The Sinai peninsula was dry like no other dry I had experienced. Before my trip to the Middle East back in 2001 I had spent precious little time in deserts - a few trips to Arizona to visit my grandmother were my only reference points for the kind of climate I would experience, but really not even they could prepare me for the desert of the Sinai peninsula. Not even the previous 10 days of travel through the deserts of Syria and Jordan could.
Those deserts had been dry, sandy and dry, but Sinai was, to me, even worse. It wasn't sandy-dry; it was dusty-dry, and dusty-dry is a dry that sneaks into everything. It's a dry that permeates every barrier. Even our hired motor coach bus couldn't protect us from the dust that hung in the air, tickled our noses, and burnt our throats. The landscape we saw just mocked us through the window; the wadis, the dry riverbeds taunted us with the idea of water, but there was none to be found.
Well, except for the water in our water bottles, a luxury we had in 2001, that obviously the Israelites did NOT have several millennia before. They had nothing. They left Egypt just as the Lord had commanded with great haste and no luggage, and therefore relied completely on the land, their leader, and their Lord to get them through the dry, desperation of traveling through the desert of Sinai.
So, sure they grumbled. Sure they started to voice their complaints when they got thirsty. Who couldn't and who wouldn't? We all know that water is the most important things for our bodies. We can live for a while without food, but a lack of water is deadly. They weren't just complaining about missing an afternoon snack, or begging for a luxury; they were crying out for a necessity. They were begging for something as simple, but as crucial for their lives as water!
The woman at the well was thirsty, too. I mean, she was coming to the well for water at the middle of the day. I wonder how long she had been out of water. Did she spill her jar doing the morning wash and was now craving something to drink when the sun was highest in the sky and her thirst was deepest? Or did she always come at that time of day, as many have suggested, because she was ashamed of her own life? Was she avoiding the crowds that gathered in the morning to fill the jars with water and their minds and mouths with gossip? She came to the well thirsty, oh so thirsty, for water that would cool her body and refresh her soul.
Are you thirsty? Are you thirsty? Are your jars just about empty? Is the dry air getting to your throat? Are your hands cracking like the dusty, dry earth? Is your soul parched, on the verge of grumbling, complaining, crying out to God and anyone else who will hear, "Give us water to drink! Give me water to drink!?" Are you thirsty for water that runs clearer and flows deeper than your deepest longing?
I believe we are thirsty. We grumble as we walk in dry places in our lives. We are thirsty for reassurance. We are thirsty for guidance. We are thirsty for compassion. We are thirsty for community. We are thirsty for wisdom. We are thirsty for renewal. We are thirsty for justice. We are thirsty for forgiveness. Prone to wander about in the wilderness of our making we are thirsty for God, but we don't even realize it.
We go looking in a million other places, drinking from a million other cups for satisfaction. We drink from the news for information, when wisdom is what our souls cry out for. We gather on computers for friends and followers when communion is what we need. We dip our buckets into wells of self-help, when the Word of God is what gives life. We crave in the deepest corners of our being to be known as the woman is known - to be known and accepted and forgiven.
I'm not sure we always recognize it, but we are thirsty for God. We are thirsty for the Living Water that cleans, that refreshes, that nourishes, and restores. We are thirsty for Living Water that never runs dry, but sustains us, heals us, and reinvigorates us for life in a parched land.
The grumbling may have frustrated Moses, but if it frustrated God we'll never know. If anything it gave God another chance to prove faithfulness, to show willingness to be with God's people in each and every need, each and every time they hunger and thirst, each and every time they cry out for salvation, for mercy, for love. The people of God were thirsty for God's attention and God's compassion and in the most unlikely of circumstances, in the middle of the dry, cracked earth of the desert, from a solid chunk of dry, heavy rock, God's grace flowed for them. God's provision came pouring out. God's presence ran freely for all to drink in.
The women who encountered Jesus was thirsty for water from the well, but it became apparent quickly that she was thirsty for something else, too. She was thirsty beyond her physical needs; she was thirsty like we are, in her soul. And like it happened for the Israelites, the water of life came flowing from an unexpected place, a place she went everyday, but a place where she encountered someone completely new.
The water of life, Living Water, came flowing from a stranger who knew her as well as she knew herself, better even. It came from a man who probably shouldn't have been speaking to her. It came when she left the safety and comfort of her shelter and risked conversation, risked relationship with Jesus.
This is the water Jesus offers. This is the water that comes gushing forth from the very wellspring of his life, a well that is right in front of us, but it is also, for some reason, where we least expect it, where we last look. It is here, right in the midst of us and around us and over us and under us. It is here when the church is the beloved community, caring for one another, serving one another, forgiving one another. It is here when we dive into the Scriptures for study, for prayer, for sustenance for our souls. It is here when we worship the living and loving God. It is here when we don't even notice it, when we aren't looking for it, but when it finds us, offering a drink that brings us peace we didn't even know we were missing.
This is the water Jesus gives. It is the water we are blessed to drink in long, drawn out gulps that fill our thirsty souls. It is the water that fills us up and sends us out into the world with energy and excitement and passion, telling others where to find this well of Living Water.
When the woman met Jesus at the well she was thirsty, oh so thirsty. She came for water that would quench her thirst and in Jesus she found water that satisfies even more. Recognizing the blessing she found, she left, she left immediately, even leaving the very jar she came to fill, and went back to the city to tell what had happened. "Come," she said to anyone who would listen. "Come," she said in her home, in the shops, to her neighbors, to strangers!
Come to the living water! Come!