This woman from Samaria has walked to the well to get water for herself and for her family. Why? Because that’s what women have done for centuries. What they still do in most communities with no running water. Even today many women walk long distances to fill the heavy jugs they carry on their heads simply to keep their family alive. And because this is their daily routine, the well often becomes a gathering place…for conversation…for catching up on the news…for sharing stories and building community.
This Samaritan woman comes at noon. She’s come to the well in the heat of the day to avoid all the other women who come in the cool of the mornings and evenings to draw water. It seems that she doesn’t want to be part of their conversation….and likely with good reason. She has had a rough road…five husbands have either died or divorced her…we don’t know which. But she, no doubt, is fodder for gossip. So she avoids the women’s traditional gathering time.
But this day…when she comes to the well, a Jewish man is sitting nearby. Most likely she can identify him by what he wears — observant Jewish men often wore tassels on their robes to remind them of God’s commandments. And she knows that to Jews, Samaritans are dirty. They may both claim Jacob as their ancestor…but Jews believed that Samaritans had corrupted their faith. They’d added things from other religions, they’d changed the laws and they worshipped differently. And it was for that reason, they were despised and avoided by observant Jews. Yet, this Jewish man asks her for a drink. Asks to drink out of her “dirty” Samaritan Jar.
She is surprised…and says so. But here’s the other interesting thing. She doesn’t simply do as she’s told, as most would have expected her to do. After all, women in that culture were not meant to question men, but simply obey. But she’s not so good at that. Instead, she questions Jesus. Engages him. And thus begins the longest recorded theological conversation Jesus has with anyone in the Bible. They discuss living water and eternal life and their shared ancestor Jacob. They talk about the differences in their faiths, where they worship, the nature of God — Jesus tells her God is spirit. They talk about her complicated history, and Jesus’ knowledge of her. They talk about prophecy and about the Messiah. And at the end, Jesus tells her — the first person Jesus tells, mind you — that he is the Messiah.
And she leaves her jar behind and goes to tell people about Jesus…to invite them to come and see…to invite them to see for themselves if he is the Messiah.
She left her water jar behind. Why? Because she had found the source of living water in Jesus. Jesus gave her something that was more important.
So does this literally mean she’ll never have to draw water again? That would be a “no”. But something important has happened. What is it that changes about her life…her life of daily hauling water and avoiding gossip and complicated relationships…when she meets Jesus? What is this gushing water that becomes so important to her, that she leaves her jar, and forgets, for a moment all that is required of her? What is it that Jesus gives her that she wants everyone else to hear, to see, to experience?
I’ll give you a clue….it’s why you’re here this morning. Because Jesus has given you something that nothing else in your life could — not your job, not your money, not your family….not your political party, not your nationality, not your race. Jesus has given you grace. Gushing grace — the spirit of God, the love of God…flowing to you…through you…all around you. In the midst of life when it is hard and complicated…when we are exhausted and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel…when one day runs into the next with their endless to do lists and relationships we can’t seem to ever untangle… Jesus sees us. Engages us. And offers us grace without end.
You know…It doesn’t matter where we worship…it doesn’t matter what our background is…God is with us. Jesus loves us. All the things we think are “have to’s” in our life…all the water jars we carry…all the expectations we try to fulfill…all the things we try to get right….they are not as important as knowing that there’s grace for you. There is grace. For. you. And that is the living water that changes everything.
Our lives are complicated. We get weary. We don’t have the answers. But Jesus sees us, knows us, loves us…and gives us grace, staggering overwhelming, gushing grace that flows through our lives.
I don’t know how many of you have read the book or seen the movie “A River Runs Through It”. It’s about a pastor’s family in Montana and their relationships. They are messy, imperfect. They don’t always know the right thing to do…and one of the sons is all kinds of self-destructive and ends up being killed. But the father believes deeply in grace. Norman Maclean writes — “My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation -come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”
Grace …the living water of grace …does not come easy. It comes in the midst of tangled lives…it gushes when we learn to trust God in all circumstances…especially in the midst of the hard and the heartbreaking.
After the son dies, his father preaches, ‘Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”
The living water of grace gushes when we love anyway…even in the midst of circumstances that we do not understand, where we do not have the answers, where we do not get along and the chasm of our differences seems to yawn before us….we love anyway. We love the Samaritans and the Democrats and the Republicans and the Mormons and the Muslims. We love the atheists and people of every color and every gender and every sexuality. We love our families. We love ourselves. Completely. We love what we cannot fully understand….and trust Jesus…the grace and love of Jesus….that gushes when our personal well has run dry.
At the end of the book, Maclean writes
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
Eventually…all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. Eventually, it will not matter where you worship or the details of your life..your bank account, your career, your health, your pain, your politics, your messy relationships…eventually…it will all merge into the living water of God’s staggering grace. Which has flowed from the beginning of time…over all our lives. And this is the good news. So good we might even need to leave our water jug to let someone else know. To let them know there’s grace for them too. Amen.