Sermons 2005
"Water and Living Water", Lent 3A, 27 February 2005, John 4:5-42

Home | "The One who is coming after me", Advent 2B, 4 December 2005, Mark 1:1-8 | "Stay awake. Be alert" Advent 1B, 27 November 2005, Mark13:24-37 | "Black Hat vs White Hat" Proper 26A, 30 October 2005, Matthew 23:1-12 | "Sheep and Goats -- again!" Proper 29A, 20 November 2005, Matthew 25:31-46 | "The Greatest Commandment" Proper 25A, 23 October 2005 Matthew 22: 34-46 | God and Caesar, Proper 24A, 16 October 2005, Matthew 22:15-22 | The Wedding Banquet, Proper 23A, 9 October 2005, Matthew 22:1-14 | The Landlord and the Tenants, Proper 22A , 2 October 2005, Matthew 21:33-43 | "Who will go?" Proper 21A, 25 September 2005, Matthew 21:28-32 | "The Last shall be first", Proper 20A, 18 September 2005, Matthew 20:1-16 | "Forgiveness, grace, and mercy", Proper 19A, 11 September 2005, Matthew 18:21-35 | "But who do YOU say that I am?" Proper 16A, 21 August 2005, Matthew 16:13-20 | "O God, how can we sing to you...." Katrina Relief, 4 September 2005 | "The kingdom of heaven is like...." Proper 12A, 24 July 2005, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49a | "The wheat and the tares", Proper 11A, 17 July 2005, Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 | "Ears to listen", Proper 10A, 10 July 2005, Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23 | "A cup of cold water", Proper 8A, 26 June 2005, Matthew 10:34-42 | "Heseth: lovingkindness, not sacrifice", Proper 5A , 5 June 2005, Matthew 9:9-13; Hosea 6:6 | Trinity: A Theological Exploration, 22 May 2005, Matthew 28:16-20 | The Baptism of Parker Benjamin Throckmorton, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005 | "Receive the Holy Spirit" Pentecost , 15 May 2005, John 20: 19-23 | "Unity or schism?" Easter 7A, 8 May 2005, John 17:1-11 | "Abide in me", Easter 6A, 1 May 2005, John 15:1-8 | "The Way, the Truth, and the Life", Easter 5A , 24 April 2005, John 14:1-14 | "Saint Thomas the Doubter", Easter 2A, 3 April 2005, John 20:19-31 | "The Lord is Risen Indeed!", Easter A , 27 March 2005, Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18 | "The Shadow of the Cross", Passion Sunday A, 20 March 2005, Matthew 26:36-27:66 | Raising of Lazarus", Lent 5A, 13 March 2005, Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-44 | "Who are the blind?" Lent 4A, 6 March 2005, John 9:1-38 | "Water and Living Water", Lent 3A, 27 February 2005, John 4:5-42 | Baptized and Born Again", Lent 2A, 20 February 2005, John 3:1-17 | Temptation and the Kingdom of God, Lent 1A, 13 February 2005, Matthew 4:1-11 | "'Tis good to be here, " Epiphany Last A, 6 February 2005, Matthew 17:1-9 | "Follow me!" Epiphany 3A, 23 January 2005, Matthew 4:12-23 | "Come and See!" Epiphany 2A, 16 January 2005, John 1:29-41 | The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours, Epiphany 1A, 9 January 2005, Matthew 3:13-17 | Christmas 2A: The Tsunami, God, and our Neighbor", Matthew 2, 2 January 2005 | Next Sunday to be posted soon

Lent 3A 2005 John 4:5-42

Water. We are surrounded by so much water that we hardly think about it in our daily lives. Most of us have only to look up to see an inexhaustible supply of it in our creeks and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. None of us live very far from water here in the Northern Neck. Much of our recreation time is spent on the water, sailing, boating, fishing, and so forth.

Much of our infrastructure depends on a reliable supply of water: Clothes and car washing, power washing buildings, decks, boats, and vehicles. Industries such as the menhaden factories, and crab processing. Agriculture here depends on a reliable rainfall. In other parts of the country, it depends on extensive irrigation. Restaurants and fast food establishments. I was stationed in New York during a time in which the water supply of New York city was so low because of severe drought conditions that restaurants began to serve water only upon request, a movement that eventually spread throughout the country, even to here in the Northern Neck.

