Good morning all! Today is the last of our guest bloggers for this week. It has been fun! I may bring in one or two others throughout Lent…thank you to all of our contributors over this week! Today’s guest blogger is a friend of mine named Rachel. Rachel and I met when she was an intern at the Presbyterian church down the street from the United Methodist Church in Corvallis where I was serving at the time. We hit it off right away. It is always good to process with someone else like you in similar positions. Rachel is passionate about environmental justice and currently works in California in the field. Enjoy her comments! Pray for travelling mercies as I board the plane today….I will be back with you tomorrow. 🙂 Until then…
John 4: 1-26
What a surprise! In the midst of our lenten wandering through the desert, we find Jesus at a well discussing living water with the Samaritan women. Are you thirsty?
My cold medicine last week made my throat parched and dry… when was the last time you were truly thirsty? I’ve been reflecting on that feeling… that longing… as lent is a time of longing, of seeking… What are you seeking this season? A closer walk with God? Meaningful spiritual practices? Strength and courage? Rest?
The “living water” in this text is a play on the words in Greek – a phrase that refers to water that is flowing rather than still – fresh rather than stagnant – and also means living – linking it to the terms for eternal life.
We are so blessed in the US to have ready access to so much clean and pure water that we don’t really have to think about truly being thirsty… and we also know that this is not true in many parts of the world. Suffering, sickness and death come from lack of access to clean and pure water.
One of our basic church activities – baptism – revolves around water. Symbolic of cleansing, of being born, of crossing through the Red Sea, our baptism symbolizes our becoming a part of God’s family. In baptism, we enter the waters or are blessed with drops of water…
What would it look like if we used dirty, stagnant water? It would not proclaim the same message of cleansing and purification. One theologian, Larry Rasmussen, shared with me that he had proposed that the church not baptize anyone until everyone had access to clean water. I loved this idea because it was a way of connecting this basic justice issue to our worship and Christian practice, but I could also see how many would be upset to pause or withhold this important practice. Will we, by any actions, be able to ensure there is clean water for everyone? It’s an enormous undertaking and we’d rather not be bothered. Would we long for baptism, the way one longs for water in the desert? Would it transform our actions and communities? What will it take for us to long for living water and ensure it is available to everyone?
Just before this story in John, Jesus was baptizing followers. The theme of waters flows throughout John’s gospel and reminds of of the living spirit flowing through our lives and bringing new life. I heard a theologian or commentary (remind me if you know who this is! I can’t find it again…) speak about the fact that John baptized Jesus outside of the Roman city, outside of the controlled water in the magnificent aqueducts of the empire. Jesus was baptized and baptized others in natural rivers, flowing streams, wild places – God’s places, unconfined by the powers of the economic and political empire. This is where we find the living water – something that goes beyond a basic thirst to provide a flourishing eternal life – this is real living – unconfined by the consumerism of commodification of water in plastic bottles or controlled by the political rulers and their unfair taxation. God’s spirit is a bit wild and unexpected, like a river – it can be a pleasant bath or a raging rush.
Are we able to follow the lead of the Samaritan woman and ask for the living water? To be open to where the spirit of God might lead us in this season? To new and uncontrollable experiences of life? Something beyond the expected, confined, and stagnant experiences of life under the thumb of a consumerist, hierarchical society that limit us? Are we willing to let the spirit of God flow through us and transform us and the world?