It was a beautiful day. The kind of day that just invites you to keep
walking. The perfect temperature, just the right breeze. The sun brightening
every surface so that the colors are vibrant. Every bird seemed to be singing a
joyful song. And so the man kept walking, enjoying the day and the hike.
After a while the man realized that despite all of the beauty around him,
he was missing something. He had walked all this way, and had not brought any
water with him. He was beginning to be thirsty. So as he walked he began to
look for water, to listen for water, even to try to smell water in the air.
After some time he saw a sparkle in the distance, a shimmer, a glint of
sunlight off of something. Rushing toward it, he imagined the taste of the
water, and the way it would refresh him. But as he drew near, he realized that
it was not water at all, but a vein of fool’s gold. In his disappointment, he
did something that would make very little sense to us when we are thinking
right, he picked up a piece of the rock and put it in his mouth hoping it would
somehow help his thirst. Of course it didn’t. It just tasted like metal and
dirt, and made him want water all the more to wash the grit from his mouth. He
spit what he could out. But now he had to find water.
He was obsessed by his thirst. He no longer noticed the sun, the breeze, or
the birds. His pace was no longer that of a man on an ambling, enjoyable hike,
but a frantic race.
Again in the distance he saw a sparkle, again he rushed toward it, this
time only to find a large diamond, shining in the sun. This was no fool’s gold,
no item of false value, it was perhaps worth millions to the right jeweler. So
what did he do? He licked it. He was thirsty, he needed water. But licking it
didn’t do any good. As you well know. The diamond itself was pretty but it
didn’t satisfy his real need.
And this could be our life, couldn’t it? The frantic search for the thing
that satisfies our deepest thirst. Trying things that don’t actually help, in
fact, things that make it worse. When I read the quote about the psychologists
thinking that our attraction to bling, comes from our primal search for sources
of water, I thought, “How interesting that we might get distracted by a shiny
rock, like a diamond or a lump of fools’ gold when what we need is water. What
we thirst for is water. We can eat the rock, and we are still thirsty. Its
satisfaction is purely a deception. Look at your neighbor’s bling – they are
pretty, they are fun, there is nothing particularly wrong with the items, but
let’s be honest, they aren’t the meaning of life.
As we live our lives there are lots of things that are sparkle,
there are lots of things that are pretty, there are even things that we
think of as very valuable—worth millions. But they never really could satisfy
our deepest needs. It simply isn’t possible for them to do that. Yet we try
them anyway, even when we know they won’t work.
Think about it. Throughout our lives we chase the things we need, we search
for the things that really satisfy us, that bring joy and fulfillment to life,
that make it worth living. And yet we get caught up chasing the wrong things.
When I meet with families for funerals, I often ask what made your loved one’s
life worth living. I have never had anyone say, a diamond, or a bank account.
[with irony] Perhaps that is because I have never done a funeral for a rich
enough person, but I doubt it.
And diamonds and wealth aren’t the only sparkling things out there that can
mislead us. People seek to quench their deepest thirsts in lots of ways, and
often they discover the things they thought would satisfy them don’t. It could
be their jobs, chasing after better opportunities thinking that success will
make them happy, and it doesn’t. It can be in relationships, chasing man after
man or woman after woman, going through marriage after marriage thinking that
eventually one of them has to make us happy. Oh, so many things sparkle like
water, and we taste them, and they only make us thirstier. Look at your
neighbor’s bling – do not taste it . . . just look and think.
What Jesus says in our passage today is that he is the living water.
He is the
thing that satisfies. He isn’t a deceptive sparkle that is misleading us, but
he is the very thing that spiritually we have always been looking for whether
we have known it or not.
Samaritan woman, this claim proves to be true. Finally she finds what she has
been looking for, a meaning and purpose in her life that she had not felt
before. We can guess based on her history that she had tried to find happiness
through relationships, but it had never worked. If she were the hiker in my
opening story, she would have licked 5 diamond rings, and would be trying
another, when Jesus would walk into the scene. No water in hand. No evidence of
a canteen or bottle. And he would say to her, “I am the living water.” And of
course we heard their conversation in the drama earlier.
her to examine deeper, to think spiritually. For so long she has assumed that
not being a pure Jew, and being a woman the spiritual realm was no place for
her. But Jesus tells her that, “a new day is coming, in fact, it’s already
here, when what matters is the heart of the worshipper” and thus this well of
living water is available to her.
As they talk
about the things of God, the woman understands that there is where her thirst
lies. She is thirsty for the Divine Presence, and no human being, no matter how
impressive can satisfy that need. Once she takes a sip of this living water,
through her encounter with Christ, it overflows into her relationships with
others and changes their lives too. She begins pulling others to Christ, so
that they can find the spiritual waters of God that he offers.
So let’s make her story personal and connect it to your story.
Where is your
thirst? What have you been longing for? Have you gotten lost looking at the
sparkling jewels of the world? Put yourself back on that hiking path in the
story I told earlier, how can you get yourself up, cast aside the distractions
and head toward the waters of life that you know are flowing from Christ.
What are those distractions, what have you tried? What fools’ gold have you
eaten that left you spitting it out, and thirstier than ever?
Perhaps there have even been people who told you that you certainly
couldn’t look to God for help. Maybe people even tried to prevent you from
reaching Christ, or got in the way of the real living water, pretending to be
substitutes. But there is no substitute for the real living water. But today, Jesus
beckons to you. The water is for you to drink. Yes, you.
So how would you go about leaving those distractions, substitutes, things
that have gotten in your way, behind? Because Christ is sitting there beside
the waters of life, ready to give you a drink. And as he says, “The water that I give
will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into