Sunday, April 24, 2011

In the Garden

The National Archives UK

Today's sermon is dedicated to all of my colleagues who have expressed discomfort at the song lyrics of "In the Garden". We are saved by love, we are resurrected by love, and surely this is reflected in this intimate moment between the Magdalene and Jesus at the tomb in the garden.

Sermon, Sunday, April 24, 2011
by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Reading: John 20:1-18

"For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness." ~James Baldwin, Sonny's Blues

Early on that first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She walked in the dark to the garden near where Jesus had been crucified, to the place where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had laid him in a tomb. They laid Jesus in a tomb on Friday night after wrapping him in spices and linene cloths, preparing the body according to their customs. Joseph and Nicodemus risked identification with Jesus, the criminal crucified for crimes against the empire, for rabble rousing, for heresy, for stirring up trouble wherever he went. Jesus was a man who inspired others to take risks, to take their lives in new and unexpected directions, to let go of what they thought they knew and seek after truth, though it might cost dearly. Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man, perhaps one of the religious leaders who condemned Jesus. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who first came to Jesus by night, wrestling with questions and longings he did not understand. These two men, on Friday night asked Pilate for the body and laid it to rest in a tomb in a garden. And then they departed, their ritual and duty complete.

Earlier on that Friday, as Jesus suffered on the cross, he saw the three Marys standing with the disciple whom he loved, who we believe was John. Mary his mother, Mary his mother’s sister, and Mary the Magdelene. And he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” And to John he said, “Here is your mother.” So that in a little while, when Jesus gave up his spirit and died, he called out, “It is finished.” And perhaps for his mother Mary and his beloved disciple John it was finished. Their beloved Jesus now dead, but at least they had one another. But it is somewhat poignant to ask what was left for Mary the Magdelene.

We might ask what she has been left with all these centuries later. Mary Magdalene lives on in our popular memories and myths as a sexual sinner, a prostitute, a woman of low reputation and social standing, bearing the brunt of sexual innuendo and speculation. Whether she earned that stigma(ta) or whether she, like Christ, was scapegoated, what we know is that she was stricken with grief at the loss of her beloved Teacher. And on that first day she walked in the dark before dawn to the tomb where he was laid. He had already been dressed for burial, but perhaps she went to be near him again in the only way she could think.

I imagine she had woken up that morning (or never really slept), and on that first day of the week she could not think of anything else but to be near something of his. The Hebrew scriptures promise “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.” But there is nothing that tests our faith in that promise like the death of a loved one. And perhaps Mary the Magdalene rose up out of her bed that morning, early, before dawn, and could not see the new mercies of God through her grief. For her that morning there was no exclamation of “Christ has risen!” but only the pain of loss, knowing that she would not see this beloved man again.

The loss of someone who is so deeply under your skin is not an easy loss. We make much in the church of identifying different kinds of love—passionate, erotic love, brotherly love, and the love God bears for us (which we supposedly cannot hope to match). But I say that in grief those lines blur together, and that the loss of a lover, a teacher, a brother, a mother, an intimate friend, a child, these losses disrupt our neat categories of love. The loss of Jesus was not a theological event for Mary. She had not yet processed the events of the week and packaged it into a story to tell her children and their children. It was not a teachable moment or a Sunday school lesson, the death of Jesus was a devastating, heart-breaking time of grief and sorrow.

She walked along in the dark, passing familiar landmarks along the way. I wonder if she remembered the last times she had walked with Jesus, eaten with Jesus, drunk wine with her beloved Jesus. Images of time spent together perhaps ran through her mind like a film, teasing her with their clarity, bringing laughter through tears, and a sharp pain in her chest as she could barely breathe through the sadness of lost love. We have been there with Mary in the dark before dawn—all of us have or will. Some large part of this life we live is the loss of our loved ones and the subsequent shaping of our identity that comes with each loss. When we have truly let someone in under our skin and into our hearts, such a loss is not easy to bear. Like Mary, we comfort ourselves with the rituals of visiting our old places, stopping at the tomb, seeking comfort in drawing as near as possible to the one we have lost.

