“Where do you get that living water?” Can you feel the yearning behind that question? Water is fundamental for life. The astronomer’s planetary search for life is based on the mantra, “follow the water.” Of course the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well is of both physical and spiritual water and thirst. Both seem deep and unquenchable. Today we satiate our unaddressed spiritual thirst with convenience and consumption. The consequences are starting to reveal themselves and may even threaten life itself. Currently, our oceans and lakes are filling with plastic and serving back nanoplastic particles to ingest. One researcher estimates we are consuming a credit card of plastic a week. Where will we get that living water?
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above. The environmental issues of the day can overwhelm us and make us feel helpless. Bring our sadness, confusion and anger to God in prayer. Quiet yourself. Open yourself up to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. Listen for and trace the physical and spiritual thirst and hunger through the reading.
John 4:5-42 New Revised Standard Version,
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ 11 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 13 Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 15 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 17 The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ 19 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ 21 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ 25 The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ 26 Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’ 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28 Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’… 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’
Ask the people to reflect on a question for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss. After a few minutes, go to the next question and repeat the process. After all the questions have been reflected on, silently in a small group, bring everyone together in a large group for an open discussion to identify common themes. (These questions may require some deep reflection and so you may choose to only use a few of them, as time permits.)
- Yale professor Gus Speth, speaking to religious leaders said: “I used to think the top environmental problems facing the world were global warming, environmental degradation and eco-system collapse, and that we scientists could fix those problems with enough science, but I was wrong. The real problem is not those three items, but greed, selfishness and apathy. And for that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that. We need your help.” How are our environmental problems, actually spiritual problems?
- We need water for life but we also need Jesus’ “living water” for our spiritual lives. What is this “living water”? Hint: recall the promises of baptism and the covenant. A number of countries have added this promise: “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?”
- Jews of the first century did not speak with Samaritan women. When we designate people as “other” because of gender, colour, race or creed, we are attempting to use a physical value to address a spiritual yearning. Can you identify that spiritual yearning in yourself? Hint: where do we get our sense of value and worth?
- Reducing single-use plastic is a very big and complex problem but it can begin with simple, small steps. Shopping bags, beeswax coverings, bulk products, reusable cups and microplastic filters on our washing machines can get us started. The Diocese of Niagara encouraged all their churches to go single-use-plastic-free. What would that mean for your church?
Invite people into a moment of silence. Ask them to quiet themselves, calm their bodies and attend to their breathing. Ask them to place themselves in the presence of God and be open to God’s love and peace.
“What does God want you to do in response to what you have heard?”
End of the meeting
Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Good News has been known in your time together.