Sunday, February 24, 2008

Water, Water, Everywhere - A Sermon

When our sexton, Richard, put the title of this sermon up on the sign board on Friday, he said to me, "Maybe you should change the title to 'Snow, Snow, Everywhere."  But water it is, and water it'll stay.

Now, you may know where that line comes from, but just in case, it's from Samuel Tayor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

The verse goes:  

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink. 

It's the story of a sailor who is cursed for a sin he commits and it forced to sail endlessly with an albatross hanging from his neck.  The Water everywhere that they cannot drink is the first real part of the curse.  They can't move, they are surrounded by water they can see but cannot touch.

Now, think of the Israelites in the desert.  To a degree, they feel cursed, out in the wilderness with no idea where to go or how to take care of themselves.  They see NO water even though it's closer than they think.

Understand that the Isrealites have only recently escaped from Pharaoh after hundreds of years of slavery -- all because this man Moses told them to follow him out.  Now they have no way of making a living and even though God has only recently and miraculously provided them with food, they panic.  They felt every bit as cursed as the Mariner.

The funny thing is, for those who lived out in those parts, they knew that there was water all around -- it's just that the Israelites couldn't see it.  I'm no expert in wilderness living, but the experts say that it is truly possible to strike certain rocks in the region and get water from shallow aquifers just below.  

They had water everywhere but had no idea it was there.  That took a miracle -- God opening Moses' eyes, and in the process opening the eyes of the people.  It did not help them later when they lost faith during Moses' sojourn on Mount Horeb, but for the moment, they were filled with the only water they were interested in -- the stuff they could drink.

It was different for the Samaritan woman.  She had water -- the liquid stuff.  But she was missing a lot more.  She was suffering under her own sort of eternal curse.

This woman was looking for a deeper, sense of connection and belonging than her community could give her.   Apparently, she had not found it in the arms of six men, either.  As the old song goes, she was looking for love in all the wrong places.

Now, she was an outcast within her community.  That's why she was getting water at noon -- that was the time when other respectable women would be at home, and either she wanted to avoid their scorn or they forced her to stay away.  Either way, she was alone even as she was surrounded by her community, and she couldn't see her way past that.

Ironically, like the Israelites in the wilderness, she was closer than she thought to the living water she sought.  All she needed was a Moses to strike the rock, to show her where it was.  Then Jesus showed up.

You might notice that once this woman figures out Jesus is at least a prophet because he's told her everything about her, she shoots off into a theological discussion with him.  Maybe that's why she was an outcast -- a woman looking for deeper meaning, hah!  Maybe, that conversation was like a drink of water for her -- for the first time some man is going to let her talk about God!  It's like she has struck the rock and water is flowing free.  God's love was there all along, she just needed someone to show it to her.

Don't we sometimes feel like that woman?  We're looking for something deep inside, and we can't see it.  We know there's something missing -- but how to get to it eludes us.

What we need is a Moses -- no -- what we need is Jesus.  Because Jesus knows us, knows who we are and what we need.  Living Water.  Not to just know that it's there -- we need to drink from it.  And how do we access it?  

Ask.  Ask God.  Then stop to listen.  This is Lent -- a season of looking within and listening.  

 And then, be open to what God sends.  Maybe -- just maybe -- someone will come and sit by your well and ask for a drink.