Sermon: “I Am Thirsty!” (John 4:5-24) on March 12, 2023

Date: March 12, 2023 (Third Sunday in Lent)

Scripture: John 4:5-24

Scripture Reader: David Driscoll

Sermon Title: “I Am Thirsty!”

You can also listen on Podcast from iTunes and Spotify. Search for “Podcasting from Rev. Bob Jon.”

A young man named Sam was roaming around the town, occasionally showing up at the church for the free lunch and food pantry. When he was 16 years old, his mother got into a car accident and died. The tragedy left his father to get into drugs as a way to ease his grief and pain. Later, it was none other than his father who got Sam also into drugs, slowly destroying his body and mind. Although his father got him into drugs, his father was the only family he had. So, Sam felt devastated when his father died from heart failure, leaving him an orphan. He was living in a tent behind Walmart but was not able to enter most of the stores in the town because of his history of theft. Whenever Sam appeared in the newspaper being arrested for drugs or violating a restraining order, people shook their heads saying, “Not again.” Thirsty. Sam was thirsty, thirsty for love, thirsty for family. 

A man named Bill used to be a school bus driver and later drove a UPS truck. It was his dream to enjoy his retirement with his wife Rose, who worked as a schoolteacher. However, not long after their retirement, his wife was diagnosed with dementia and later had to move to memory care. It was Bill’s routine that he would drive his old car to memory care. He said hi to the staff and other patients and their families. He sat next to his wife who did not recognize him anymore. Rose merely smiled at him. Bill held her hand hoping Rose might recognize his warm hand. At the end of the day, Bill said goodbye to Rose, only to be devastated to hear her say, “You are leaving me here? What do you expect me to do here all by myself?” He promised her that he would come back the next day. Thirsty. Bill was thirsty, thirsty for a shared memory and celebration with his beloved wife.

Aqila Tavakali steps out of her apartment in Toronto with her 14-year-old son and walks him to his new school that has basketball courts, a swimming pool, and a large auditorium. As she watches her son enter the school, she thinks about the girls she used to teach as a school principal in Afghanistan until two years ago. The girls at school were hungry for education, but not many resources were available for them. While Aqila dedicated herself to educating these girls, one day several car bombs exploded outside the school gate just as the girls were leaving their school. After the Taliban took over the country in 2021, all the girls were immediately banned from school. Aqila and her family became the target of the Taliban. Fortunately, they were able to seek asylum in Canada.[1] Aqila is brokenhearted to remember the girls. Thirsty. She is thirsty, thirsty for justice and equality for girls in her homeland. 

How about you? Are you thirsty as we gather in this place this morning? Of course, we all come and gather here for different reasons. Some of you have been worshipping here for generations. Some of you have found home in this place with many memories. Some of you are here seeking some fellowship and friendship with others. Someone like me is here because this is my job. We have invited the scouts and their families to join us today so we can celebrate all their wonderful accomplishment this past year. But there is something beyond those obvious reasons. We are thirsty, hoping to be affirmed in who we are, realize that we are loved by someone who is greater than us. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim, there is such a thing as water. And if I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” 

Today, we meet a woman in the Gospel of John today who was thirsty. The scripture tells us that this woman came to draw the water around noon in Sychar, Samaria. According to historical studies, most women did not go to the well at noon because it tended to be hot. Besides, it is a place where shepherds came to feed their flocks. It was not safe for a woman to go there by herself. In many developing countries, women and children spend more than four hours walking for water every day. According to a statistic, 500,000 children die every year because of diarrhea caused by drinking unclean water. As most of us in the U.S. are not worried about our access to water, there are many women and children from Sudan, India, and Pakistan who have to walk miles to draw water everyday, often giving up on their school and education. 

Again, this woman in Samaria went to draw the water when it was hot during the day probably, it was a time when there would be no one around. She wanted to avoid meeting other women who came out there to draw the water. She knew that they would gossip about her as she passed them. “Did you know that she has married four times?” “Did you know that the one she is living with now is not even her husband?” “Well, the rumor is that she was not a good woman.” She could hear the whisper from a distance that they were talking about her. At first, she ignored what they were saying. Sometimes, she confronted them. But eventually, she decided not to engage them by going to the well when there was no one around. I find it interesting that we as people often love to talk about other people’s struggles so that we do not have to focus on our own problems. 

