A Tsunami of Love

John 4:5-42

Preached by Rev. Kim Blocher at Zion UCC Arendtsville

“A Tsunami of Love”

 The great philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “the good rain, like the bad preacher, does not know when to leave off.”  Maybe I should get that made into a little plaque and mount it on my pulpit! It does seem that once water gets started, it has a will of its own and does not know when to leave off.  Certainly we saw that with the effects of the tsunami in Japan.  Even though we’ve had more than our fair share of rain here lately, we certainly have nothing about which to complain compared to that monumental tragedy.   But observing water seeking its own level, making its way where it will, does provide some interesting food for thought.                    

 One of the most heart rending sights for any homeowner is to open the basement door and see things floating that should be resting securely on the floor!  Once water finds its way in, it will keep on coming in…no doubt about it.  The only solution is aggressive action of re-engineering, sump-pumping and dehumidifying.  If you’re lucky you will get it under control, but only with the sneaking feeling that water is only biding its time and waiting you out.  Eventually it will find its way back in.

  The same principle applies outside the home, in your landscaping. Any dedicated gardener can tell the tale of a lovely flower bed placed too hastily. After the first torrential spring rain one comes outside to see little rivers of mulch in the grass and washed out plants.  As the Pennsylvania Dutch say, we get too soon old and too late smart…so as an older but wiser  gardener I am now taking a different approach.  It’s a wait and see approach.

  Right off our driveway is a wonderful sunny, sloping bank.  It will make a stunning landscape.  But in my older, wiser, state of being I have spent two years studying it.  I don’t want to make any hasty judgments!  After that tremendous rain several weeks ago the water poured down off the mountain, it cut a channel into the bank.  Now I know where to plant because that is exactly where the water will keep on flowing.  And my husband thought I was just being lazy!

  Living water behaves exactly the same way.   Once you let it in, there’s no keeping it out and it knows where it wants to be. Jesus said: “The water that I give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  And that spring of living water finds a level within us, cuts a channel, and transforms from the inside out.  And it comes from an inexhaustible well.

 The place where Jesus lived was a thirsty land.  People gathered at the well to share in common what they did not have at home.  Women were the water carriers for the family, and they would make two trips a day…one in the cool of the morning and again in the late afternoon.  It was a time to greet each other and catch up on news.  No one would have gone in the heat of the midday sun. No one, that is, except the Samaritan women who met Jesus there as he sat by the well.  Why was she there alone, at that time of day?

 A possible answer is that she was an outcast from respectable society. Her admission about living with a man who was not her husband might indicate that she was not viewed favorably in the strictly defined social codes of the day.         It is hard to know precisely what her situation was and we should not jump to conclusions that she was a sinful woman.  Her situation might have been something like a levirate marriage with the last brother refusing to marry her.  Regardless, it was very unusual for a woman to be somewhere alone and that makes me conclude that she was wary of public opinion.

I am sure that she was horrified to see a lone man sitting at the well, and a Jewish man at that.  At the very least, she would have expected scorn and probably feared for her safety as well. 

  The notion of a Jewish man talking to a single woman, and a despised Samaritan at that, was so far out of the question as to be laughable. And yet this is the longest recorded conversation by Jesus with anyone in scripture.  One of my biggest wonderings about this passage is why she continued to talk to him especially after he identified her lack of a husband.  She risked a confrontation, scorn, and judgment because she was intrigued about this living water.  Maybe she knew she was thirsty for water that could not be contained in the pitcher she carried to that well.  Luckily for her, she took a wait and see approach and did not jump to a hasty conclusion about this man. 

 This was a man unlike other men.  He saw through to the heart of her life, so much that she called him a prophet.   But I think that Jesus recognized in her a deep yearning.  I think he also discerned that she was very brave.

 A wise person once wrote that we are in danger of starving to death, not because there is no bread, but because we don’t even realize we are hungry…let alone knowing for what we hunger.  It is the same with thirst.  If we risk acknowledging our thirst, Jesus offers water that gives life.  In this astounding exchange between two strangers at a well Jesus and the woman go from superficial small talk to soul-bearing honesty.  They are no longer strangers.  Jesus sees the woman as a worthy disciple who can spread the good news.  The woman sees a messiah.  So this living water must transform from the inside out.  Not an instant makeover, it is a new life in which we will thirst no more.

 We have a cultural fixation with makeovers.  There are myriad shows that tell us how to fix what is wrong in our lives.  Tired of the way you look?  There are endless ways to botox your way to beauty. Tired of the problems in your family’s relationships?  Get on stage and make a spectacle of yourself and your family while getting some advice from an “expert.”   Tired of the tile in your bathroom?  There’s a makeover for that on one of my favorite shows, “Designed to Sell.”  There is even a Rescue Chef who can help makeover failing restaurants.  There really isn’t anything that can’t be cured in the world of cable TV.  But eventually the botox detoxes, the new bathroom starts to look like the old bathroom, and the family starts fighting again. 

 I wonder if the Samaritan woman got a lot of unwanted advice about how to fix what was wrong in her life.  Maybe that’s why she came to the well in the heat of the noon day sun.  She was tired of words that didn’t fix anything.  The two strangers at the well dialogue about the difference between the well water which she draws for Jesus, and the living water of eternal life.  The well cures thirst for the moment, the living water cures it for life.

Jesus was the first to see the woman as the person she really was.  Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”   Here at this well in dusty Samaria we have a great example of how Jesus dealt with people every day…he loved them just as they were but he didn’t leave them as they were. Only one who loves you can know you as you are, and not how you pretend to be.

 We never know the worth of water until the well goes dry.  When our wells run dry there is only one place to get the living water that we need.  In Christian community our scarcity becomes abundance and our thirst is quenched.  We need never be ashamed to be in the company of others with the same thirst, we need never be ashamed to come to the well.  

  One easily overlooked detail in this story is the water jug that gets left behind when the Samaritan woman runs back to town to share her experience.  She was thirsty when she got to the well but she left sensing she would never be thirsty again.

Jesus’ love is like a tsunami that washes over us and makes all things new again and sweeps away the past.  The UCC preacher and writer Ron Buford puts it this way, “In that sweet moment, past rejections and hurts, fears and lingering doubts, sin and alienation, shortcomings and failures are powerless before that living water– mysteriously springing up within my thirsting soul.”[1] The living water cuts a channel and goes where it wills to go, bringing new realities and new possibilities. And like the good rain and the bad preacher, it doesn’t know when to quit. 

[1] The Jesus Diaries, “There’s Something About Jesus”, from UCC Resources, p. 33