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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Living Water

Lent 3 A     John 4:5-42

(For the Gospel lesson, convert it into a reading drama with a narrator, the woman at the well and Jesus. It makes for a wonderful play.)

Water. It takes so good. It tastes so good especially when your throat is parched and dry. Water…I cannot live without it. Without water, my body would die.

As we all know, water is part of our everyday living. For example:

Please think of your bathroom. In the bathroom, we wash our hands. We take a bath with water. We take a shower with water. We wash our hair with water. We brush our teeth with water. We flush our toilets with water. The other option is having an outdoor outhouse with no water, but that isn’t a pleasant choice.

Please think of your kitchen. In our kitchens, we wash our hand with water before meals. We cook our meals with water. We wash our dishes after our meals with water. The dishwasher uses water. We get a glass of water. We fill the ice-cube tray with water. The icemaker uses water. We wash the kitchen floor with water. Without water in the kitchen, the kitchen doesn’t work very well. Cooking around a campfire means no running water.

Please think of your carport or garage. Outside, we have water in our carports or garages. We wash our cars with water and hose our driveways. We water our gardens; we water our flowers; and we water our lawns. In the summertime, the kids run through the water sprinklers and squeal with glee.

To us, water is the common and ordinary stuff of life. It is part of our everyday living. It is a daily part of your life and mine. Some people say that America is the breadbasket of the world. I think American is the waterbuck of the world. We Americans are spoiled by the amount of good water we have available to us.

Point 2 under A: Water is part of our essential life. Students please write that down. 

It never ceases to amaze me that my body is composed of seventy percent water. It is hard to imagine that seventy percent of the flesh standing before you today is water. That means about 154 pounds of water is standing before you right now. I am not going to tell you what I weigh but I can guarantee you that 70% of my body weight and your body weight is composed of water. 

There are two and a half quarts of water in my blood. There are fifteen quarts of water in the extra plasma in my body. There are thirty quarts of water in the cells of my body, allowing all those little cells to grow. It always amazes me that 154 pounds of water are standing before you today at this moment. Truly, I am living water.

Some people say that I am a bag of wind. Others say that I am a bag of hot air. But I am really a bag of water. I am a great big bag of water. Standing before you today is walking, breathing, living water. I am truly living water.

Water is important to my diet. It amazes me that I cannot live without water, that water is more important to my diet than food. It amazes me that I can exist for thirty days without food but I can exist only one to four days without water. I cannot live without water. It amazes me how absolutely necessary water is for by body to exist.

Likewise, it always amazes me that during my first nine months of life, I was in the water of my mother’s womb. I began in a bag of living water. I lived as a fetus for nine months in my mother’s womb. I could not live without that water surrounding me and in me. Truly, as a fetus, I was surrounded by living water. The water around me was truly the water of life. The bag of water around you as a fetus and me as a fetus was living water.

Water is part of our every day life. Water is part of our essential life.

It is with these images that we hear the great words of Jesus when he says, “The water I give is living water. Whoever drinks of the water I give will never thirst. He who believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. The rivers of living water I give will become a spring of living water, welling up into eternal life.”

That I what I would like to talk with you about today: Living water. What is it? Where does it come from? What does it do?

The Gospel for today is a great story. The basis and source of the sermon for today is the Gospel lesson about the woman at the well. Today’s Gospel story is a story that we can easily visualize. We can easily visualize that she was a Samaritan and he was a Jew and Samaritans and Jews didn’t talk with each other. We can easily visualize how Jesus got personal with her and said, “Woman, where is your husband?” The woman said, “I don’t have a husband.”  Jesus said, “I know. You have had five husbands and you are now shacking up with a sixth guy.” We can easily visualize this conversation and her embarrassment.  We can easily visualize how uncomfortable she was when Jesus brought it up that she was married five times. We can easily visualize how she artfully changes the subject. And to this woman, this five time loser, to this woman who must have suffered so much personal tragedy, Jesus offered her what she needed the most, what she really needed. The woman at the well needed living water. She could get physical water from the well but what she really needed was the living water that Jesus told her about. That story is the basis of the sermon for today.

Where to begin?  Rather than just jumping in and talking about living water, I first want to talk about the relationship of Jesus and this woman. The relationship between Jesus and the woman is very complicated and interesting, so let us first talk about their relationship and then the living water.

