Toorak Uniting Church

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Tapping into confessions.

John 4
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
9 May 2004

The story we read this morning tells us a lot about faith, and about confessions, although it might, at first sight not seem to be so.

First of all there is Jesus, travelling from Judea to Galilea tired out by his journey. That in fact is an article of faith telling us that Jesus was, in all respects, as human as we are. Tired out after a long hike and thirsty. Sitting down by a well around noon, the hottest time of the day.

Then a Samaritan woman turns up, come to draw water, carrying a bucket, probably on her head.
'Give me a drink' says Jesus, left on his own by friends who have gone off in search of food. No p's and t's is what most mothers would probably notice, somebody speaking with authority here......
What is more important however: Jesus, a Jewish rabbi speaking to a Samaritan woman and asking her for water. That is another article of faith: This Jesus, this rabbi, is mixing with the wrong people. Any other Jewish rabbi would have tracked around Samaria and have walked a few miles extra to prevent having to do anything with Samaritans. They were people you just did not get involved with in any way! And not only that: accepting food from a Samaritan would make you unclean for days, and asking for food or drink something that was simply not done. It would ruin your reputation as a rabbi if anybody would catch up with the fact that you mixed with those.....
On top of that she is a woman, and a divorced woman at that, as will later become clear, living together with a man she's not married to at all.

The woman wonders: 'How is it that you ask me. a Samaritan woman for water?'.
Then follows a most bizarre conversation about water, living water, being thirsty, buckets, drawing from a well and springs that never dry up. Jesus and the woman talking on two levels at the same time, getting into a complete Babylonian confusion by the sound of it.

Jesus talks about living water, and about never again being thirsty, talks about well springs of eternal life and never having to come back for water again.
The woman talks about water and buckets and hard work and is clearly puzzled why somebody who'd just asked for water because he is tired out from the road and does not have a bucket with him by the looks of it to draw water, would then suddenly offer her water instead. Water of a puzzling quality at that.
Jesus is talking about faith. The woman is talking about her everyday reality of going back and forth to the well to draw water. They touch, but they are of a completely different quality. Faith says Jesus is like drawing water from a well, tapping into life giving stuff that will sustain you forever. And I can be that well for you, God has given it to me to be able to give that to people. Life giving stuff not unlike water that will nurture and sustain and that will change the quality of life from the ordinary day to day in something with the quality of the eternal.
Eternal not meaning that it will prolong your life indefinitely but that it will take on the quality of the eternal rather than the quantity.
The woman grapples with Jesus' words. After he's talked to her about her past and the reason why she was at the well at such an unusual hour (at noontime every sensible person in Samaria would be inside, waiting for the heat to ease off a little before they went out to draw water) she starts to stumble onto something: 'We are expecting the Christ she volunteers......' 'I am he' is Jesus' answer.
The Messiah. Talking to somebody no decent and well bred person would ever have talked to. A woman, a Samaritan, living in sin and probably not into right relationships either by the sound of it. Offering her living water, eternal life. Claiming that God has given it to him to do this.
She goes off to tell her friends in the city. And she comes back, so becoming the first missionary even before Jesus' death and resurrection. Bringing people to faith who at that moment were far outside the comprehension of the disciples as being eligible for discipleship.

'We know this is truly the saviour of the world'.

This woman, those people have clearly tapped into something. Some life changing source, something has come bubbling up into their lives they cannot resist, something clear and wholesome, nurturing and sustaining.

That is what faith is about, and this story tells us about it:

Tapping into the well springs of what will give life an eternal quality. Tapping into a Messiah who will tire and get thirsty and ask for water, for sustenance and support sitting by the well. A Christ who crosses boundaries and breaks taboos to reach out to all people, even those who others would consider below standard and out of bounds. Offering them as well as us the stuff of life, of living with eternity in our hearts.
Making connection through Jesus with God the creator and giver of life. Receiving through them both the Holy Spirit, who keeps what God has given through Jesus alive in us. Becoming part of the flow of love, grace and mercy that from them flows into the world, filling and fulfilling our lives in a way that nothing else can.

Faith is connecting, is tapping into a source, is being drawn into a relationship with another reality, another life, another dimension. Is standing up and saying: This is what I want my life to be part off, this is the direction I want to take, this is what I feel nurtures me and carries me through life, touching me deeper and more profoundly than anything else. This is what I will commit myself to. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2004


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