Thursday Week 2 of Lent Sunday Week 4 of Lent Year A

Sunday Week 3 of Lent Year A

Print Version March 7th, 1999

When Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, is wandering in the wilderness thirsty he comes across a well and as he waits to quench his thirst he is met by a foreign woman come to draw water. She is Rebecca who will love him and be his wife.
Many years later, Isaac’s son, Jacob, is wandering in the same wilderness, this time running away from the wrath of Esau his brother who he has just tricked out of the family fortune. Thirsty, he comes to a well and as he waits to drink a woman comes to carry water. It is Rachel who will be his wife and the companion of his days.
Generations later when Jacob’s children have made and lost their fortune in the land of Egypt, Moses is wandering in the wilderness, fleeing from the scene of his first murder, when he finds a well to slake his thirst. As he sits there he meets Zipporah the Midianite woman who will be his wife and walk with him to face Pharaoh in Egypt.
Thirst to be quenched, water from the well, a chance encounter, and a new love. This is Jesus’ story today too. We find Jesus tired by his journey, thirsty, waiting to drink when this extraordinary Samaritan woman comes to draw water in the heat of the day.
They look each other up and down through eyes squinted against the noon sun and a conversation begins that is half flirtation and half theology. They play with each other. I imagine them both surprised at the other’s cleverness. Something out of the ordinary is going on. They both shiver in the day’s heat as that tingle of significance runs down their spines. This is something special. And the words they speak tease and challenge and provoke. They go to the heart of the matter. They are sparring on the surface about thirst and the water to satisfy it but under the skin of the experience they are playing with the fire of desire and the love that satisfies the flame without extinguishing it.
And when she drops her water jar to run back to the city she has been wooed, seduced, and captivated: “Come and see,” she tells the people she meets, “a man who has seen into my very heart!”
Jesus, too, has been seduced and given himself away: “I am he,” he says, taking to himself the unutterable name of God; “Drink my water. Let me quench your thirst.” And when the disciples turn up fretting and fussing he’s in no mood to suffer them. They see what has happened and take it literally. What is their master doing consorting in broad daylight with a woman brazen enough to go about in the heat of the day unchaperoned! Has he no propriety? And a Samaritan woman too. Traitors and heretics the lot of them!
But John who tells the story takes it more than literally. For him it’s a sign and a sign that points two ways. Like Jacob and Rachel, like Moses and Zipporah, Jesus and the Samaritan woman are larger than life. She speaks for her whole nation when she longs for living water and he speaks for God when he gives it. And, whatever the checkered history of Samaria with its bad marriages to alien gods, there at the well a new marriage is contracted in spirit and in truth.
But the sign points inward as well as outward. The change of heart of a nation happens when one person falls in love. Jesus wants this nation to change its heart this Lent, yearns for it, aches for it. But it will only happen in you or in me. And it will only happen if you or I fall in love again this Lent with Jesus. Lent is our courtship. All Lent long Jesus is waiting where we are thirstiest to engage our desire. And if we meet him there he will flirt and flatter and find our hearts. We don’t know we are thirsty for him until he reveals his thirst for us. But when we taste the force of that thirst it might kindle a fire in us such as we have never known and have us running around the city boldly inviting all we meet: “Come and see the one who has seen into my very heart.”

Entry Filed under: Berkeley,Homilies


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