Water and Truth – February 21, 2016

“Water and Truth”

Exodus 17:1-7 John 4:5-42


The famous British author and Christian apologist…C. S. Lewis wrote these words. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal.” Clearly God…Jesus…and the woman at the well were vulnerable…because…clearly… they loved. Twice before…in their wanderings…God had heard the complaints of the Israelites. And…he provided for them. He provided water. He provided manna. Yet, they were grumbling once again. This time it was because they wanted water. Because he loved them…God gave them water…even though the Israelites demanded God’s action on their terms. Don’t we sometimes do the same thing? When God does not do for us what we think he ought to do, in the way we think he ought to do it, we complain about it. At home, at work, and in the church, we demand God take care of us on our own terms. God so loved them that he gave them water…even though the Israelites were denying God’s protection. They assumed the worst. They had concluded that God had abandoned them. Don’t we sometimes do the same thing? We complain that what God is doing in our lives…especially the suffering we must endure…is not good for us but actually harmful. That is a way for us to deny God’s protection. Even though they tested God….he gave them water because he loved them. And…they still asked “Is the Lord among us?” Our own trials often raise the same question. We may feel that God isn’t blessing us very much right now. This is one way we deny God’s presence. The Israelites were suffering from spiritual amnesia…forgetting the love of God. They forgot that because of His love God had provided for them…had protected them… and had always been with them. Sometimes in our daily lives we have the same affliction…spiritual amnesia. The remedy is to pause and remember the immeasurable ways God has demonstrated his love for us. When Jesus got to the well He was weary. The long walk from the south to the north…the disciples pressing him with endless questions…the constant crowds…the never-ending questions and badgering made him a tired man. He felt like some of us feel from time to time…maybe often. Then the woman came to the well. Jesus had every reason to ignore her. He was tired. He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. There had been great animosity and separation between their races for seven centuries or more. He was male. She was female. At that time it was considered highly inappropriate for a Jewish male to speak with any woman in public. But…because He loved…Jesus spoke with her….Jesus reached out to her. Jesus loved his Father and all of His creation. He was energized by service to God. He was feasting on the potential he saw in that woman’s life. He was so absorbed in what could happen to her that he forgot himself. Jesus loved. The Samaritan woman had lived a difficult life…five former husbands. She was a social outcast…not even able to interact with other women who went to a well closer to their home in cooler parts of the day. But…she loved also. Once it was clear to her that she was being offered the love of the messiah she showed her love. She was so excited that she ran to tell other Samaritans…leaving her all-important water pot behind. What happened when she acted out of love is typical of the way in which the Gospel is spread. First…she told her friends about Christ and how he knew of her life…how he had ignored the barriers and reached out to her…how he had helped her discover herself…how he had offered her the living water. Secondly…as their knowledge grew…that prevenient grace within them that Wesley told us about…the same grace that’s in all people…believers and non-believers alike…caused them to be curious and want to go meet Christ. Thirdly…when they met Christ…discovered who he was and encountered His love…they surrendered. They were the first to discover in Christ the savior of the world. A discovery that came to them because God loved…Jesus loved…and the woman loved…and they all acted out of love. So…we are loved…and given the opportunity to love. We can do as Lewis suggested. Keep our hearts closed…never show love…and never enjoy love. Or we can share the love that’s been shown to us. Even when we’re tired and alone we can…like Christ… be energized by God’s love shared with others…who are ill…who have lost a loved one…whose body has become frail…who are imprisoned…who are poor…who have little education…who live next door…who don’t know Jesus Christ. When we’re facing barriers that society and tradition have created…or we ourselves have created… like Jesus…we can eliminate those barriers and reach out…to the child who plays in the church parking lot…to the neighbor who attends no church…to the person of another faith or no faith at all…to those who are or act suspicious. Not long ago I read a book entitled “Suspicion Nation.” It was written by Lisa Bloom…a lawyer and court analyst for a number of TV networks. The premise of her book is that we are a divided nation because we are a suspicious nation….rich are suspicious of the poor….poor are suspicious of the rich….old are suspicious of the young….young are suspicious of the old….highly educated are suspicious of those with little education….those with little education are suspicious of those with a lot of education….races are suspicious of other races…..women are suspicious of men and men are suspicious of women…people of each faith are suspicious of people of other faiths. We are all suspicious of those not exactly like us. We have seen the result of that suspicion in recent headlines. We have also seen the result of God’s grace and love. The families of the victims of the massacre at Mother Emanuel surely did not suffer from spiritual amnesia. They had drunk of the living water. Many people saw last year’s removal of the confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds as a thing of beauty…like a rainbow. Others saw it as devastating…like a tornado. This reminder… both rainbows and tornados…are short lived events. The real question for each of us…for the United Methodist Church…and for all of South Carolina…is how do we truly heal and go forward together? In addition to the demonstration of forgiveness shown by the victims’ families …three of our state’s leaders…who are all United Methodists have given some sound advice. I like best the indirect advice coming from Governor Nikki Haley…someone with whom I don’t always agree. The governor said she made her decision after asking herself how she could look her children in the eye if she chose to leave the flag in place. How will the children and grandchildren… who will one day lead and care for us… see our words and actions if they are not words and actions that heal and show love for all of God’s creation and all in God’s creation? Former Governor Dick Riley…a friend and member of Buncombe Street United Methodist Church…wrote “significant disparities in our systems of education, health and justice have a disproportionate impact on poor and minority citizens in our state…. Let us think and act deliberately about a new legacy for our state, one that brings the two South Carolinas together in one.” And, our Bishop…L. Jonathan Holston…has told us…”It is imperative that love be vigilant and truth be bold….let us think big. Pray bigger.” It’s likely that none of us will be in a position to single handedly change the world…or by our own single word or deed to ultimately heal and bring the two South Carolinas together. But we can each of us diligently…daily…in every word and deed hear…and live out…the words of Saint Teresa of Avila….who in the 15th century wrote… “He has no hand but our hands To do his work today: He has no feet but our feet To lead men in his way He has no voice but our voice To tell men how he died: He has no help but our help To lead them to his side.” God has done the hard work…sending his Son…and providing that prevenient grace…the living water. The rest is up to you and me. Through comforting word and simple deed filled with grace and love…as Christ has done for you and me…whose heart and mind can we…help heal…and open…to the truth and thirst-quenching living water…today?