First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at  . 

This week's readings: Lent 3 Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5: 1-11, John 4: 5- 42

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thanks to Feasting on the Word  Year A Vol. 2


This week there is an obvious theme of water running (pardon the pun) through the Exodus reading and the Gospel reading. In Exodus the people are thirsty in the wilderness. God seems to have brought them out of slavery in Egypt only to abandon them at  a place in the wilderness where there is no water. They complain in fear and anger and lose their trust in Moses and God. They threaten to kill Moses. But God through Moses provides water. In the Gospel reading a woman is in the heat of the noonday sun and in her thirst is drawing water from a well. In her encounter with Jesus she too receives water from God. Jesus offers  and gives her living water so she will never be thirsty again,  living water from God not from a well made by humans. This may be a bit of a stretch but in the Romans reading St. Paul  uses the image of pouring as in pouring water when he speaks about the love of God being poured into us during times of suffering. I think verse 5 of our Romans reading is a great way of describing the living water that Jesus offers the woman at the well. After describing how we can boast in our sufferings because it leads us to hope, Paul says ,” hope does not disappoint us , because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Thirst is a type of suffering and God’s love is a cool drink of water to quench the suffering , a spiritual dryness.


Frederick Niedner ( Feasting on the Word Year A Vol. 2  pgs 74 – 78) helped me to see that  another theme of our readings is that God is with us. The Israelites thought God had abandoned them but He was there and did provide water. Paul is saying that God is with us through the Spirit, and The Gospel  story which follows our Lord’s famous words , for God so loved the world that he sent his only son is immediately shown to be true. God in Jesus talked and visited and offered eternal life to the Samaritan woman at the well ( Karoline Lewis Feasting on the Word year A Vol. 1 pg 95). God was right there with her, thirsty too in the hot sun.  I find this to be a very beautiful story of Jesus caring for a person he really should not have even been with according to social norms of the day. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, and men would not be talking to a woman especially one who appears to have even been shunned by her own people as she is alone at the well.  Yet  Jesus engages her in a lengthy conversation seeming to really listen to her and offering her such amazing hope. I find it very moving that when she goes home she says she met someone who knows all about her. And of course Jesus teaches her and us that God is not located in one spot but is present with us everywhere through the Spirit. This is our hope in suffering, God is with us.


Celebrating this truth we can joyfully join in the first part of Psalm 95 which is a song of praise. We can declare along  with the psalmist that “ let us sing to the lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. This Psalm does not speak about water but we know that Psalm 23 in referring to God as our shepherd  say that he leads us to still waters. A shepherds job is to refresh the sheep with life giving water.  It seems a bit odd in the Lenten season to be singing for joy. But this Psalm reminds us how wonderful and important it is to be  excited and joyful and even downright noisy in our praise. I can assure you if by some miracle the N. Y. Rangers win the Stanley Cup this year you will hear my cheers in Napanee all the way over in the County. So why do I not get so excited about God’s love for me? Psalm 95 speaks to this.


But Psalm 95 takes a sharp turn from praising God for Gods greatness as King and  maker of heaven and earth to warning  and counseling us not to forget or harden our hearts from God like the Israelites did when they complained in the wilderness.( A direct reference to our Old Testament  reading) . We are reminded to take stock of our lives seeing  how we test God and harden our hearts to God’s love and presence. Perhaps the second half of the Psalm is more fitting for Lent when we commit ourselves to a time of self examination.


It is ironic and poignant that Jesus who offers the woman at the well living water , laments from the cross that he is thirsty. It is this thirst experienced from the cross that is the source of the well we drink from. God with us knew our thirst and even our death for us. As Paul says in our reading from Romans,” But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”


A good sermon might address suffering. It would strive to not be simplistic or insensitive to the very real suffering people experience. A week or two ago I caught bits and pieces of the CBC Radio program , Canada Reads where a group of panelist argued for their book to be the book all of adult Canada should read. The winning book from the little bit I heard was a story of Native Canadians. Part of the book included graphic depiction of torture. My understanding was that warriors captured in battle by another tribe would be tortured. Everybody seemed to like this book , in fact it won, but one criticism about it was the depiction of the torture. Apparently even some  Native people concur with the criticism that it was too graphic and thus problematic. The person defending this part of the book in essence said that in and through this suffering there was somehow a  truly spiritual engagement . ( I am obviously oversimplifying what he said). Then he said that the Western culture so intent on avoiding suffering could never truly appreciate this truth. Although I knew exactly what he was saying and for the most part concur,   I also  thought to myself has he read Romans 5: 1- 11 and what about the spirituality and healing and transformation that came from the suffering of the one who cried out from the cross, I thirst.


Some first thoughts to help us prepare for Sunday.

Tags: water  exodus  willderness  moses  romans  psalm  lent  samaritan