Prayer Service




Exodus 17:3-7

Psalms 95:1-2, 6-9

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

John 4:5-15, 19-26, 39-42

We would all agree, that our metal is tested in times of difficulty.  As Exodus clearly shows, the Israelites were clearly tested by the Lord, and they did not always pass those tests with flying colors.  Indeed, sometimes they failed miserably.  The same people who could not wait to get out of Pharaoh’s firm grip in Egypt, are seen today grumbling against Moses: “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?  Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and livestock?”  The grumbling got so loud and irritating that Moses complained to God: “they are going to stone me!”  The Book of Exodus recounts numerous times when God requests of Moses the oddest of things, and today’s first reading presents to us one more – go “and strike the rock [with your staff] and water will flow from it for the people to drink.”  Water from a rock?  Un heard of.  The place this happens is called Massah [“testing”] and Meribah [“quarreling”], serving as a reminder that the Israelites were not up to the challenge.  Worse was that their faith in God’s care is challenged, for they asked themselves “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”  Their hearts were beginning to harden, and their history would be one of straying and returning to the Lord.

We should remember that the Samaritans were Israelites who escaped exile when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom eight centuries before Christ.  The Jews came to despise the Samaritans for intermarrying with non-Israelites and worshipping at Mount Gerazim, not Jerusalem.  They strayed from the ‘pure’ religious practices of the Israelites, and were deemed worthy of the Israelite’s hatred for centuries.

It is with that background that we enter into one of St. John’s most interesting stories [“Signs,” for John], the story of the Samaritan woman.  All four gospels have stories of Jesus interacting with Samaritans, and given a choice of avoiding the Samaritan territory altogether, Jesus would traipse right into the middle of it, unafraid of being killed, or, worse for a Jew, being made unclean.

Noon would have been one of the hottest times in a desert climate, and it is easy to understand why Jesus would be so thirsty and take His place by Jacob’s well.  What we don’t fully understand is why the woman [St. Photina for the Orthodox] chose the hottest time of the day to draw water from the well.  It is fair to suggest that this was no chance encounter; it was most surely part of God’s divine plan.

Having no bucket of His own, Jesus asks the woman for a drink.  Given the religious differences between the two, the woman is taken aback.  She could never have imagined that what Jesus really thirsted for was her soul, her salvation.  Jesus’ reference to “living water” piques her interest, and she wants some of that living water for that she will not have to come to the well in the heat of the day.

Jesus suddenly changes the subject and suggests after she brings her jug home she come back with her husband.  Jesus, who reads the hearts and minds of all, recognizes that she answers truthfully when she says “I have no husband,” for she was married five times and is possibly courting a sixth.  Note that there appears to be no accusatory inferences in Jesus’ husband discussion with the woman.  Like the quintessential fisherman that He is, He is drawing the woman’s soul closer and closer.  Even the discussion of where one worships is not meant to be accusatory, “for a day is coming when true worshipers [Jews and Samaritans] will worship God the Father in Spirit and truth.”

The Samaritan woman’s conversation brings her to the threshold of faith, and that faith is then shared with her fellow townspeople, who apparently come to Jesus in droves, recognizing in Jesus the “Savior of the world.”  One can truly say that the woman evangelized her community, and made the impact of Jesus’ encounter with her of great consequence.

We are privileged to have encountered Jesus and accepted His invitation to follow Him.  We encounter Jesus not at the well, but rather in the grocery store, in the bank, in the parking lot – wherever kindnesses are exchanged Jesus is there in our midst.  And we are further privileged to be able to encounter Jesus in the celebration of the Eucharist, where He makes Himself known in Word and Sacrament.  As the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman dramatically changed her life for the better, so also our encounters are meant to energize us to create a kingdom here on earth where love is shared, where justice is honored, where peace is promoted, and where goodness prevails.  The Samaritan woman encountered Jesus in her ordinary, yet daily, task of fetching water.  We too will encounter Jesus in our ordinary daily tasks, if we look beyond the outward appearances to see a God who hungers and thirsts for our souls.  Let us surrender to Him.

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