Living Water

February 26, 2010

During this Lenten season, I’m especially mindful of fresh water. I shared my Lenten promise with you last week, right before I began my water-filled Lent. So far, so good–mostly. I did lapse Wednesday night when I ate dinner with the children’s choir and completely forgot and drank the cup of lemonade I was offered. Otherwise, I’m tracking what I would have spent on drinks and planning to give my donation to the Blood:Water Mission right after Easter.

As a spiritual discipline, I’ve been considering the element of water in light of my baptism and also in light of the one who is Living Water.

When Jesus met the woman at the well in Samaria he used the very water she was collecting to share a truth about himself. You might know the story recorded in John 4. Jesus lounging by the well, the woman (I like to call her Samantha) comes to the well to collect her water and Jesus requests a drink. He, of course, is breaking every social expectation and tradition in that moment since she was not only a woman, but a Samaritan woman of what some might consider loose morals. Samantha challenges Jesus on this.

Jesus’ reply is surprising for her and for us: ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water (v. 10).’

Samantha had traveled to the town’s well for water. Well water. Plain, not exciting, but necessary for life. Jesus hints at something greater–water that’s fresh, flowing, life-giving.

His new friend, however, doesn’t seem so charmed by him. She’s probably used to sarcasm and teasing at her expense, so she challenges him again. This time she points out that he doesn’t even have a bucket–how does he expect he’s going to get this water? Jesus, of course, takes this opportunity to share that he’s not actually talking about her well water.

‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (v. 13-14).’

This is the water that Jesus offered to Samantha. This is the water that is offered to you and me.

We know that we all need water to live. I get mine from the kitchen sink or the church water fountain. Too many of my brothers and sisters get water for themselves and for their children from unsafe, unclean sources. In Sub-Sahara Africa, about 40% of people do not have access to safe water (source: World Health Organization). This affects the hygiene, health and quality of life for entire villages and countries of men, women and children. Something that you and I most likely take for granted–access to clean, safe water sources for drinking, washing dishes and clothing, and bathing–is something that too many are living without.

Jesus offered living water. It wasn’t drinking water or water to wash our dinner dishes. This water is life-giving, flowing, generous, eternal.

Samantha’s tone changes when she begins to understand Jesus’ offer: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water (v. 15).” A few more words from Jesus and Samantha understands more about Jesus than most people of her time.

As someone of faith in Jesus as Messiah and Living-water giver, it seems to me that I need to find ways to offer water to others. This Lent, I’m attempting to offer water that sustains human life through the project with the Blood:Water Mission. I also hope that I’m sharing the living water that I gratefully drink each time I look to Jesus, the one who sustains me.