“Still Thirsty”

Download a PDF of this sermon here.

 

Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

March 23, 2014 – Third Sunday in Lent

Scripture:  John 4 (excerpts)

 

She is still thirsty.  Even though four years have passed since Port-au-Prince fell down around her, even though she and her children made it out of the rubble unharmed when the quaking finally stopped, even though she is grateful to be alive, she is still barely surviving.  They have scraped together a home in a makeshift tent amidst a sea of beige canvas and blue plastic, surrounded by thousands of other Haitians as desperate as they are.  No running water, no plumbing, no sewers or toilets or even proper outhouses…  She tries to keep the children from drinking out of the squalid pools on the ground, but the bottled water from the aid agency only lasts a few days, and you never know when they will deliver more, and sometimes when they come, there isn’t enough, so you stand in a pushing, shoving crowd for hours and go home empty-handed.  So she rations out the rain water she collects in a pot.  She gives each of her children a cupful with each meal, and as for herself, she takes just a little sip and holds it in her mouth for as long as she can, savoring the feel of it on her tongue and lips and throat.  But she is still thirsty.

 

[musical refrain]         Fill my cup, Lord; I lift it up, Lord;

                                    Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.

                                    Bread of heaven, feed me ’til I want no more;

                                    Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

 

WaterJordan

Photo:  mary abq

He is still thirsty.  Even though the refugees from Syria have been pouring across the border and into his country for more than three years now, even though he knows that the situation is desperate, even though he does not begrudge them a safe place to live or the basic resources they need, he is still frustrated.  The demand for water at the sprawling refugee camps means that there isn’t enough to go around for their Jordanian neighbors.  And now his olive trees are dying, and his vegetable seedlings are withering away, and he can’t afford to pay for the tanker truck to come and water them, because the price has risen with the demand, so now the cost of maintaining his greenhouses is higher than the income he can gain from them.  And he knows the Syrians are worse off yet, but as he watches plant after plant die for lack of water, he wonders what will become of him.  He tries to save as many as possible, hoping beyond hope that somehow there will be enough somehow, but he is still thirsty.

 

Fill my cup, Lord…

 

She is still thirsty.  The noonday sun presses down on her like a ton of bricks, the heat so heavy it feels hard to breathe.  She makes the trek every day, treading the dusty path from her home on the outskirts of her Samaritan village down to the well, where she fills her jar to the brim with cool, clear water, then trudges back home again.  But the path is long, and the day is hotter than blazes, and she is weary to the bone—weary of the hardships of her daily chores, weary of the heartbreak she has experienced as husband after husband left her or died, weary of the hopelessness she feels of ever finding happiness again.  So she sets down her water jar, not yet filled, and she sits down on a rock in the patchy shade of a thorn bush, and she puts her head in her hands, because she is so very tired and still so thirsty.

 

Fill my cup, Lord…

 

He is still thirsty.  He is baking under that same noonday sun, walking across that same parched earth.  He has been journeying for days.  It is so hot that the sweat evaporates as soon as it appears on his skin, leaving behind only a salty residue that mingles with the dust that cakes his feet and hands and face.  His friends have gone off to get some food, and perhaps some water, too, but he’s not sure his cracked lips and dry tongue can wait that long.  What he wouldn’t give for a cold, clear stream, or a misty waterfall, or a torrential rainstorm, or even a marshy, mucky swamp.  What he wouldn’t give to feel the elixir of life trickle over his head and pour through his fingers and wash over his face and run down his throat.  But for now, he is just so thirsty.

 

Fill my cup, Lord…

 

And he sees in the distance a shimmer of green, which could be an illusion made of parched and hazy hopes, but he turns his feet toward it, and as he draws near, he sees that it is not a mirage, but a spring-fed well.  And as he draws nearer still, he sees the woman, slump-shouldered and stoop-spined and tired-eyed, sitting there with her head in her hands.  And he asks her for a drink.  And she looks up, surprised to be noticed, surprised to be spoken to.  And they exchange a few words, and she realizes that he knows, he somehow knows what no one else seems to understand, knows everything there is to know about her—all her dashed hopes, all her unrealized dreams, all her foibles and falsehoods and failings.  And he sees, he somehow sees what no one else seems to see—that she is worth talking to, worth listening to, worth even asking for help.  There is something in his voice, something in his eyes, something in her heart that cracks open as he speaks to her, and she remembers something about who she is, and she finds reserves in herself that she had forgotten she had, and she comes fully alive for the first time in years.  And up she gets, and off she runs to share the good news of this man, this prophet, this messiah she has found, this Living Water to quench her thirsty soul.

And yet he is still thirsty—as thirsty as that mother in Haiti, or that farmer in Jordan, or that woman at the Samaritan well.  Because in her joy at being seen and heard and valued, she goes running off to spread the word, and Jesus never gets that drink he came for.

And so he is still thirsty, still sitting there beside a squalid pool among the makeshift tents, or among the withering seedlings in the greenhouses, or beside that Samaritan well.

And so he is still waiting, still hoping that someone will bring a jar, or a bucket, or a bottle, or a hose, to pour that Living Water over him until he is drenched from head to toe.

Because here’s what Jesus knows:  when we bring water to those who are thirsty; when we go out of our way to be with those who are parched; when we see the struggle in their slumped shoulders, the yearning in their stooped spines, the humanity in their tired eyes; when we know that we are truly kin, not separate at all but members of the same family—it is then that we come face to face with Jesus.  It is then that we discover his presence in our midst.  It is then that something in our hearts cracks open, and we remember something about who we are, and we find reserves in ourselves that we have forgotten we have, and we come fully alive.

And it is then—when God’s scattered children have been drawn back together, when every one has come fully alive—it is then that maybe, just maybe, Jesus’ thirst will be quenched at last.

 

Fill my cup, Lord…