So when she arrived at the tomb in those early hours, it must have been a shock and a fresh sharp pang of grief to find the tomb open. Who would do such a thing? She ran to get the other disciples, Peter and John. She had not looked into the tomb herself, but it was not normal for the stone to be rolled away, and so they ran back to the tomb, Peter and John racing to be the first one there. John saw the linen wrappings on the ground—the wrappings that surely should have still been on Jesus’ body—and he paused at the entrance to the tomb.  Then Peter burst on to the scene and pushed into the tomb and found the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus head. Scripture gives us no further reaction from Peter, but tells us that John understood that somehow Jesus had defeated death. We don’t have the words they must have spoken to Mary, but I can imagine it something like this: Peter saying, “Huh, that is very strange! I wonder who did this? But there is nothing more to be done.” And John, understanding a little more, said, “He is not here, but he told us death could not keep him down. Mary, he would not have wanted you to grieve so. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases—his mercies are new every morning.” And I can imagine Mary throwing them out of the garden in her grief, unable, unwilling to hear such words. We who have grieved have been there too, when the words of well meaning friends and family and strangers have simply added to the grief. The men returned to their homes.

But Mary stayed and stood weeping outside the tomb. She was to be denied even this final comfort—the comfort of having a place to mourn this death. There had been Jesus’ death on Friday, which she witnessed in all its horror. As she stood there with Jesus’ mother and aunt and the beloved disciple, Jesus had cried out from the cross and made a family out of the two Marys and John. But what was to become of Mary the Magdalene? What was her place now in the wake of his death? I wonder if she felt the indignation that I feel for her now to be left out of that formula as she stood there loving him deeply and watching him die. What was left for her?

And then to know that someone else had cared for his body after death...with his death came the Sabbath and a day of rest. Surely for her it was a day of mourning as well, and by Sunday before dawn, she was on her way to the tomb. The other disciples were seemingly gathered together: Peter, whom Jesus named the Rock, and John, whom Jesus loved. What was Mary’s place? Who was she to become in the face of this loss, in the dark before dawn?

She stayed weeping outside the tomb, lost in her desire to be near Jesus even after death, her grief cruelly interrupted by the loss of even his body. Peering into the tomb she discovered it was no longer empty, and two angels in white disrupted her private moment and asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She turned her head, and there was another man, whom she supposed was the gardener. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Such questions to ask—it almost seems cruel to taunt a grieving woman so. Yet I can almost hear and see and taste the tenderness in the questions. The gentle touch of his voice as he called her by name, called her out of her grief and pain into the present moment. The sound of his voice opened her eyes and she saw Jesus for who he was. “Rabbouni! Teacher!” I can imagine all of the complicated emotions that must have surged through her body and heart and soul in that moment, overwhelming in their intensity, disbelief, joy, wonderment, anger, desire, longing for this moment to never end, to lose herself in this poignant moment of reconnection and possibility.

Then he said, “Do not hold on to me. I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” And he was gone. I cannot imagine that her grief was any less that morning, but maybe there was some comfort in knowing that she had seen and been seen. To be known this one last time by a man who had fully known her as none other before or probably after. This Teacher, this Rabbouni, this intimate friend, who knew her well enough to wait by the tomb. Perhaps there was some small comfort in a last good-bye, knowing that she was not forgotten, knowing that she would not forget.

I wonder if as she left that tomb the depth of this man’s love for her and hers for him settled deep into her body. I wonder if she spent the rest of her life seeking after a love like that. I wonder if after that Mary the Magdalene refused to accept anything less from those who loved her. For to be loved like that, to be known like that, to be seen like that, is to be laid open completely, touched deeply, left fully vulnerable to pain. And yet to love and be loved like that is to be fully alive. To be loved like that transcends bodies and earthly bonds—we carry that kind of love with us into everything we do and say.

And so when Mary returned to the disciples and said to them, “I have seen the Lord” what she was really saying is, “I have seen Love. I have known Love.”

May we each, in this earthly life, know love that pierces our grief and sustains us in our trials. May we know love that strengthens our courage and resolve, sends us after truth, and endures past even death. May we know love that greets us at the tomb and sends us back into life, love that sees us and knows us and longs for us, love that releases us to live instead of clinging to death. For we all come to death soon enough, but for now, like Mary the Magdalene, we are called to go back into the world to seek out that kind of love again. It may be all that is risen on a dark Easter morning is the possibility that we will know that love again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Children in Church

My children are weasels.

