If you’re not familiar with the story of “The Woman at the Well” it’s found in the Gospel of John 4:5-42. It’s a long text that is mostly conversation — and it was fun to have it acted out yesterday for both worship services. Like several other stories in the bible, I wish we knew this woman’s name. We know her circumstances, and we have some idea of the baggage she brought with her to the well that afternoon. Much to her surprise, Jesus knew everything about her.
Jesus knew and he accepted her. Jesus knew and welcomed her into God’s kingdom. Never before had she experienced such unconditional welcome. She was so blown away by the experience she couldn’t contain her excitement and began telling everyone what had happened. She knew she had an encounter with the Messiah and had no interest in keeping that a secret.
It’s been said that being known is the greatest of all human longings. People will go to extremes to satisfy that longing. The proliferation of people wanting to be on reality shows and homegrown videos that go viral on YouTube are examples of our attention-seeking compulsions. And who hasn’t sought out attention in some unhealthy way, even if we don’t do it in such public fashion. Left to our own devices, we look in all the wrong places, listen to all the wrong voices, and grab at all the wrong opportunities. Thank God we are not left on our own.
The woman at the well was seeking to be known for something other than the baggage she brought with her. She was vulnerable and ripe for exploitation by anyone who happened to be at the well that afternoon. But instead, she met Jesus, and it made all the difference in her world. She didn’t know how thirsty she was, and she didn’t understand what living water meant exactly. She didn’t have to know. Jesus knew, and he was waiting for her.
I believe the ability to turn our lives around has everything to do with who greets us at the well when we come seeking relief from our thirst. I believe our faith develops depending on who greets us at the well when we seek answers to our questions and doubts. I believe our ability to make good choices is influenced by who is there waiting for us at the well.
I serve at the well that is Disciples Christian Church, and I pray that seekers will find Jesus waiting for them here. I pray that those who are seeking will find us to be like him — accepting and open, generous and kind, willing to reach out to a stranger to enfold him or her with love. I pray the water here is of the living variety — unexplainable perhaps but we’ll know it when we taste it.
And I pray that I will find Jesus at the well waiting for me, already knowing me and still accepting me, with his hands outstretched and wet with living water. I pray that any influence I have standing at the well will be in pointing to Jesus and not to myself. Will you join me in that prayer?