First, Jesus loved this woman at the well, and Jesus wants us to love her as well. Jesus had compassion for her and Jesus wants us to have compassion for her as well. Jesus did not condemn her and Jesus doesn’t want us to condemn her either. Jesus wasn’t harsh with her. He didn’t put her down. He didn’t judge her. She would have been an easy mark. You could have made this woman squirm easily It would have been easy for him to do that…with five divorces and all and now shacking up with a guy. It would have been so easy for Jesus to condemn her, to reprimand her, to say “naughty, naughty, naughty, mustn’t do that, woman.” But not Jesus. From the first moment Jesus was with her, you sense a tenderness towards her. He didn’t seem upset by her behavior. Closely examine the story for today and you will not find one hint of condemnation of her, not one single word of criticism of her. Instead, you sense his tenderness, knowing her personal tragedies. Jesus did not have that judgmental spirit to his personality.

That is the way that Jesus was with so many people.  Zaccheus for example. Zaccheus was a crook, a cocky little crook, who ripped off his fellow Jews by stealing their taxes. And Jesus looked up into the sychamore tree and said, “Zaccheus, you come down, for I am coming to your house this day. I am coming to have dinner at your house today.” I mean, Jesus could have said, “Come on down here, Zaccheus. I want to talk with you about what you have been doing lately. I want to tell you how you have been stealing these people by overtaxing them. You are a crook, plain and simple. You have been robbing the people, even if it is lawful.” That is what Jesus could have done. Jesus could have called a spade a spade and condemned Zaccheus on the spot. “Zaccheus, you are a crook, a thief, a moral creep.” But not Jesus. Jesus does not condemn Zaccheus. No, it is just the opposite. Jesus loved Zaccheus. Jesus’ heart was not judgmental towards the obvious failings of another person.

There are many similar stories in the Bible, such as the woman caught in the act of adultery. It was the same scene, similar verse. Love for the sinner; no condemnation. There is not one sentence of condemnation in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

Do you know the people Jesus did condemn? The religious people. The Pharisees who thought that their sins weren’t as bad as the woman at the well.  Those were the people that Jesus condemned. Not the woman at the well. Jesus loved that woman.

And that is the way that Jesus feels about you and me as well. Jesus loves us in all of our sinfulness. So when we live our marriages in such a way that it is not good, healthy and appropriate. So when we commit adultery or when we get married five times or when we are shacking up with somebody else or when we have sex before marriage or outside of marriage or when we have abortions or when we get into conflict with our neighbors, does Jesus condemn us any more than the woman at the well? No. Jesus doesn’t need to condemn us because our hearts have already condemned us. When you sin in these ways, Jesus does not need to condemn you because your hearts already condemn yourself. … And so when we are too materialistic and sin with money and when we are to preoccupied with materials pleasures and when we become too busy for God, what is Jesus’ attitude towards us?  Does he condemn us? No. When you are a person who doesn’t pray very well and to into bed and fall asleep and rarely talk with God; when you are an average American Christian who spends four minutes a day in prayer with God; Jesus does not condemn you because your heart is already condemning you.

You and I don’t need condemnation. What we need is living water.

That Jesus does not condemn us does not mean that Jesus condones our sinful behaviors. Jesus did not condone what the woman at the well had done and was doing nor does Jesus condone us as well when we are sinning. Sometimes, we human beings are sufficiently slippery so that if God doesn’t condemn us, then we erroneously assume that God condones our sinful behavior. Sometimes, we can become very slippery. Jesus didn’t condemn, not did Jesus condone.

The point is: Jesus offered the woman what she really needed. She needed living water, not a condemnation.

A second quality that I notice about the relationship between Jesus and this woman is that Jesus got personal with her. Jesus always gets personal. Jesus always has a way of coming into our personal lives. When Jesus became personal with her and started asking embarrassing questions about her five husbands, she tried to cleverly change the subject and talk about religion. She didn’t want Jesus to get personal. She wanted to talk about safe subjects. Jesus said, “Go and get your husband for me.”  She said, “I don’t have a husband.”  Jesus said, “I know. You have had five husbands and the man you are now living with is not your husband.” I love the woman’s response. “Jesus, I hear that you Jews believe that you are to worship God in Jerusalem whereas we Samaritans believe that God is to be worshipped in Samaria. Where do you think we should really worship God? Jerusalem or Samaria?” Do you see her dodge? She tried to trick Jesus into a conversation about where to worship, Jerusalem or Samaria, and what she was doing is so obvious. She was trying to steer the conversation away from the conversation about her past five husbands. She thought to herself: “Stay away from my private life. Stay away from my personal life. I don’t want to talk about that.” She thought Jesus was going to give her a pious lecture about how to avoid divorces.

