Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42
I grew up on a farm with a spring and a creek and a pond with snapping turtles. We loved playing in the water, but I am sure my parents were not so thrilled with carrying the water. Then they dug a well which turned out to be an artesian well, water under enough pressure it flowed to the surface without a pump; precious water that made life so much easier, even possible. Not just farms, but whole settlements and cities, like Albion, are founded near water, water that is necessary for life, irrigation, mills, industry, and travel. Living water is water that moves such as a spring or a river. For baptism it is desirable to have moving water so you will see that I stir the water in the font as I pray.
In this morning’s Old Testament story the Hebrew people are travelling through the desert where the availability of water is always a real concern. They have camped, but there does not appear to be a spring or a source of water nearby and the people grumble and quarrel with Moses. Has he brought them out into the desert to die of thirst! So quickly they forget that God travels with them. How quickly they forget that God made the bitter waters of Marah sweet for drinking. How quickly they forget the twelve springs of water at Elim, the rain of quail and bread from heaven. In complaining to Moses they are in reality testing God. Is God really with them? Can they really trust God to provide for them? And when the people quarrel with Moses, Moses rightly turns to God for help for God is the one with true authority, God is the one truly leading the people through the desert. It is God who sent Moses to Egypt to free the people from slavery. It is God who is with the people when they cross the red sea. It is God who leads the Hebrew people in the desert with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. It is God who provides water and meat and manna from heaven. In this morning’s story we are told that God stood on the rock which Moses stuck and from which water flowed so that the people and their children and their livestock might drink.
Psalm 95 begins with praise to God which we know as the Venite from Morning Prayer. We are called to worship God giving thanks and praise and glory to God. Surprisingly, the second half of Psalm 95turns to this morning’s Old Testament story from Exodus, reminding the people of their quarrel with God and their testing of God at Meribah and Massah and how God in his anger did not allow the first generation to enter into Canaan and the Promised Land. It was the second generation who could forget what it meant to be a slave and who could look to the future and God’s promise. Worship without obedience to God is not acceptable.
We too want proof that God is with us. God may have been with the people then, but is he still with us today? If God is with us, then why do we have natural disasters and wars? Why do children suffer and die? Why do bad things happen to good people? In times of trouble who do we complain to, who do we reach out to? We quarrel with our church leaders, our president and government rather than seeking the true authority, Our God? Just as the people demanded Aaron create a golden calf, a god they could see and know is with them, we too want a god we can see and know is with us.
This morning’s gospel reading is a long passage from John where Jesus is found sitting at Jacob’s well and talking to a Samaritan woman. Jesus is tired and thirsty and asks the woman for a drink of water; in return he will give her living water. Just as God sent physical bread and water from heaven to his people in the desert, God now offers spiritual bread and water through Jesus the one sent from heaven.
When we are thirsty we turn on the water faucet in our kitchens and drink our fill or open our refrigerator and take out a cold one. When we are hungry we visit Family Fare or Meijers or McDonalds or our favorite watering hole. When we are spiritually thirsty seeking for what we do not know where do we turn? Do we turn to work, alcohol, drugs, sex, powerful automobiles, and high risk adventures, forever seeking that next rush of adrenaline or do we turn to God to satiate our thirst, to fill the void in our lives, the God shaped hole in our souls. We come to the spring of living water whose source is God, from which we can drink and never thirst again.
God feeds us when we are hungry. God gives us water when we are thirsty. God is present with us in our lives, in the good times and in the bad times, in our suffering and our pain. Even though we cannot see God we know he is present in the returning spring, in the smile of a child and in the kind words of a stranger. God is the ultimate authority in our lives, the one who shows us the way, the one who leads us from death to eternal life. Who are you following? In whom do you put your trust? Amen.