EPISTLE LESSON Romans 5:1-11
GOSPEL LESSON: John 4:1-42
SERMON: “Water, Water, Everywhere”
Do you know the “Rule of Threes”?
The average human can survive:
- three minutes without air,
- three hours in extreme cold,
- possibly three weeks without food,
- three days without water
We all need water. Lots of people think that tap water isn’t good enough so they buy bottled water like Evian, Fiji Water, Dasani, and Ice Mountain, just to name a very few. Some of us have filters on the kitchen faucet from which we draw our drinking water. Others purchase water filtering pitchers like Brita, and some of us do both. But none of these offer us the kind of water Jesus was talking about in his conversation with a woman at the well in Samaria.
© Do you know the importance of water to our physical bodies? When our bodies fail to retain the right amount of water, dehydration sets in. It is the water in our body that determines the vitality, strength, and energy associated with daily living. Think about these facts associated with our body and water:
© The human body is ⅔ water.
© The body absorbs cold water faster than hot water.
© By the time you are 70-years-old, you will have required 1½ million gallons of water.
© Studies show that increasing water consumption can decrease fat deposits. Water is a natural appetite suppressant.
© If you lose 2% of your body’s water supply, your energy will decrease by 20%. A 10% decrease in water, you will be unable to walk, and a 20% decrease – you’re dead.
You get the point. And what is true of the physical is also true of the spiritual, because God has made us with a spirit that thirsts for a relationship with him.
We tend to take water for granted, but neither Jesus nor this woman would. Living in a dry land like Israel, Jesus knew that water was a precious resource. He surely saw his mother and many other women spend much of their time and energy hauling water for cooking, cleaning and drinking. Compassionate as he was he certainly would have appreciated the effort that this woman expended daily to get enough water to meet the needs of her family.
And that was quite a chore. Water is notoriously heavy -- a pint of water weighs one pound, so a 5-gallon bucket weighs a staggering 40 pounds. A woman would have to haul this much water several times every day to meet the demands of a large family and busy household. When Jesus encounters the woman at the well, he’s hot and tired from his journey (v. 6). He’s parched. “Give me a drink,” he says to the Samaritan woman. It’s a touching, vulnerable moment, one of the very few times that we hear Jesus make a request of another person. He needs something that she can provide. And he knows she needs something only he can provide.
When he offers her “living water,” he isn’t talking about H2O. He is talking about salvation, about forgiveness of sin, about eternal life. When we are hot, tired and thirsty nothing is quite as refreshing as a cool drink of water. Jesus knew this woman’s situation, her need for absolution, for a fresh start, and he offers the refreshment of God’s grace freely.
All this study about water reminded me of the famous Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem we had to study in high school: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” This very long poem tells the story of a ship driven south to Antarctica. An albatross, a large sea bird, appears and leads them out, but the mariner shoots the bird, angering his shipmates. It’s quite a long and confusing tale, but one can hardly study the poem without learning the lines, “water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” - Why no water to drink? Because they are sailing on the ocean – which is salt water, worse than no good as drinking water.
Just as those sailors are surrounded by an enormous sea of water that cannot quench their thirst, the woman has been surrounded with things that cannot quench the thirst in her soul. She has been married five times – those relationships have not met her ultimate need. She works hard – hauling water and whatever other household chores she had – work does not fulfill the need of her soul. Other people, work, money, entertainment, sports – sorry, not even March madness will ultimately fulfill the need of our spirit. None of these are inherently harmful, but they will not satisfy the spirit’s longing for the close, satisfying relationship with God that only Christ can offer.
Water, water everywhere –
There is a story about a man who was on a train going across the desert in Arizona. He was the only person in the car who had not pulled down the window shades to keep out the glare of the hot sun on the parched earth. In contrast to the other passengers, he kept looking out his window, and seemed actually to enjoy the dismal scene.
After a while the curious man seated across the aisle, asked, “Sir, what do you see in that wasteland that makes you smile?”
“Oh,” he replied,” I’m in the irrigation business, and I was thinking if we could only get water to this land that the desert would become a garden.”
That’s what Jesus is teaching His disciples, that we have life-giving water in the gospel. Jesus wants us to see the world’s people as He sees them. Every one of them is precious in His sight. By divine grace, they can become a new creation, brought to life through the love and grace of God.