Good morning, Friends!
Thank you all so much for coming today. It’s great to see everybody again! We got back from vacation this week. Someone in the meeting was kind enough to put a “Welcome Home” message on the church sign down by the road.
Vacation is a relaxed time, a sabbath time. It’s a time to enjoy, but also a time to rest, to reflect, to recover from a busy year. Thank you all for that special time for us and for our family!
We saw a lot of friends. We helped our son and his wife with their new home. We did a lot of work on our cabin in the mountains.
The cabin has been in our family since the 1930’s. It’s not much – 4 acres of meadow surrounded by lots of forest. Three small bedrooms, a living room with a wood stove, a screen porch and a deck. But it’s heaven on earth to us, and we treasure our time there every year.
When I was very little, the water at the cabin came from an old pitcher pump in a shed by the road. You had to prime the pump by pouring a pitcher full of water down the shaft every time you used it. Then you cranked the handle up and down, till it filled your jug or bucket or whatever.
You always had to remember to save a pitcher full of water for the next time, to prime the pump again, or you wouldn’t be able to get any water.
When I was 4 or 5 years old, my great-aunt had a well dug down at the bottom of the field. It was four feet in diameter and about 20 feet deep, lined with concrete tile.
The workmen dug down as deep as they could. Then they ran into solid granite ledge. I watched as they drilled a ring of holes in the ledge, then filled the holes with dynamite. I ran up the hill to the cabin and watched from the window as they set it off. The stones and dirt went flying up in the air, the whole house shook from the explosion, and I dove under the bed.
That well served for many years, but it still ran dry 2 years out of 3. Every year, by the end of August, there would only be a foot of water left in the well.
So we always kept a rain barrel out on the porch, to catch the rain water from the gutters on the roof. My grandmother preferred the water in the rain barrel, because the water was soft for washing her hair and cleaning delicate laundry.
I used to stand up on tiptoe to peek over the edge of the rain barrel. It had moss growing on the inside, and I’d look at my reflection in the water.
Best of all, though, was going a quarter mile down the road to my other grandparents’ house, and walking up the hill to the spring.
The water came out of a rusty iron pipe, into a little pool that my grandfather made with rock slabs. The pool was under the shade of a stand of trees and it was surrounded by moss and wild mint.
You could take a dipper from a nail on the tree, or you could lie face down in the wild mint and breathe in the fresh, wild minty smell. It was the coldest, clearest water in the whole world.
The well at the cabin ran dry one last time in the summer of 2001. We’d been planning to stay there for 6 months, but there was no water at all. So my mom took some money out of savings and had a new well drilled, up close to the house.
Now in the country, you don’t just dig a well any place that’s handy. You get someone to feel for the water with a forked stick.
It’s called dowsing or water witching, and I’ve seen it work many times. The person with the talent walks back and forth with the ends of the fork in both hands, and suddenly the end of the stick drops right down and points directly to the right place.
I don’t have the talent to do that. My grandfather did, and my older brother can do it. Nobody knows how or why, but it works.
Anyway, they drilled the new well where the stick pointed, and just a few feet down, they struck water – 80 gallons a minute, more than we could ever use or ask for.
All those years, we had abundant water, almost right under our feet. All those summers, when our plans for summer fun had been ruined, when the old well ran dry.
The well driller said there must be a vein of water, an underground stream, almost a cavern of water, to get that much, and it was there all along.
Today’s Scripture is a story about a different well. Back in those days, a well would serve a whole town. Everybody would come, and they’d let down a bucket on a rope, or maybe have a long pole with a pivot in the middle and a counterweight on one end, to make it easier to bring the water up. You’d go to the well, fill your bucket, and then carry it home, balanced on your head, or carrying two buckets with a yoke over your shoulders.
Anyway, here’s the story.
Now Jesus had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (Jesus’ disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”John 4:4-14
This story has a whole lot going on.
First, it was a hot day, and Jesus was thirsty. Any time you start to thinking that Jesus wasn’t human, this story will set you straight.
Summer in the Holy Land is even hotter than it is here in North Carolina, and that’s saying a lot. Gets up to over 110 degrees.
It was a hot, hot day, and Jesus was thirsty. It was suffering hot, and Jesus was parched.
Second thing to remember, is that the Jewish people and the Samaritan people were enemies. The hatred went back centuries – to wars and battles hundreds and hundreds of years ago – but which were still very much alive in peoples’ hearts and minds.
