This is an adapted version of the sermon I preached today, the Third Sunday in Lent. The gospel reading was John 4:5-42. On account of the COVID-19 outbreak, we did not hold regular worship today. Instead, we filmed a version of worship with just a musician, an assisting minister, and me, and shared it via social media. If you’d like to watch it, it’s available on YouTube and Facebook.
Whew. That was a long reading. I need some water. And it’s great to be alive now, because I have water right here.
But in Samaria, it wasn’t that easy. You couldn’t buy bottled water. You couldn’t take this to the sink to fill it up. Instead, you had a big jar, and you took it to the town well, somewhere outside the city limits. Everyone got water there. Depending on where you lived, that could be quite a long walk, and so you carried as much water as you could when you went. It had to last until the next time you made the journey. Your jar was important. Without it, you would die of thirst.
Which makes one detail in the story very interesting to me. When the disciples came back, “The woman left her water jar and went back to the city.” She left her water jar at the well. She just left it there. It’s almost as though she didn’t need it anymore. But why?
Well, maybe she had another jar. And maybe Jesus filled that one up.
Let’s see. So a Samaritan woman went to the well to get water, and she was astonished when a Jewish man asked her for a drink, astonished because Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans, and men didn’t talk to women in public for that matter. Then he astonished her even more, by saying, “If you knew who I was, you’d ask me for a drink, and I’d give you living water. Water that will never leave you thirsty again.
She asked him for this water, and I think Jesus gave it to her right away, right when she asked. Did you hear it? Just after she asked for the water, Jesus said, “Go, get your husband, and come back.”
That command was him filling her jar up.
The woman didn’t get her husband, of course. Because she didn’t have one. But when she mentioned that to Jesus, it began a conversation in which she started a relationship with Jesus, and she saw that he was magnificent, that he was Messiah. And what did she do? She went back to the city, and got not a husband, but the whole town. She went to them, told them to come and see, and brought them to Jesus! And a whole city came to faith in Christ. Through her. Because Jesus filled her jar up with water.
So the jar that the woman left there, that one was her regular water jar, the one she filled regularly herself with regular water from the regular well. The jar Jesus filled was the jar that holds living water. Where was that jar? That jar was the woman herself. Jesus poured living water right into her, and the water was this: Go, get your husband, and come back. Which in her bubbled into: go, get the whole town, and come back.
Jesus has living water for you. It’s being poured right into you. And that water is not just for you. Remember, he gives you that water by telling you, “Go, get someone else, and come back.” That water poured into you is bubbling, sparkling, living water, and it wants to go beyond you, it wants to find other people, it wants to spread itself everywhere. Hmm, maybe that’s not the best analogy today. Or maybe the living water is something like a virus, but a good virus, a virus that can change the world in a good way.
We’re all hunkered down right now because of a virus, at least many of us are. We’re all trying to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading. And that’s good. The best thing most of us can do right now is to avoid contact with others. We don’t know right now who has the virus to share and who doesn’t. And we know that limiting social interaction in these early days will make a huge difference in the long run. But in this hunkering many of us are scared, and frustrated, and anxious.
It would be nice if the living water in us offered us healing from this virus. It doesn’t, but perhaps what it offers us is even more. Perhaps the living water from God is freedom from fear, from the fear about what the next few weeks look like. Freedom from frustration, from the frustration at those we blame for this. Freedom from anxiety, from the anxiety that saps our energy and leaves us empty. Jesus has poured living water into you, and that living water means that we can let go of all of those things, just like the woman let go of her jar. Perhaps those are our jars, and maybe we can leave them behind too.
Leave them behind because the living water has work for us to do. Sending us out to go and get other people, to share that water with other people, to let that water splash and fill them as well. Now, wait a minute, I don’t want you to go out and get other people. I know you all are itching to go knocking on doors telling people about Jesus, but don’t do it! Not until the coronavirus crisis has ended, at least.
But what we can do right now is share the good news in other ways. We can share the good news through social media, like I’m doing right now. Perhaps we can share the good news simply by making a phone call or sending a text. By reaching out to friends and family we haven’t spoken to in a while. You don’t need to mention Jesus at all – just reaching out might be a way for that living water to bubble over. Perhaps that living water can inspire us to find the good in what we’re experiencing right now. Perhaps it can remind us that we are making a difference right now simply by not being out and about in the crowds.
Yes, you are making a difference! I can’t even see you right now, and I know that you are. Why? Because you are filled with living water. I know, you look at yourself and say, “Not me.” But God never chose the perfect, the holy, the good. God chose you and me. God chose to fill up sinful, horrible people with living water. That’s us. Paul wrote about this. He said, “We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” The clay jars are us. But God is filling these clay jars with such treasures. You can leave your other jars behind, like the woman did. The jars we fill with fear and with worry and with anger. Leave them behind, and watch as Christ fills the clay jar that is you.
God is filling you up to overflowing right now. Let that water overflow. Let it just pour out. Don’t conserve it. You don’t need to conserve living water. The more that flows the better. Let it flow, and you’ll never be thirsty again.