|(Taken by The Rev. Dr. William McGee)|
You have been walking all day. The sun is directly overhead. You are hot, tired, and thirsty. In the distance you hear the roar of water crashing over rocks. You keep walking knowing that ahead is refreshment. Cool. Clear. Inviting. Water.
As you keep walking, the roar seems to get further and further away rather than closer. Ahead is a rise, you climb it thinking that surely once you are over it, the water will be there. Muscles screaming, you reach the top. As you look around, you finally see it. Water. Cool. Clear. Inviting.
Yet there is no way to get to it. As you look around you see no clear path. Your way is blocked by rocks, fallen trees, brambles. You begin looking for a way forward, but one does not appear. You become so frustrated you fall to the ground. The water so close, yet somehow kept from you.
Like the woman at the well, we somehow think there is something that keeps us from God. In her interaction with Jesus at the well, the woman offers nothing about herself. Perhaps wanting to hold back that thing that makes her come to the well at noon rather than in the morning with the other women.
Yet Jesus makes it clear that he knows everything about her. Rather than going deeper, the woman tries to deflect Jesus with more questions. It becomes clear, this secret, these things that make her come to the well at this time, do not matter to him. He knows her secrets and he still responds to her questions with warmth and love. When she discovers that he is the Messiah, rather than turn from her, he loves her still.
Much like the woman at the well we come to the living water trying to hide our secrets from God. Those places that are so broken within us, those thoughts or behaviors that we think will cause God to no longer love us, those things we have done we think are unforgiveable.
Yet when God looks at us, He does not see the brambles of poor choices, the rocks we have placed in the way, or the fallen trees that distract us from God. Instead God looks at us and sees us made perfect in Christ. God looks at us and sees us washed in this living water. We are seen as though we have been washed clean in the water that bubbles and gushes freely to cleanse us. This water that will never stop flowing, washes away those brambles, the rocks, and even the fallen trees that are those things that we place as barriers to God.
It is hard to trust, to rest in the knowledge that we are loved by God. Somehow we forget how to hear God’s voice, to trust that he continues to love us in our brokenness. We like the woman at the well, try to avoid God, avoid the well, because surely it cannot be meant for us. Those words from Paul about having peace with God cannot be true. They are for someone else. But they are true. They are for us.
Even with our secrets, God loves us and will continue to love us. There is nothing we can do, nothing we can say, nothing we can own or buy, to earn this love. This love is God’s gift to us. It is in God’s generosity we are washed clean and made new. And the good news is that this gift continues to be poured upon us with abundance. This gift, this living water continues to nourish us and sustain us even in the midst of our secrets that really aren’t secret after all.
As we cross this desert of life during Lent, how do we, like the woman find that living water? We find it just as she did. At the well, with Jesus. We find it as we pray, worship, proclaim the Gospel, and continue to promote peace, love, and justice. We will not find it in isolation for it is in one another we see Christ. It is as we become his hands and heart we see him in others.
We find it when we allow God to remove each bramble, each fallen tree, each rock that separates us from that living water. As we allow our defenses to fall away and let God in to those places we try to hide, those barriers begin to disappear and the water becomes visible.
As we let this happen, we find as we sit at the top of the rise looking down on the water the brambles move and begin to thin out. The fallen trees begin to clear away. The rocks disappear from sight.
A path becomes clear as the debris moves away. Slowly standing up, you make your way down the winding path. Occasionally you stumble on a stump or a rock in the path, yet even so, the way is clear. The rush of the water becomes a roar in to the ears. As you get closer the mist falls on you, cooling your overheated skin.
You bend down and slowly take off your muddy boots, peel off your sweet drenched socks. The grass beneath tickles your feet, finally freed from their prison. Slowly you make your way to the edge.
The water sings as it rushes over rocks. As you watch you see that heavy thing you have been carrying rush by on the current. Before you can even imagine it, those secrets are gone, carried away in the roar of the water. They slowly sink from sight, gone forerever.
You reach the edge, at once excited and afraid. Slowly, you dip your toe in. The water so cold, it shocks you while at the same time, refreshing you. You pull your foot out and wonder what you were thinking. Surely it is too cold to go in.
Just when you decide it is safer to stay on the river’s edge, you hear that voice calling, “Come on in, the water’s fine.” Slowly, hesitantly, you inch your way in, one baby step at a time. What was once cold and frightening becomes like silk wrapping around you.
Before you know it, you are in the rapids and enjoying the ride of your life. This living water that bubbles endlessly holds you safely from danger. It fills you, refreshes, washes you clean, and carries you from the desert into the sea of life.
Let us pray:
Lord as we come to the well
Open our eyes to see those things that keep us from coming to you
Open our ears to hear you calling us into the water
Open our hearts to the love that makes us new
Open our lives to the water that washes us clean
Open our hands that we may share that water with other who are thirsty
Trusting that the well will never run dry
Thank you Lord for the water that carries us from the desert
Into the sea of your love. Amen.