Our human body can live weeks without food, but only days without water. Water! Cooling, cleansing, refreshing. Whether it comes in the lake in which we swim, in the rain which moistens the ground, or in the cup from which we drink, water indeed is life-giving. Little wonder that for Jesus, living in hot, dry Palestine, water signified life–not just refreshed physical life, but also the life which flows from God’s Spirit.
Centuries ago, St. Augustine testified to a truth he had come to learn only through much spiritual anguish: “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find rest in thee.” We could paraphrase Augustine’s words like this: “Our inner thirst is never quenched, O God, until we drink from your-life-giving stream.”
In our primary New Testament scripture for this Sunday (John 4:5-42), Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a public well and asks for a drink. In so doing, he crosses social, moral and religious barriers. In the conversation that follows, Jesus offers the woman living water. Their opening dialogue centers on water in both the earthly and spiritual sense. It then moves to a discussion of the woman’s personal life. Gradually the woman grows in her openness to and understanding of Jesus. Her response to him climaxes in her request for living water and her witness to Jesus among her townspeople.
Lent is a time for self-examination. Some questions we might consider: What are my ‘thirsts’? If Jesus were to probe my personal life, what would we talk about? What might ‘living water’ from God mean for me?
Have you sat with someone who was in extreme pain? It is a riveting human experience. I remember one such time in my life. I was working at a nursing home. One of the senior women I was caring for had diabetes, and as a result she had one of her legs amputated just below the knee. This was a very hard thing in and of itself. However, the difficult fact in her life was that even though she had no right foot any more, she still felt excruciating pain in that foot. A phantom limb, hurting and hurting.
I don’t know the medical details of her condition, I only know that she was allowed morphine on a strictly regulated schedule, and as it wore off, the pain got worse and worse, and in the hour before her next dose, she would be crying in pain. I remember sitting with her as she cried. We prayed together. She lived with that pain for the rest of her life.
I think of her sometimes as I sing the hymn “Healer of our every ill”. The second verse reads, “In the pain and joy beholding how your grace is still unfolding.” I saw grace unfold in this woman’s life, the pain of her body did not change her kind and beautiful spirit.
I have to admit it was hard to take care of her. I found it so difficult to enter her room, because I felt so helpless. The hymn in verse three says, “Give us strength to love each other…Spirit of all kindness, be our guide.”
This week we will be thinking about our God in troubled times…when the trouble we face is close to home, in our own bodies. How do we meet God when our bodies are challenged by disease or chronic illness? How are we the family of God for people who suffer?
This week’s prayer: You who know each thought and feeling, teach us all your way of healing. Spirit of compassion, fill each heart.