But Jesus did want to talk with her about her personal life. Jesus wanted to free her, forgive her, shape her life in a new direction, change her. Jesus wanted to offer this woman the living water. So when Jesus came into her private and personal life, he did not give her a little moral lecture about divorce, a recitation of the ten commandments with an emphasis on the sixth commandment and adultery. Jesus came into her private life and offered her not a lecture but the living water.

And that is the way God works with you and me. A sign that God is active in our lives is when he comes into our personal lives. Jesus wants to get personal with you and me. Jesus wants to get into your private life and mine. You have a private and personal life which is contrary to the will of God. And Christ comes into our personal lives, not to embarrass us, not to judge us, not to be unkind or malicious to us. Not to condemn us because our hearts are already condemning us. But Christ comes into our private and personal lives to free us and change us and offer us what we really need: living water.

But what is this living water? What is this living water that Jesus offered the woman to drink? Jesus said, “I want to give you living water. Whoever live in me, out of their heart will flow rivers of living water.” ‘Well, what is this living water, these rivers of living water?

What is living water? The living water is the Holy Spirit. The living water is the Spirit of Jesus and his love. Jesus answers that question clearly in John, chapter seven, where we discover that the living water is the Spirit. The living water is the Holy Spirit. The living water is the Spirit of God himself. God is Spirit. And the person who believes in Christ, the Spirit of God and the Spirit of God’s love comes and lives in that person. The living water is the spirit of the living God. The very essence of God. God’s energy. God’s love. God’s forgiveness. God’s words. God’s wisdom. God’s feelings. God’s attitudes. God’s actions. It is the very presence of God. The very presence of Christ. What Jesus wants to give you in full measure is his Holy Spirit.

We human beings are composed of four parts: mind, body, emotions and spirit. God’s spirit comes into us and that affects the way we live with all four parts of our humanity. God affects our thinking, our physical activity, our emotions, our spirit. We all have flesh and it grows over time. We all have minds and our minds grow. We all have emotions and our emotions grow and mature over time. And we all have spirits, and our spirits grow as well.  What Jesus wants to do is to take his Spirit and to pour his Spirit into our spirit. His Spirit is poured into our Spirit. We all know that the spirit in us is the most important part of our personality. We know that the spirit in us influences the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act. The spirit in us and enormously important and Christ’s spirit comes and fills our spirit.

Jesus wants us to have the fullness of his spirit, and I offer you to analogies to help us understand that.

Would you all go into your refrigerator and find a jug of cold water? Would you take an empty jug of water from the refrigerator and you put it under the kitchen sink water spigot and fill it up. You put it back into the refrigerator and the water cools and becomes cold. Then, later, you pour out from that water jug, cold, fresh, invigorating water. The cold fresh water from the water jug is poured into a glass and you drink it.

You are Spirit and Jesus wants to pour his Spirit into your life. You are the cold water jug; Jesus is the water faucet. You need your inner spirit filled up every day from the endless supply of Jesus who is symbolized by the water spigot and its endless supply of water. When you believe in Christ, Christ pours the Spirit of God’s love into you. Then, that love and spirit flows out of you. Out of you flows rivers of living water. The rivers of living water flow out from you, the love of Christ, the compassion of Christ, the gentleness of Christ, the forgiveness of Christ, the very attitude and character of God. That is what Jesus offered to this woman: living water, the very Spirit of God to be in her and then flow from her.

A second analogy. Would you all imagine a creek bed? Would you have that creek bed died up? Nothing but sand and rocks on the bottom of that creek bed? That is the way some spiritual lives of people are. Now, would you add a trickle of water? A trickle of a stream? Nothing could live in that trickle of water. No fish. No salmon. Nothing. That symbolizes those Christians who pray only four minutes a day. Now, I want you to imagine your creek but there is a huge dam above that creek and behind that huge dam is a reservoir that extends hundreds of miles. The sluice in the dam is opened and there is an endless supply of water flowing into the creek. You and I are the creek; the Spirit of Jesus is the reservoir, and from the endless supply of the reservoir, the river of Christ’s love flows from our lives. It is not our love or water; it is the water and love from this reservoir above the creek. When the creek is full and fresh with flowing and rushing water. Trout live there. Salmon live there. That is what Jesus wants of us in our spiritual lives. Jesus does not want you to have a little bit of spirit, four minutes a day of prayer. What Jesus wants for you is that he will pour into your hearts rivers of living water and out from you will also flow rivers of living water. Did you hear the word, rivers? That is what Christianity is about, when Christ came into your heart in full measure. That is what that woman at the well needed. Not just a little bit of spirit, but the fullness of the Spirit, the living water. That is what she needed.