Today I got into my fifty-eleventh twitter argument over whether Sunday School should be held during worship or if we should insist that all children be in worship.

Theologically there are a lot of good reasons to keep children with us during worship, and I really have no good argument against them.

-Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 9:14

-Our children will not learn the liturgies and rhythms of the church unless we keep them with us in worship.

-There's more, but I'm not the best person to describe them all. There are beautiful, lovely, magnificent reasons to keep children in church. A twitter friend has posted her beautiful thoughts on this here at Marginal Theology.

-Another twitter friend has gathered together the specific polity that insists children should be in worship here at 1000 Thoughts Per Second.

-And another twitter friend who is wise and hopeful reminds us that we are a connectional church here at The Viau From Here.

My thoughts at this moment:

Last week, twenty seconds before I walked up to the pulpit to begin our service, I had to take away one of my children's shoes because he was beating his brother with them. While sitting in a pew. In the church where his mother preaches. This is not at all an unusual circumstance; balancing motherhood with pastorhood is more complicated than motherhood with church attendance ever was. I am lucky to have a congregation that is somewhat amused and tolerant of our shenanigans, but I'll go on record as saying that these shenanigans raise my blood pressure to stroke levels. And if you're getting push back from angry parents who don't want you to cancel Sunday School during worship, no amount of saying "I understand, but theologically it is correct to have the children in worship" is going to get them on your side.

If you really want children in worship, you're going to have to earn the parent's trust that you can do this and still honor the parent's spiritual journey.

Years ago, when I had my second child, I discovered that the church did not provide maternity leave, nor did they pay into state disability insurance. After a month's vacation, I returned to work to lead a youth retreat in the mountains, and I brought my baby with me. A dear friend came along to help, but Saturday night during worship the baby was hungry. And as dear as my friend is, she could not nurse the baby for me. And as competent as the rest of the volunteers are, nobody else was prepared to preach. So my friend brought me the baby and I preached while nursing. It was all I could think of to do, but I later was told that students and adults were uncomfortable at my public nursing.

Not long after, I attended a training for youth workers. Mark Yaconelli led a session on contemplative prayer and I showed up with my four month old baby. Sure enough, 5 minutes into our contemplative prayer session, the baby got hungry and started to fuss. An expert by now, I latched the baby onto breast, covered us with a blanket and finished the prayer session. In the quiet of that space the sound of my child lunching filled the room, complete with smacking lips, sucking noises and a cat-like growl he liked to do as he nursed. Mark Yaconelli was kind enough to make a comment afterward to the group of how my baby nursing reminded him of his own and the beauty of children and babies and how I'd done him a favor staying with the baby etc. I don't know if anyone else in the group agreed with him, but I was grateful for his kindness.

Two years ago at a Christmas Eve service my sons came with me to church. My oldest was willing to read scripture for the first time and did a lovely job. The little guy was bored to distraction by the service and wandered up to the pulpit to lay at my feet while I finished the service.

These memories are precious and part of my regular worship on Sunday mornings. Even my children beating each other with shoes is biblical--in fact the first time I preached at Tiny Church it was on Genesis 25:22 in which Rebekkah realizes that the twins in her womb were destined to strive against each other. Just as I read the words "If it is to be this way, why am I to live?" my oldest got the youngest in a headlock. The youngest screamed and ran under my skirt. Oldest came to stand next to me and beamed out at the congregation, who were merrily laughing at the show. Since I was auditioning for a job, I was less than amused, and with some effort settled the children back into a pew so I could continue preaching.

Some people might tell me that all this is a sign that I should not be preaching--that my obligation is to the spiritual education of these children who clearly need my guidance. To those people I say, "Please feel free to pay my rent and then we can talk." To Tiny Church, my ability to juggle these children and preaching seemed to make them think I would be a good pastor for them. I'm still there and we are doing well enough, so I suppose they are right. Again, I am grateful for their kindness.

But I long for the time when I could lose myself in worship. I long for the days when I could sing a hymn through without my children trying to slaughter each other over my lap. I miss the days when I could actually listen to someone's sermon the whole way through with no interruptions. I love the days in church when I can actually preach a sermon the whole way through without having to stop and discipline my unruly, beautiful children. And those days only come when my children are not in church with me.

