The Rev. Dianne O’Connell
“After the Well
The New & Improved Samaritan Woman”
Last Sunday, we gave some thought to what being “born again” or “spiritually rejuvenated” might mean for us, knowing that each of us may experience such renewal and understand such a life-changing event or series of events in different ways using different vocabulary.
The lingering question for this week was “let’s say, I’m spiritually rejuvenated, or born from above. What’s that look like? How does that feel? How can I tell if it’s really true?” I suppose it’s easier to spot, if being born-anew involves stopping some action or addiction that is life-threatening or harmful to others. I could make some attempt at a funny comment here, but it’s not funny to the person or persons caught up in a cycle of pain and personal hell. But if our faith enables us to stay clean, or sober, or helps us avoid other life damaging behaviors, I’d say that’s a fresh start, with a rejuvenated spirit.
When I read the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, our scripture lesson for the day, these questions came to mind again. As some of you know, I’ve been talking about it all week. We’re told in this story that a woman – pretty much rejected by her own community – is out fetching water in the day sun. All the other women come to the well in the cool of the morning, but our gal comes at , so she can avoid them. She sees a man, dusty and apparently thirsty, sitting by the well. She’s prepared to ignore him – she can tell he is a Jew and any self-respecting Jew would ignore her anyway. But this guy is determined to strike up a conversation and he is determined that she help him get water from the well. I won’t re-tell the whole story. The point of the tale is that this encounter is a life-changing experience for not only the woman, but her whole village. Jesus stays with them at the village for two days and then moves on, we assume, never to return. Yet, what would the purpose of the story be, if after his departure, nothing changed, everything returned to the way it was, and our woman continued to fetch water at noon, and the people of the village continued to gossip both in front of her and behind her back? Was their encounter with Jesus just a momentary diversion, or did it have a lasting impact on them individually and as a community?
the first thing that changes is that she gets a name!” That statement has been
made several times throughout the week.
Now Ron got into this story so much that he did a little internet research and brought me a sermon written from Trixie/Tabitha’s point of view. As one would imagine, the preacher was a woman, the Rev. Sarah Foulger, minister at the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. We might borrow some of Rev. Foulger’s words as we imagine what Trixie/Tabitha might tell the women of the village as they chatted at the well.
“It was a beastly hot day,” she began, “I was almost to the well when I saw this fellow just sitting there. He looked exhausted and dusty. He didn’t have a bucket, so he’d been waiting for someone to come along to help him get water…
“He was a Jew. Would you believe, he asked me for a drink!? I said, yeah right, you a Jew, want me a Samaritan to give you water.’
‘He says, ‘if you knew who I am, you would have asked me to give you living water.” And we get into this conversation about my background, and my dear husbands, and well, he tells me to go back to the village and tell the men what I’ve learned and to come meet him…you know the rest.”
“I’ll never forget him. He told me it’s never too late to start over again. That God judges who you are not based on where you are from or where you worship, but rather on what’s inside you. He made me feel, maybe for the first time, that God truly loves me, and that there is a reason for my life. I feel like I’ve been born again.”
might sound simplistic, but life can be just as simple as it can be
complicated. How do you suppose the
other women in the
men of the village might have started meeting among themselves. What really was that itinerant preacher
trying to tell them? What did he really
mean about “living water,” what would “following his teachings” really mean for
them, for their town? They’d have to keep getting together, wouldn’t they? They’d have to work together. Surely the
do you suppose Jesus told the people during his two-day sojourn at Sychor? He was familiar with Scripture, he might have
at one point quoted Micah 6
“He has shown you, O people, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
maybe he would have shared the Great Commandment, the most important one
It’s amazing that a great religion would develop and spread throughout the world, and mature and deepen, touching people in every level of life, based on these simple commandments. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as a member of your own family.
Amazing what a little justice, mercy, humility and love does when poured out on a parched, hurting, human being – both for the person receiving this “living water” and the person providing it.
And the beat goes on. Two thousand and, let’s say, eleven years later. Folks are still hearing the commandments of Jesus and finding meaning and direction for their own lives. My daughter Jessye was visiting last week, if you remember. She heard my sermon on being born again and she was with me for a few days while I ruminated on “living water” and the woman at the well.
just applied for and got a grant from the Living Water people,” she told
me. My ears perked up. She is the grant writer/fund-raiser for Hope
Housing, a non-profit agency in
of a believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water,” she added. “John 7
I looked at her with some concern.
“I’m not kidding,” she said. “It’s on the website.” I went and looked and found that around the world...
· Every day tens of thousands die because of the lack of clean water.
· More than 1 billion people in the world still lack access to clean water
· Each day women and girls walk an average of three miles to find water for their families.
· Over 4,000 children die daily from diseases and parasites from dirty water.
So, participating churches gather “Living Water” offerings and give 100% of those offerings to organizations that dig wells, build cisterns, install purifying systems, meet crisis needs, and things like that, wherever they are needed.
They also give money to local food banks and nutrition programs for the children of low-income families, which is where my daughter’s agency fits in, I believe.
Over the last six years the Living
Water people have brought water, clean water, to communities in
who drink of the living water that I will give them, will never be
thirsty. John 4
So back to the original question, let’s say we’ve heard the Word of Jesus. As a result, we feel a life-changing force welling up within us. We know that this man Jesus has the answer for our lives, and if we follow him, our lives can mean something, now and even beyond the now. But what would that look like? How would we tell if we’re drinking the real thing?
We can look at our personal spiritual lives as well as our communal spiritual lives. I think a person who chooses to follow the teachings of Jesus, to drink of the “living water,” whether or not the label Christian feels right to them, such a person will experience a profound change in their understanding of themselves, in their acceptance of God’s love, and their will to make something of their lives. Secondly, they will experience a deep need to do something for others, to love God through loving their neighbor like a member of their own family.
At least that’s what happened to me. Amen.