Lent is making me grumpy.
I decided this year to give up more food than I usually do and my stomach and head are not happy. So Sunday’s readings really speak to me: will I be like Israel, complaining in the desert, or will I be like the woman of Samaria who looked to Jesus to fill her need?
What will I do with my longing? And what will you do with yours?
3rd Sunday of Lent: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
Option 1 when you’re thirsty: Grumble and blame
(Read it here: Exodus 17:3-7)
Exodus tells how the children of Israel, newly liberated from Egyptian slavery and setting out for the new land God had promised them, got thirsty in the desert. In spite of all they had seen the Lord do, their first impulse was to attack Moses for taking them into danger. We read this and are appalled. But how often do we act the same way? As long as things are going well, we are grateful and follow. But the second our situation changes, we doubt. Sure, he has helped in the past, we think (if we even remember). But where is he now? “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” the Israelites asked, as they quarreled among themselves.
God has mercy on his rebellious children. Standing on a rock, he has Moses strike that rock in front of the elders — and when he does, water flows out for the people to drink. Amazing provision!
When I read this today, I see it with New Testament “glasses.” This Scripture provides a peek at what Jesus will one day do to quench our thirst forever. He will climb onto the rock of Calvary, where he will be struck like that desert rock was struck (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). And out of his side will flow the blood and water of everlasting life.
Option 2 when you’re thirsty: Go to the Well
(Read it here: John 4:5-42)
Like Israel, Jesus gets thirsty. And he uses his thirst to draw a Samaritan woman into a conversation about her thirst. Not her physical thirst, although she has gone to the well for water, but her spiritual thirst: her inner longing. This woman’s daily trek alone to the well reflects her failed search for love, for fulfillment, for safety, for provision and meaning. She’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. Six men have failed her. And the water she normally draws fails her too, for it lasts just a short time before she must go back to get more.
In this nameless woman of Samaria, I see myself. I see in her everyone, male or female, who seeks for something outside of themselves. Day after day we go to a “well” with our thirst. We go to the gym. We go shopping. We search for a spouse. We throw ourselves into careers; we pour ourselves into our children. We volunteer. Again and again we return to the wells of our choosing. Eventually, instead of feeling well-watered and rested, we feel like it’s sucking us dry.
Where can we go to be filled?
Read the rest of the story. God allows us to feel hunger and thirst so we will know that we need him. So we will be drawn to him. So that he can fill us! We are made for relationship with our Maker and only in him will we ever be satisfied.
St. Augustine commented that the water jar represents the fallen desire of man that draws pleasure from the dark wells of the world but is never satisfied for long. Conversion moves us, like the Samaritan woman, to renounce the world, to leave behind the earthen vessels of our desires, and to follow a new way of life. You can see the change in the Samaritan woman as she talks to Jesus. As she grows more and more certain that he is the Messiah, her grip on the jar loosens until she forgets the thing that she clung to — and leaves it behind.
Is there something you are clinging to, believing it will fill you up and make you happy? Lent is about letting go those things our hearts are attached to, so we can receive the life-giving gift of God.
Our response and a warning
(Read it here: Psalm 95)
As I continue my Lenten self-denial, will I be like the Israelites or like this woman? Where will I go with my longing?
Again, the lectionary comes to our aid. Psalm 95 is offered as a bridge from the Exodus reading to the Gospel, along with a Response that is meant as a lens through which to pray the psalm:
R: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Notice that the psalmist draws on Israel’s past experience as he pleads with us to keep our hearts soft before God. “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers…tested me though they had seen my works.” Massah and Meribah, Exodus tells us, is the place where Israel complained and the Lord provided water from the rock. That “rock of our salvation” (Ps 95:1), as we know, is Christ. Make your choice today.
© 2017 Sarah Christmyer
Join me in a conversation about the Sunday readings of Lent: friend and message me on facebook and ask to join the group “40 Days in the Bible.”
Download my free reading plan and checklist and reflect on the Lenten Sunday readings throughout the following week. You’ll find instructions and the download here.
If you liked this, you might want to read my blog series on Thirsting for God. It starts here.
Blessings on you as you read his Word!