I want to go on record, on behalf of parents who dare not say it, that there is nothing worshipful about attending church service with my children. Attending church with my children makes me long for empty nest syndrome. Attending church with my children makes me think I am not Christian anymore. Just getting ready for church with my children, attending to the fifty-eleven arguments from them about why they should be able to stay home instead of go to church is exhausting.

People tell me this is what spouses are for. But I don't have one of those, and even when I did, church wasn't his thing. People tell me that all we need is training for the congregation members to know how to help me with the children in church. Or that we can adapt worship so that children are involved and enjoying worship. Or that they should just be capable of this. Or that--well, what I'm saying is everyone has a way of telling me that my desire to be in church without my children is theologically incorrect and will lead to their spiritual malnourishment. People tell me how much they love having children in the church. People tell me so many things--but what they don't say is, "Children come sit with me and leave your poor, tired, wretched, exhausted mother to rest in the arms of Jesus a bit."

Ultimately I am told that if I do not have my children in worship both their faith and the future of the church are at risk.

I concede that this may be true. I was not a product of a church upbringing. My family did not belong to a church, nor did we attend regularly. I came in the door through the youth group at age 13, quite by accident. I never would have come through the front door, nor would worship have been the place to start with me. I was like a cat hiding under a bed, and it took 10 years to fully involve me in the life of the church. 15 years after that I am still learning the rhythms of the church--it is true that my upbringing had little to do with my faith or my church membership. And still here I am.

I offer two scriptures, since my theology and faith appear to be suspect in this matter. Although several years of arguments over same gender love have led me to the belief that there's a scripture to back everything. Which leads me to be grateful that there are different churches with different ways of doing things. Which leads me to a healthy suspicion of anyone who tries to say that this or that is the theologically correct way of doing things. But if you asked me, here are the scriptures (ripped from context) I would offer in defense of at least providing the option for children to go to Sunday School during worship.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
While there are many purposes to worship, at least one of them is to provide rest to weary souls. And this includes weary parents. If the sound of my children's laughter brings rest to your weary soul, please forgive me if the sound of their little voices saying "Mom, why do I have to be in church? I hate this." does not soothe my soul.
Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
So now, lookit. I know Jesus was talking about dishes and cooking and wymen's work of all kinds. I know he doesn't say, "Martha, go teach Sunday School while sister Mary worships." But I am saying nonetheless that raising children, raising them in the church, teaching them the rhythms and liturgies of our churches, that is a substantial part of our work as church members. It's as proper to do all that as it is to clean the house and cook a good dinner for the Lord. But sometimes--at least some of the times--we are allowed to set that aside and bask in the Spirit, to soak up the teachings of the Son, to commune with the Creator whose child we also are. And Jesus promised that this would not be taken away from us.

When you say, "All children should be in worship. I understand how you feel, but this is theologically correct." When you say that, you are saying to parents like me that a significant part of our spiritual life is over, kaput, dead, buried. And if you don't understand why we grieve that, then it's probably better that we go from your church.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Deeper Well

Haven't posted in a while for a gazillion reasons. Miss you all, and hope you'll come to visit Tiny Church if you're around.

Sermon, Sunday, April 3, 2011
by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Readings: Exodus:1-7 and John 4:5-15

I have a fantasy about these two texts: I wonder what happened to the Samaritan woman after she found that living water? Jesus moves on, as he always does, to the next great thing, but what happened to that Samaritan woman? I wonder if she thought about her life like the Israelites did--separated into two parts, before and after she met Jesus? Before and after she was liberated from a complicated web of ties and bonds? Before and after she found living water? Just a fantasy, we don't know, but I’m willing to bet that on some days after that encounter with Jesus that she found herself aggravated beyond words. I bet she found herself downright angry and bitter with God. I suspect there were many days in the years to come after that day at the well that the Samaritan woman thirsted and could not find the water—days when she said to herself, “Why did you bring me out of Egypt only to kill me with thirst in the wilderness. Better to have stayed where I was—at least there I could slake my thirst from the well.”

