Exodus 17: 1-7 (page 59 in our pew Bibles) God provides water in the wilderness for his unruly and quarrelsome people.
Romans 5: 1-11 (page 942 in our pew Bibles) We have peace with God and access to God's Grace through faith so we can rejoice at all times, even when we are suffering. In fact suffering produces endurance, character and hope.
John 4: 5-42 (page 888 in our pew Bibles) Jesus offers everyone who comes to him in our metaphorical "spiritual wilderness" living water that wells up to eternal life.
The reason for putting the Exodus reading alongside John 4 is perfectly obvious.
When the Jews – God’s people were wandering in the wilderness and feeling increasingly remote and distrustful of God, through Moses, God provided them with water to drink and slake their thirst.
Wind forward 1,500 years and Jesus offers everyone who feels that they too are walking in the wilderness spiritual water that doesn’t just slake our immediate thirst but is a present continuous gift that never leaves us. We are incorporated into the Kingdom of God and this gift goes with us wherever we are and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. The story of the woman at the well is a fantastic parable with so much depth but I’ll return to some of those insights a little later.
Because the results of possessing that spiritual water is exactly what Paul is writing about in his letter to the Romans. Building on what Paul said last week, and written again here – we have access to God’s Grace through faith – Paul is interested in how this works in a human life – how does it improve your life? Paul says that the natural outcome of faith is that is it produces a sense of peace. Peace in all circumstances.
Peace is a state of mind and being that we possess despite our circumstances. Whether we are happy or sad, whether we have just encountered success or failure, a new birth or a death, we always have at the very centre of our being, the spirit of God who guarantees our present and future incorporation in the Kingdom of God. We have the “peace” that we celebrate in every Eucharist and will celebrate again today.
Peace is a product of the permanence of the Spirit of God, and the knowledge and trust in our state of possessing eternal life in a glorious re-creation that enables us to rejoice in whatever position we find ourselves.
In good times or bad times – it doesn’t matter - we still possess the presence of God, our guarantor of eternal life, we know we are loved and that is why we can rejoice in bad times as well as the good times.
I used to watch TV shows when prisoners would say that their conversion to Christianity gave them Freedom and I used to wonder what they meant. But even while they were caged behind bars, inside they were free. Despite their circumstances, they knew they were forgiven, loved by God, and had eternal life.
In fact Paul goes one step further and says that actually the bad times can be wonderful learning experiences and can be used to build endurance, character and hope.
Another important facet that Jesus tells us through his encounter with this Samaritan woman is that where you go to worship God is not the right question. John 4:23 Jesus tells us that true worshippers of the Father will do so in Spirit and truth. It is not a question of where, but how!
You can have a scenario where a prisoner in prison can have truer worship than a cardinal in the Sistine chapel if the cardinal is half hearted and hiding something, or feeling proud and pleased with himself, rather than a prisoner who admits the truth and reality of his situation, seeks forgiveness and approaches God in sincerity, humility and truth.
In another place Jesus tells us a parable about just that scenario in his parable (Luke 18:9-14) about the tax collector and the Pharisee.
It is one of the few occasions when Jesus unambiguously announces that He is the promised Messiah 4:26) and not just for the Jews but for all people because of course this woman was not Jewish.
Jesus says (John 10:10) when asked why he had come, he answered “That they may have fullness of life”. One of the meanings of this short saying is that Jesus wants the possession of the water of Life, God’s spirit to improve our present life;
To gain a new perspective on life in general and your own life in particular;
To gain Peace – Peace with God, peace with others and peace within yourself based on the assurance we have in God’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life.
To gain Endurance, character and hopeful outlook on life.
Jesus offers us the water of life. All we have to do is echo the words of this Samaritan woman and say “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty”.