2005—Third Sunday of Lent—A
Most married couples love to tell the story of where they first met. Maybe you have your own story like this, or maybe you're familiar with your parent's story, or the story of a close friend. Two good friends of mine have, hanging on their living room wall, a beautifully framed clipping from the personal ads section of the newspaper that brought them together for their first date. My brother and his wife met in college at a fraternity party, and my parents first met each other way back in their first grade classroom. Some of these stories are pretty routine, and yet, for the happy couple who tells the story, it's always magical and anything butroutine.
Today's gospel story names one of those special places where lovers meet: Jesus meets the Samaritan Woman at the well. In the Old Testament, wells are important meeting places, especially for future spouses. In the Book of Genesis, Isaac and Rebecca meet at a well, as do Jacob and his wife Rachel. And in the book of Exodus, Moses meets his wife, Zipporah, at a well. In the dry, arid land of ancient Palestine, wells were places where the community gathered and where important meetings took place. In dry lands, people are drawn to those rare springs of water because water is so central to human flourishing. None of us can live for long without water. And none of us can live long without God. That's probably why the scriptures use water imagery so often to speak of our relationship with God. That's probably why Jesus meets the Samaritan Woman at the well.
I think that we are all called to be the Woman at the Well. We are all meant to read this story and walk for a while in the shoes of the woman who encounters Jesus at the well. Jesus wants to meet all of us at the well, to tell us how much we are loved, how much we are forgiven, how much we are called to the wedding banquet that is the Kingdom of God. We are all called to know Christ as the bridegroom, the one who knows us through and through, and yet still chooses to spend his life with us . . . the one who loves us with the passion of a couple about to celebrate their wedding day or their 50th wedding anniversary.
So, where can we find this well where Jesus waits to meet us? During this season of Lent, we might think of the baptismal font as the well where Jesus waits for us. In the living waters of baptism Jesus wants us to know how much we are loved and forgiven. In the living waters of baptism Jesus wants to initiate us into his family, his inclusive community that is open to all: women and men, Jew and Samaritan, black and white, saint and sinner. Jesus wants to invite us to the wedding banquet that is the Reign of God. He wants to love us with all the passion of a bridegroom. And he wants us to leave our buckets behind, like the Samaritan woman, as we go out to tell the whole world the story of where we first met the one who has given us hearts of flesh, flowing with living water for a thirsty world.