The Israelites were a difficult bunch in the wilderness—you can imagine it, can’t you? A great mass of people wandering a dry land, not knowing exactly where they were going or where their next meal would come from? They were a people displaced from all they had known except each other, and after a while all that togetherness without a clear map of the future got to them. It made them quarrelsome and difficult. It made them regret leaving Egypt—it made them regret choosing hope and possibility over the security of being bound to a land in slavery. The Israelites wandered the wilderness for forty years, but it only took a few weeks to miss the security of their former life. Fifteen days they wandered before complaining to Moses about not having food. So Moses went to the Lord and got them some food. They wandered again until they had no water, and forgetting about all the blessings that had come before, they moaned and groaned again, this time for water. “Did you bring us out of Egypt only to kill us with thirst in the desert??”

We are modern readers of this story, modern readers living in the U.S., modern readers living in an affluent part of the U.S. where cheap, clean water flows freely out of our pipes—we use water for everything, and we do it without thinking. 10 gallons for taking a shower. 10 gallons for washing the dishes. 40 gallons to wash the clothes. 2 gallons to brush our teeth. 5 gallons every time we flush a toilet—maybe more depending on the toilet. A dripping faucet will use 2,700 gallons in a year. Watering a lawn, 180 gallons, more or less, depending on the lawn. We are careless users of water. Here in New Jersey it seems like the water just bubbles up out of the ground. I planted bulbs one year and didn’t have to water them at all. Rain fell from the sky, and snow melted, and anyway we lived near the canal and the soil rarely dried out. Perhaps it was like that living along the Nile—we forget how important water is to our lives until we do not have it.

I lived in Santa Barbara while growing up, and there was a time when we didn’t have state water—a time when all of our water came from mountain reservoirs and several wells. Pictures of my hometown often look lush and green and beautiful, but we only got 10 inches of rain per year on average. And we had a lot of years when we didn’t even get that much, and had to draw down the reservoirs to dangerous levels. In our drought years our community became resourceful. We passed ordinances that said you couldn’t water your lawn except at night. No washing your car. We began to landscape with drought tolerant plants—plants that had always grown in this area like ceanothus shrubs. I miss my ceanothus shrubs with their dark green leaves and long purple flowers—they were beautiful, and they could survive a drought for many years.

Our little town decided to offer a toilet rebate to convince people to replace their old toilets with a low flow version. For a limited time, if you brought in your old toilet you could get a rebate that covered the cost of the new toilet. My dad was so excited he brought my sister and I with us to the hardware store—he suggested we try sitting on them to make sure they were comfortable. I was in jr. high at the time and was willing to die of thirst before I did that.

We were so desperate for water as a community that there was a building moratorium—no new housing without a water meter, and only a few water meters granted per year. We built a desalinization plant. And just about the time that plant began to produce water, we purchased state water and completed the pipeline to fill our main reservoir. And we conveniently forgot that we were stealing water from Northern California. We did not pay any attention to the environmental degradation our water use caused to the mountains up north. And it didn’t matter much to us that the water was taken without consent—the massive populations of Southen California voted in state water projects against the desires of Northern California counties. Northern California tried to split off from the rest of the state, but we would not let them. We were very thirsty.

When we are thirsty, we will do about anything for water. And it doesn’t take long to get thirsty—a few days without drinking water and our bodies begin to shut down. When we are thirsty, we will do about anything for water.

The Israelites, finding themselves camped in a place with no water, figured they were done for. You can’t go long without water. And the weakest die off first. This makes for desperate people, and Moses knew it. People who are thirsty become quarrelsome and difficult. They long for the days when they had water. They long for the days when they didn’t have to think about it. And they worry they are going to die in a matter of days. They worry they will watch their children and elders wither away from thirst. Thirst makes people difficult and dangerous.

Perhaps we might consider that as we think about this Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. This well was a place where the ancestor Jacob had watered himself and his family and his flocks. For thousands of years this well had provided water. But getting water from a well is tedious business. Walking from your home to the well is not so bad, but coming home with a full bucket or urn of water is no easy task. In a dry place you walk carefully so as not to spill any of that precious liquid. And you go every day to get the water your family will need to see you through. And sometimes, if it’s dry, the well dries up too. All it takes is one bully to keep you from the well that morning to disrupt your life and make you desperate. The woman at the well surely knew what it was to go without water: death.

