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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

A Statement of Faith

A Statement of Faith
John 4:5-42
 
 
The Jews and the Samaritans in today’s reading did not like each other. The source of that dislike came from an old dispute about the correct location of the cultic center. The Jews believed that the center was in the temple at Jerusalem. But the Samaritans had built a shrine at Mount Gerizim during the Persian period and claimed that this was the true and proper place of worship. The Shrine at Gerizim was destroyed by Jewish troops in 128BCE, but the schism created continued up until Jesus’ time. So it is with this in mind that we find Jesus coming to Samaritan country and talking with a Samaritan woman. By Jewish standards it was wrong for a man to talk publicly with an unknown woman, let alone a Jewish man talking with a Samaritan woman. So we read this story. (John 4:5-42)
 
One spring day, Joe and I found ourselves on vacation in the Poconos at his brother’s house. We were looking for some fun things to do and the suggestion was made to try to tube the Delaware River the next day. We woke up to a fairly cool morning, but were excited about the adventure that would happen that day. At the time we had been living in Wisconsin close to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, so we thought nothing of the coolness in the air and found ourselves heading for the tubing place. When we got there we noticed that there were not many people around, so we paid our fees, and began to board the bus that would take us to the drop off spot. There was one other couple boarding the bus, but it was apparent that they were not going tubing. They were bundled in jackets and shivering in the cool morning weather. When they saw us board in swim suits and with towels, there comment was, “You guys must be from Wisconsin”. There aren’t any foolish people around here that would brave the cool air and waters that waited at our destination sight. Undaunted by their uncertainty we still looked forward to the adventure. Even as I began to shiver ever so slightly, I still looked forward to the day. We got off the bus and found our tubes and approached the water. That first step into the water was a zinger and for a moment I doubted the wisdom of what we intended to do. So it was that we found our seats in our tubes and trying to keep our hinders out of the water as much as possible, launched ourselves out into the river. For me, the coolness of the air and water became insignificant as we started drifting out into faster waters. I don’t remember how long the journey was supposed to be, but I did remember the sights along the way.  The Delaware river is a beautiful river and meanders through some beautiful countryside. It is easy to travel when you are in the deeper, fast moving water, but every once in a while we tended to drift into slower pools of water, strewn with debris and even water that looked like it was beginning to stagnate because it simply didn’t seem to move at all. Other than that the Delaware seemed to have beautiful, clear, streaming water. Hours later we arrived at our final destination warmed by the afternoon sun, thoroughly sunburned and tired but satisfied with the venture. And, as usual Joe managed to tip the canoe and landed me in the water. The Delaware traveled on but I managed to stay put and get out of the water.
 
The thing about water is it comes in all kinds of forms. We have salt water from the ocean, drinking water from our taps, brackish water from the swamps, polluted water from lakes and rivers near manufacturing developments. But the best water is that swift running, spring fed water, such as we find in the Mountains and even in the Muskegon, filtered by natural filtration systems along the way. By the time it gets to Newaygo, it looks sparkling and clear. 
 
The woman at the well did the best she could with the water she found in the well. It may not have been the cleanest, but it served its purpose. Then this strange man came along and wanted a drink of that water. He shouldn’t have been there and he shouldn’t have talked to her, but he did as he asked her for water. But Jesus turned the tables on her. He offered her a different kind of water, water that was not stored in a well, but water that flowed freely, what he called living water. The woman was intrigued. She wanted some of this water and began the process of receiving that water as she listened to and responded to Jesus. She became the first witness to Jesus and the first one to bring others into receiving the living water as well. Her simple statement of faith led others to a different kind of well, the living water that Jesus offered.
 
She had been living with the only water she knew of. In fact her life was probably centered around her ability to receive the well water alone. In a very real sense she was existing in the slow, perhaps stagnant water of her life, unable to conceive that there was something else she could have. Life probably changed significantly for her as she began to drink of the water that Jesus offered.
Jesus offers us living water as well. But how often do we dance around the edges of that living water? How often do we hesitate to drink fully from the flowing, living water offered to us? Much of the time we deal with the everyday ordinary things of life. We have problems, we deal with them. We have activities and projects and we deal with them. We strive to carve out our lives to our own satisfaction, thinking about God, maybe praying a couple times of day, looking at the stories in scripture, gathering together on Sundays to give God some recognition and thanks. But how many times do we drink deeply of the living water that truly satisfies? How many times do we just let go of all of what we deal with, hand it over to God and allow ourselves to bathe in God’s love? It’s kind of like the difference between a sponge bath, such as one would get in the hospital, or when suddenly there is no water and what little we can get either has to be boiled or conserved, using wash cloths to clean up and a wonderful, warm shower or bath that washes over us, cleansing on its way down or around us. 
 
Jesus’ living water is unlimited. It doesn’t shut off unless we block its path. Even then we can find the blockage and, with God’s help, fix the problem. This water flows through us taking care of our deepest thirst in life. That’s like taking a deep drink of cool, refreshing water after we have worked up a sweat on a summer’s day. Only this water keeps on refreshing us, cooling us, satisfying us. This living water is there even in the driest deserts of our lives. 
 
How do we drink deeply of the water that Jesus offers? First we can settle ourselves into a time with God. We can think about what we are truly thirsty for: love, companionship, fellowship, joy, peace, understanding, assurance, health, happiness, strength, wisdom. What is it that we are looking for, seeking in life? What do we feel we are missing? More than likely as we drink of the living water, we will find most of those things. We want something to hang on to or bolster our flagging spirits when things begin to weigh us down. The living water does not stagnate our lives, but it keeps flowing as God works with us.    
 
 I found this suggestion in one of the Bibles I use to study with: It suggests we read John 4:13-15 in this way. (“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”)  Walk around the room as you read verses 13-15 aloud three times. Put the Bible down and walk around the room again, reciting the text three more times. Now, seated comfortably, with this text and a glass of water in front of you, name your thirsts. Pray the same request that the Samaritan woman made of Jesus: “Sir, give me this water.” Drink the water as you receive Jesus’ gift, a spring of water that gushes up to eternal life. Rest in God’s presence. As you go out into the world, let the water of eternal life flow through your heart and out to others through your words and actions.

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