The Texts for March 19, 2017

First Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
“The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” – Following their deliverance at the Red Sea, and having been wondrously provided with manna for food as they journey towards Mt. Sinai, Israel now rises up against Moses for the lack of water. In answer to Moses’ plea, God provides them water from the rock.

Psalmody: Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” – A psalm calling the community to praise God warns them also: “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,” referring to the place from the first reading where Israel rebelled against God and where God provided water from the rock.

Second Reading: Romans 5:1-11
“God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
– Paul speaks of suffering, endurance, character and hope – hope that is not mere wish, but the confidant look to the future – for the God who justifies sinners, the God who reconciled us while we were yet enemies, who brings that day when all things are made new.

Gospel: John 4:5-42
“A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’” – Left alone by his disciples at the well outside of town at midday, Jesus transforms the life of a Samaritan woman who comes to draw water.

Photocredit: dkbonde.  Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite.

Water of Life


Isaiah 12

One of the Rimsky ('Roman') fountains in Peterhof

One of the Rimsky (‘Roman’) fountains in Peterhof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

I have never depended on a well.  I live in an arid climate, but there is always water at the tap.  There has always been water at the tap.  Hot and cold – though I sometimes have to let it run for a moment to heat up or cool down.

It is so commonplace, it is hard to remember what an exceptional luxury it is in human history, how profoundly life depends on access to water, how precious is a spring.  Among Rome’s remarkable achievements were the aqueducts.  In the 16th century Luther’s prince built a new water system for the town of Wittenberg.  It involved seven fountains for the city, seven sources of fresh water.  The Biblical narrative identifies the various springs and wells upon which ancient life depended – most, like Jacob’s well in the story of the Samaritan woman, were attributed to the work of the patriarchs, so precious and honorable and venerable were they.  Jacob meets his beloved Rachel at a well.  Disputes break out over access to them.

3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

For a people in an arid clime, it is a vivid image.  Visceral.  Access to a well is access to life.  Access to a well is salvation.

“If anyone is thirsty let him come to me,” Jesus will say, “and out of his heart will flows rivers of living water.”  A river of life will flow from the temple on that day when all things are made new declares the prophet Ezekiel.  It will not soak into the desolate ground and dry up, it will grow deeper and wider as it moves through the land.  It is an image taken up by the author of Revelation describing the New Jerusalem.  On either side of this river stands the tree of life, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.  “The Lord is my shepherd,” writes the psalmist, “he leads me beside still waters.”

God is our saving well.  God is our life-giving spring.  God is our eternal joy.

2Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.