So as she was going about her business that day, drawing water into her bucket, along comes Jesus to say, “Give me a drink.” She was astonished because Samaritans and Jews did not associate if they could help it—you might remember the Good Samaritan story in which the Samaritan, who normally could be expected to stay far away from the fallen Jewish man, turns out to be the hero of the story. And here again a Samaritan finds herself at the center of the Jesus story—on the wrong side of the ethnic tracks, mingling with a stranger of dubious ancestry, sharing water with someone who surely should not have asked her for water.

And then Jesus tells her there is something more important than fresh water from a well. He says there is living water—water that you can drink and then never thirst again. This living water will become a fountain within one’s body and spirit gushing up to eternal life. This water will satisfy for all eternity. This water will see Christ’s people through the drought.

The woman is incredulous, but game—give me some of that living water, good Sir! That I might never have to come back to this well again! Christ goes on to talk about eternal life, and then he goes on from the well with his disciples, leaving the woman behind to ponder his words. Leaving me behind to ponder his words too, I suppose. Perhaps the woman, like me, is not fully convinced. I’d bet that the woman had to keep coming back to that well. Eternal life is all well and good, but a body thirsts after a few days. Our spirits may gush springs of living water, but our bodies will die without fresh water. I wonder what happened to that woman from Samaria after Jesus moved on to the next thing?

A long time ago I worked as a youth director in a church. I had a tendency to be a bit idealistic about things—a tendency I haven’t yet outgrown, I’m afraid. One day I pulled the pastor aside to complain about something at the church (I have long since forgotten what, but we all have our complaints, don’t we?). I reminded him of some scripture and said something like, “Well Jesus said such and such.” And I guess I must have exasperated him a bit, because my pastor said, “Yeah, and Jesus lived til he was 33 and then died, leaving us to figure out the rest of it. He didn’t have to live with the consequences of those words—the rest of us still have to survive past 33.” I am reminded of this every time I read this story—that moment when we find living water is a beautiful moment. And the Spirit can, and surely does, sustain us through many thirsty times. But even in the midst of our faith and earnest efforts toward living a Christian life, sometimes the well runs dry, and we thirst. When we are thirsty, we will do about anything for water.

When we are spiritually thirsty, we will do about anything for living water, for something to slake the thirst in our souls. This Lenten period I have been fasting a bit. And it’s brought me to face some of my own demons a bit. Perhaps you have had this experience? I decided to give up meat and dairy, but that does not mean that meat and dairy have magically disappeared from my life. The children are still eating how they have been. My friends still eat meat and dairy when we go out. The first week of Lent I had a gardenburger and my friend Martha had a pulled pork sandwich. I still love her dearly, but my soul thirsted for that pulled pork sandwich.

What I have discovered is that there are all kinds of thirsts in this life. We long for ways to soothe our thirsty souls, and we reach for anything we can find to do it. Food, television, the internet, books, extra stuff we don’t need, people who are not good for us, alcohol, drugs of all sorts, exercise, the magic pill advertised on QVC or late night channel surfing. Some of us find refuge in sleep—we do almost anything to avoid feeling the thirst in our souls. Because thirsty people will do about anything for water.

I wonder about that Samaritan woman, how she was after Jesus left? I wonder if she threw out the eight husbands and lived on her own a while. Perhaps she moved closer to the well where she could ponder Jesus’ words better. Perhaps she kept those eight men, however they were arranged in her life. Maybe she brought back the message of something more, something deeper, something more water than water. Or, maybe she filled up her bucket, wiped the dust off her brow, and wandered back home to live out her remaining days as she had lived out the first ones. Scripture leaves us with frustratingly little detail about the individual lives of those who came into contact with Jesus.

But we are left with a more pressing question; what is it that we will do after our own encouter with Jesus? How will we live out our days now that we know there is living water? How will we manage our fresh water as individuals, as municipalities, as a country in this world? We are called to a deep reflection on the same question the Samaritan woman asked, "What is this living water, and how do I get it?" If we truly believe the well is deeper than Jacob's fresh water well--if there is indeed something more important than life itself, how are we changed? What new commitments might we make if we are not afraid of our thirst? Most of us have lived past 33--we have quarreled with and tested the Lord. We have asked the question, "Is the Lord among us or not?" And if we believe the answer is yes, then let us drink deeply of the Spirit and live beyond our fears.

(A shout out to my old L.O.G. buddies--pretty sure it was Tiffany that used this for a talk song)