The Third Sunday of Lent

The Third Sunday of Lent

Rev. Chrisida Anandan

Wicker Park Lutheran Church

March 12, 2023

In our Old Testament text today, we read about the Israelites who are facing lack of water when they camped at a place called Rephidim. In the Gospel text, We meet Jesus who was thirsty while sitting near a well and encounters with the Samaritan woman.

Water scarcity is not uncommon all over the world. UNICEF reports that “almost… two thirds of the world’s population experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year.” Throughout the time I grew up and lived in India, water is so precious. I have never had the privilege of taking long showers until I came to US in 2016 and it is the same until today for majority of the population. Many children and people around the globe have no access to clean drinking water. 

Even today, my father, at the age of 70, had to walk three floors up and down to fetch drinking water to my house by carrying the water pot on his shoulder up to the third floor. We always must estimate the bath to finish shower in one bucket of water because there is no more. Taking shower two times a day even on a hot summer day was considered as luxurious use of water. 

Israelites, coming out of Egypt by God parting the Red Sea for them for whom Moses is the leader and guide. In chapter 17, Moses is so frustrated that he was not able to meet up the standards to be the “hero” for them. While in chapter 16, the writer clearly marks people’s complaining as against Moses and David but also implies that it is a complaint against Yahweh in the words of Moses. Exod. 16:8 through Yahweh’s speech that the complaining is against the Lord. Ex. 16:8 And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.” And chapter 17 indicates that people quarrel with Moses and “complaint” against Moses. The Israelites quarrel with Moses saying, “Give us water to drink.” 

The word rîv used to denote ‘quarrel’ can be understood as a dispute or argument between two individuals or parties or sometimes it can be understood as an accusation. While the people argue with Moses for water, Moses gets frustrated as he feels that he was accused. Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

I watch the news from India everyday with YouTube. And almost every day there are some protests or demonstration, some creative and peaceful ones and a few not. Recently, in order to protest against price hike in cooking gas, some women protested by keeping the gas cylinder on the road and put garlands to it and danced around it and by also showcasing the wooden logs that they would soon be forced to get back to the traditional method of cooking using wood and fire. My friend tells me, wow, your State has so many protests.

Moses’ reaction to the people asking for their basic right to live for which water is very essential is much of a frustration because he feels that his leadership was questioned. But the actual leader is the Lord. The Lord heard the cries of the people and with much calm provides a solution to the problem. While this passage has been interpreted as a part of faithlessness, complaining, distrust on Yahweh, on the basis of how Moses responded. But God’s response is that of his presence. V. 6 says, I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. God was present on the mountain of Horeb and asked Moses to strike the rock. Moses did it and names the place as “massah and meribah.” Massah comes from the word nissah which means to test and meribah comes from the riv meaning dispute. 

In the gospel reading for today, Jesus is thirsty as he is sitting near a well and asks for drink from a Samaritan woman. Jesus offers the living water which will not make her thirst anymore. Jesus is the living water who provides life to the people through his death.  

In the beginning, God’s created earth is blessed with a garden and through the streams that run around the garden and brings life. God stood on the rock implying that God is the rock from whom the water of life flows. Jesus is the living water who provides life to the thirsty ones that they thirst no more. The canonical bible ends with the mention of river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb. The biblical text shows us the way to the living water, Christ, who has provided life through his death and resurrection as we foretaste eternal life by participating in God’s table. This table is an invitation to come as we are; to come with our needs and the openness to say our needs. In the present context, it has been predominantly understood that complaining, lamenting, grieving is part of mistrust on God. It is too tempting to speak about the necessity of trusting in God for everything and leave it at that point. Because we have been told again and again that you stop worrying, grieving and seeking help if you trust God. But Christ, our savior, and the table that Christ offers is a place where we come as we are, with our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and complaints and grumbling, grieving and lamenting because in faith, we express freely ourselves to God. Christ is the fountain, the rock and the lifegiver who provides us the water that we thirst no more. Amen.