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Tired Out By the Journey

Written by Pastor Dan Wilfrid. Posted in Sermons

Lent 3 A       John 4:5-42

In this Lent of increasingly long Sunday Bible readings, each one filled with abundant and juicy preaching options, my goal is to keep my sermons simple and short – focused and clear. Today, that means focusing our attention on how this gospel story of Jesus and the Woman at the Well begins.

Try and picture in your mind the scene that John paints for us. Jesus is stilling by Jacob’s well, and John says that he’s tired out by his journey. So picture a tired and weary Jesus in your mind, sitting beside a well. And along comes a woman, who we will soon discover is pretty weary herself.

Back when only men preached, it was easy to label her as a sinner because of her succession of husbands and ending up with a man who was not. But more recently, women theologians and preachers have helped us see that there are many circumstances that would have been beyond this woman’s control that would explain her situation. She could have simply been abandoned by a succession of husbands, perhaps for bearing them no children, perhaps, according to the law of Moses, for something as simple a burning their dinner.
Besides, there’s no call to repentance as this story unfolds, no announcement of sins forgiven, and no challenge to go and sin no more.

Perhaps all that was going on in this encounter beside Jacob’s well was one weary and thirsty traveler recognizing the shared weariness and thirst and burden that another person bore. And maybe just simply being tired was all that it took to help Jesus and this woman to connect with one another: on a human level at least, and maybe that weariness was all that they needed to be able to overcome a variety of religious and cultural divisions and fears and mistrust that would otherwise have kept them apart.

Picture them: two thirsty people, both tired out by their journey. They both know what shouldn’t happen. They both know the ways their people expend endless energy fighting with and looking down on one another.  A man and a woman, alone beside a well shouldn’t speak. That was the rule. It wasn’t safe. It wasn’t right. And John was also being kind when he said that Jews and Samaritans do not share things in common. They shared plenty, mostly animosity toward the other. A Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. They would have nothing in common. They should have nothing to do with one another.

Except there, at that well, they each saw the one thing they did share: weariness and thirst. ..And that was enough. Yes, there were rules and norms about what men and women could do and how they were supposed to behave, but when you’re so tired and thirsty, who cares, really? Yes, Jews believe that people should only worship in Jerusalem, and Samaritans had their own shrines in their own cities, and they could both waste their precious time and energy debating that, but when you’re both so bone-tired of fighting those same old battles, just sharing a cup of cold water can seem like such a better idea.

My simple and first point is that sometimes, just being tired of fighting, simply being weary of animosity and division can be the bridge that helps people connect with one another. Especially in a world in which divides are widening and at a time when so many people, and nations, seem far more eager to fight than reconcile, to test missiles instead of engaging in diplomacy, to buy even more weapons instead of feeding hungry people, shouting and arguing instead of listening and understanding, accusing and disparaging instead of affirming and supporting, and more and more people are just feeling so weary and tired of it all…maybe this is a good time to remember that sometimes just being too tired to fight can be a good place to be, the seed of a solution maybe: a way to connect across whatever divide you’re tired of fighting across.

And maybe, on a purely human level, we can learn from this story to pay attention to what wearies us, and what’s tiring us out these days, and perhaps in just being too weary to fight anymore, find ourselves an opening and opportunity to change maybe a relationship that is difficult and draining into one that has new energy and life., or to bring an unhappy situation into a more positive place.

Look at this meeting of a tired and thirsty Jesus and a weary woman as a message of hope, even Paul’s message today that suffering can produce opportunities to build endurance and deepen character and embody hope. Sometimes, being too tired to fight is a good thing.

And then, for something a little more spiritual, notice that in this same encounter, Jesus is the one sitting beside a deep well with no bucket. This woman comes upon a Jesus who needs her help every bit as much as she needs his.

Usually in the gospels, it’s the people who have needs and illnesses and problems, and it’s Jesus who comes along as literally the Savior of the day: healing, commanding, capable, confident and strong. But here, the first words of a weary Jesus are an expression of need. “I’m thirsty. Give me a drink.” (Something he will say again from the cross.)

Maybe you can ask yourself how my prayers would be different if I were meeting Jesus as a tired and thirsty man beside a well? Would you start by listing your needs and wants? Or would you begin by asking, “Lord, what can I do for you? How can I help you today?” Try it this week. Imagine that you are praying to a tired and thirsty Jesus beside a well. Pray aware that you’re the one in this picture who is holding a bucket.

This is the Messiah, after all, who said that when he came in glory he would say to his lambs: “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” Try bringing your deepest hungers to a hungry Jesus. Bring your weariness to a tired Jesus. Bring your thirst to a thirsty Jesus. See if that breaks down barriers and roadblocks to prayer for you or creates new opportunities to connect with your Lord in prayer.

The hour is now here when those who worship must do so in spirit and truth. The opportunity is now here to come to the table of grace and to the wellspring of salvation and find rest for your soul and a place to lay your weary head.

So come and taste the bread and wine. Come and drink of that life-giving stream. Come and get your thirst quenched, and your soul revived. Come and get your bucket filled with that living water, enough to share with all the weary ones you meet along the way. AMEN