But many of us have become worried about the purity of our drinking water supply. So we join the legions of Americans who install water purification and filtration devices and have bottled water handy for trips and offices.

From early times water occurs in three ways in human experience, as the flood which surrounds and menaces dry land, as the decisive dispenser of biological life and as the most important means of cleansing. In these qualities it takes on in religious thought a varied mythical and cultic significance and is also the object of rational consideration in natural philosophy and technology.

During Old Testament times the Hebrew and Greek word for water becomes a generic term for something which can appear in many forms: meteorological phenomena like clouds, mist, haze, rain, snow, hail, dew; geographical like springs, brooks, streams, rivers, canals, ponds, lakes, seas; fountains and cisterns; biological as in drinking and cooking; domestic use for bathing and laundering; and various commercial uses such as pickling the travel fish for which Palestine was famous and which were the fish of the feeding of the five thousand.

The notions which the Old Testament scriptures links with the term, on the basis of Israel’s experience of salvation history, arise out of the water situation in Palestine and the ancient oriental view of the world. Since Israel lived in a country poor in water resources its statements about water are influenced by ideas concerning the provision of water.

There is no assurance of water for either men or plants in Palestine. Water supply is always threatened. Hence bread and water are given equal emphasis in the Old Testament as vital necessities. In fact, the ability of water to quench thirst and nourish plant life – grain, particularly -- is a is a powerful biblical metaphor in both Old and New Testaments Scriptures: God is the source of living water. The desire for God or His Word is like thirst for the water which is vitally necessary, (Ps. 42:1; Am. 8:11 f). Those who belong to Him are like the flock drinking at the source of water (Ps. 23:2), or the tree by the brook (Ps. 1:3; Jer. 17:8). In the time of salvation Israel will be “like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not….” (Is. 58:11). (1)

The role of water in Holy Baptism reflects this powerful metaphor. But it goes beyond the metaphor to the reality of the living water of today’s Gospel lection. The water of Baptism is living water, living because of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the invocation of the Holy Trinity. Each child of God, after his or her baptism, regardless of age, is marked on the forehead with the sign of the cross with oil of chrism: “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” (BCP 308)

The Thanksgiving over the Water in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism captures the sense of this:
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his
resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (BCP 306-307)

These words are called anamnesis, liturgical remembering. The reading of scripture and the Great Thanksgiving Prayer of Consecration of the bread and wine – with water added to the wine -- for Holy Communion are also anamnesis.

So when Jesus sits down on the curb of the well on that hot dry day in Samaria, and speaks of living water, he speaks with power beyond the words he uses.

In our Thursday evening Lenten Study we are dealing with Resurrection, first The Resurrection, that of Jesus, but also with what we believe about our own. In the Judaism of Jesus’ time there was a debate going on about resurrection – whether there was one or not. In general most Jews of the time inclined toward the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the body. Eternal life for them meant that one lived on in one’s children and in the continued existence of Israel as a people and its Temple worship.

When Jesus first answered the woman at the well, he said, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."

Living water. Until Jesus, living water simply meant flowing water, like that flowing into Jacob’s well, where the gospel story for today takes place. Or it meant water flowing in streams and rivers or out of the rock at Horeb struck by Moses in the desert wilderness at God’s command. But only with the first coming of Jesus does the term begin to connote the water of eternal life, the water of salvation. The Greek is udwr zoe (udor zoe), living water. Zoe comes into English as a name for girls. We even baptized a Zoe here in this church, Vicki Harding’s oldest grandchild. Zoe is a lovely name and its simplest meaning is – simply – life.

Water is essential to life. We routinely use water for drinking, cooking, and washing – the three most common tasks. Without this ordinary water we would soon die. We drink it and cook in it and wash with it over and over again, gallons of it each day. It is one of the three most basic physical human needs – air, water, food. And we need this water every day.

But the living water of Jesus is the unseen water of our lives. It flows constantly from God into us. It animates our spirits, refreshes and strengthens our thirsty souls. We bear it with us as we go into the world. And remember: “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”


1. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, VIII, 314-333.

Wicomico Parish Church, Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579