It was so bad that Jews and Samaritans wouldn’t buy or sell to each other. They wouldn’t let their children marry each other. They wouldn’t enter each others’ homes. It was an ancient animosity, kept alive by religious hatred. That’s the worst kind!
Jesus must have been incredibly thirsty, to ask a Samaritan for a drink. Either that, or maybe Jesus was reaching out, across the ancient hatred, to ask a favor from someone that every Jew counted as an enemy.
You know how the story goes.
Jesus asked her for a drink of water. She said, “Are you crazy? No Jew would ever ask a Samaritan for a drink.?
Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God, and if you knew who was asking you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
She said, “You are crazy! This well is deep. You don’t even have a bucket! What are you talking about?”
The well where they were standing had been dug hundreds of years before then, maybe over a thousand years ago.
According to legend, the well was dug by Jacob – as in, “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” – the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, the common ancestor of all of them, Jews and Samaritans both.
Jesus and the woman were reaching out to each other, in a way that was almost unthinkable.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks water from this well will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will be a spring of water, overflowing and brimming up to a life that never ends.”
What was Jesus talking about?
He was saying that he, himself was like living water – just like he also said that he, himself, was like living bread.
Plain, ordinary water is such a precious resource, and we mostly take it for granted. Just turn a faucet, and clean, pure drinking water comes sparkling out, as much as we want.
Today, we treat water with contempt – we pour millions of gallons of waste into our rivers. We dump trash into our streams. We pollute our oceans so that even fish and coral can’t live in them.
Water is the source of all life. Without it, we die. Our lives depend – every living thing, without exception – on rain, sun, fertile land, the mystery of life. We don’t really understand how plants take water, air, and light, and turn them into the food we eat and the oxygen we all need to breathe.
And just the way we depend on nature for all these things, we depend on God even more. Jesus talked about himself as living water, as something we need just as much and even more than the rivers and the rain.
I remember days and nights during our vacation last month, when we would listen to the rain falling on the metal roof, and we would enjoy the sound. We never mind rainy days. It’s like we feel the land being blessed.
In the same way, Jesus offers us himself as a blessing. Like living water from a well, or like rain on a dried-up land.
There’s an old song that almost nobody remembers any more. The chorus goes, “You never miss the water till the well runs dry. . .” That’s how a lot of people feel and act about God. That’s how a lot of people feel and act about Jesus.
For the Quaker branch of the Christian family, today’s Scripture is one of the most important ones in the whole Bible. Christ is always here, always available. He’s only a prayer away.
George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, had given up on all of the churches he knew. He thought that nobody could help him out.
But then he heard the Spirit speaking in his heart. The Spirit said, “There is one – Christ Jesus – who can speak to your condition. . .”
Those words changed his life. He knew that there was living bread, living water, which was available to him, everywhere he went. On long journeys, in the houses of strangers, on street corners, in prisons, everywhere, the Spirit of Christ was right at hand.
Any time that George Fox was expected to preach, and he didn’t have a message, he said, “Wait for the Lord! Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.”
Those early Quakers knew today’s story about the living water and the overflowing life. They heard when Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. . .” (John 10:10)
George Fox said that no matter how dark the world seemed – and things were very dark indeed in those days – he said, “I saw that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but [also] an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness, and in it I saw the infinite love of God. . .” (George Fox, Journal)
Of all the things you hear me say, this may be one of the most important. Jesus Christ, the living water, is very close to every one of you.
You can ask for that living water. It’s only a prayer away. You can wait for it – hope for it – just like people wait and hope for rain.
You can dig for it – sometimes prayer is a lot like digging a well. It’s like hard, physical labor. Or sometimes you can just throw yourself into it, like throwing yourself into the water down at the lake or at the beach.
However you pray – whatever works for you – don’t die of thirst. Christ wants nothing better than to fill you up, wash you clean, overflow your heart, and bring you life. Christ wants to bless you, the way the land is blessed, by a gentle rain.
Whatever way works best for you in the moment – find Christ. Don’t go thirsty. You may feel like you’re waiting for him. He’s waiting for you.
Seek him. Find him. Don’t rest till you find him.
And whenever you can, share Christ with everyone. Jesus said that anybody who even gives a cup of cold water, will be rewarded. Because it’s not just water that we share. It’s Christ.