Jesus did not offer her a soft reprimand e.g. “naughty, naughty, naught.” Jesus did not offer her a parental reprimand: “Don’t you think you need to consider what you are doing with your life in this situation? What will your children think? What will the neighbors think? What you have done is a shame to our family, to your parents and grandparents.” Jesus did not offer this woman a religious reprimand   “If you were a better person and truly religious, you wouldn’t be doing what you are doing. How could you as a Christian woman do such a thing?”  No. None of that. Instead, he offered this woman living water. He offered her what she really needed. Jesus offered this woman the living water, the Spirit of God so she could become truly alive. What we need are not religious putdowns, family putdowns, moral putdowns. What we need is the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, rivers of living water that is poured into our hearts and flows from our hearts.

One more thought. The woman at the well: she wasn’t looking for Jesus. She wasn’t out searching for the Messiah like Nicodemus was. She was just out living life. She was just out getting her bucket of water from the well. She wasn’t especially looking for God or wanting to walk the godly life. And when she wasn’t even looking for it, Jesus said: “I would like to give you some living water.” She didn’t even ask for it, and Jesus offered her the very best gift in the whole world, at a time in life when she really needed it.

And Jesus does the same to you and me. We may not be looking for God. We may be just living life, day by day, and to us who are living life just day by day, Jesus says: “Whoever believes in me, I will pour into him, into her, the living water, and out from his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Christ makes the same offer to you and me, whether we are looking or not.

So I ask you, where do you get this living water? Where do you get the rivers of living and loving water? From Jesus. Jesus is the source of the living water. And where do you find Jesus? In the Word. There are four river channels. The one channel is the Word. Through Bible study, immersing yourself in the Word of God. The second channel to find Jesus and his gift of the living water is through worship, Baptism and Holy Communion. We worship privately during the day and publicly on Sunday.  We find Jesus and in him the living water through prayer. It is through daily prayer and by daily prayer, God does not mean a trickle of four minutes per day. We pray daily personally and publicly in worship. 4) The fourth place where we find Jesus and his gift of the living water is through conversations and community with Christian friends. These are four places where we find Christ who gives us the living water.

Today’s Gospel story is one of the best stories in the whole Bible. Here was a woman who was a five times loser and was shacking up with another man. She was a five time loser who was not even looking for God.  Jesus offered this woman what she really needed: not a lecture but the living water. He offered her what she really needed and she couldn’t live without. And Jesus does the same with us. Amen.

CHILDREN’S SERMON.  The children are all invite up to the chancel area and they need to stand apart from each other. Spread out so you have room to move. Now, I want you children to pretend that you are all trees, but you don’t have much water in you. Right in front of you, and you are trees, is a river or stream of fresh water. Now, we know how you the tree get water. Your roots need to go deep down into soil and deep under the soil, you will get water from this stream. So you children, all of your toes are roots, so drive your toes deep into the soil. Come on now, pretend you are driving your toes, your roots, deep into the soil and your roots are reaching this stream in front of you. Your toes and roots are going down farther and farther and deeper and deeper. The water is starting to come into you from this stream. Start to raise your hands like your hands are the tree branches. You are getting more water. You are getting a lot of water. You are coming alive.  Keep those toes down into the water. Now, start waving your hands like you are waving branches and let your bodies sway in the wind. Wiggle your noses so we know you are alive. Roll your eyes so that we know that they are living. Wave your arms like branches of trees waving in the wind. Yes, if you are going to be a Christian, you want to have roots that go way down into the water, the Spirit of God, and if you have roots way down deep into the water, you come alive as a Christian and start to move. Thanks children. You were good trees with wonderful roots that went down into the water.

BEFORE THE READING OF THE GOSPEL, have the baptismal font with water in it representing Jacob’s well. Have Jesus and the woman at the well do the Gospel do the gospel reading from the well.

P.S. Please watch the videotape of this sermon as an illustration of preaching without notes and how the sermon can become alive when preaching from a mental outline. 

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