We do not know exactly what happened to her life. We do not fully know her story. One thing we know is that women in her time were often considered a commodity rather than human beings with their freedom and dignity. Maybe, her husbands died from some illness or the war. Maybe, her husbands cheated on her and decided to abandon her for other women. Culturally, she did not have a voice to challenge her husbands or social structure, so she had been handed down to the current man that she was now living with. But in her society, the blame was on her. “It is because of you that your husband left you.” In Korea, a long time ago, when a child died from an accident or illness, the mother was to blame, more so than the father. Women were pushed to the margin of society bearing the guilt and shame while not being able to speak for themselves. 

But she meets Jesus who is willing to sit and listen to her story. Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The woman looks at Jesus and realizes that she is not supposed to talk with him, nor him with her. She is a Samaritan woman. After King David died, Israel became two nations – Northern Israel and Judah. Northern Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC. The Assyrians wanted to wipe out the culture and language of the Jewish in Northern Israel by sending their own people and living among the Jewish people. So, the Samaritans were the descendants of intermarriage between Assyrians and Jews. The Jewish in Judah despised them because they were not pure Jews. They were considered corrupt in both their bloodline and religion. It was not acceptable for someone like Jesus to speak with the Samaritan woman.  

Therefore, when asked to give the water to Jesus, the woman answered, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman instantly remembers all the troubles that she had to go through every day in coming to draw the water. She is tired of walking several miles to draw the water. It is not safe because she does not know who would be waiting there. Besides, no one understands her but loves to talk about her behind her back. She is sick of shame and humiliation from others. So, she asks him, “Sir, you have no bucket, but the well is very deep. Where can you get this living water?” 

The Samaritan woman believes that the water is the cause of the misery in her life that brings her to the well today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.  She thinks that not needing to come to the well for water could solve the issues in her life. Maybe I do not need to exhaust myself with this heavy burden. I don’t need to deal with all the gossip and shaming from others. But her fundamental need is her thirst for God who knows her story, what she has gone through, and embraces her as a beloved daughter of God, and gives purpose of her life. It is not the earthly water, but the living water that heals her wound and brokenness The living water, which Christ offers, restores her dignity, her being, and her relationship. It is not our life circumstances that define who we are. But it is God whose radical love defines us and transforms us. Only God can quench the thirst of our souls. 

I remember in my first church as the senior pastor we had a youth – a freshman in high school – Matt. He was always shy and never spoke his mind. He usually sat in the first pew with his mother. His father rarely came to the church, but when he did, he often showed immature behaviors in front of others which embarrassed both Matt and his mother. But I knew that Matt still loved both his parents as they were. One day, Matt’s mother told me devastating news – they were getting a divorce. I was instantly worried about Matt who was the only child between them. I usually brought him to the church in my car since we had the youth group on Sunday morning. I asked Matt, “Hey, how are you?” He did not answer but just sat quietly. I felt powerless thinking that there was nothing I could do for this young man. 

As Matt felt devastated thinking that his life was done, I also recognized my own thirst for good news. I was struggling very much with my ministry. I was doing poorly at school because my dissertation prospectus failed twice. I just failed my ordination exam with the board. Sungha and I wanted to have a child since we got married, but nothing was happening. One morning after the youth group we sat and I asked him, “Matt, can you pray for me?” He told me that he would pray for me everyday. Within a few weeks, we had great news to share with the congregation. My wife was pregnant. At the baby shower, Matt gave us a hand-made baby blanket. “Pastor Bob, I want you to have this for Daniel. It is what my mother wrapped me when I was a baby. Now, I want you to use this for him.”  

I want you to remember your stories. Wherever we come from, do we resonate with the Samaritan woman who went through much brokenness in her life? It was not necessarily what you did. Or it could be what you did. But in the middle of ups and downs, you have been doing the best you can to bring the water to your family. You went to work. You brought your children to school. You volunteered… but still, in your heart you feel alone. You dealt with the feelings of shame and guilt. You are exhausted in carrying all your responsibilities, while yearning for more genuine joy and true happiness. If you are still waiting for Christ to come and dwell in you, I invite you to accept the living water that Christ offers to us today. A spring of water gushing up to eternal life, giving us everlasting joy, love, peace that we can only find in God. 



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