Exodus 17:1-7/ Psalm 95/ John 4:5-42
God’s Love Flowing Like Water
Pass It On!
There was a Doctor Who episode called New Earth. In a distant future, in a society ridden with diseases that cannot be controlled, a group of nuns in a medical mission artificially grow humans and infect them with all the diseases in the world to get the cure. The doctor thinks it is not natural that patients with severe illnesses can be cured in such a short time, and investigates.
The villain of the episode who finds out the same truth as the Doctor tries to blackmail the nuns for money, but when it fails, she opens the doors where the artificially grown humans are kept in a quarantined area. Those disease-ridden humans get out and infect everyone they encounter just by touching them. Those who are touched by these artificially grown humans get all the diseases in the world and die almost immediately. To solve this problem, the Doctor pours all the IVs that contain cures into the hospital elevator’s disinfecting shower.
He lures the artificial humans into the elevator and activates the shower. To those who come into the elevator where the disinfecting shower is pouring out with the cure for all diseases, the Doctor yells, “Pass it on! Pass it on!” They get out of the elevator and touch each other with the cure still on their body. The artificially grown humans get rid of the diseases with which the nuns infected them, the nuns are arrested for their unethical medical practice, and the artificially grown humans will be categorized as a new breed of humans.
What is so beautiful about what the Doctor does in this episode is that he heals all the artificially grown humans by spreading the cure like a virus. He made them “infect” each other with the cure, by “passing it on.” Just like the cure in this episode, God’s love can be passed on, flowing like water. Today’s keyword is water. Just like last Sunday’s keyword, journey, water is also used both literally and metaphorically.
Water Gushing from a Rock
We met the people of Israel traveling through the desert to get to the promised land in Exodus 17. They had no water. They complained to Moses most violently. When Moses cried out to God about it, God told him to strike a rock with his staff for water to pour out. In this story, water is literal water, the source of life.
People complained violently because, without water, they will die. Water is the source of life, and God, the provider of water, is also the source of life. It is interesting that water came out of a rock in Exodus, because in today’s psalm, we heard the psalmist sing of God as “the rock of our salvation.” Rock is a popular analogy for Jesus because he provides us with a firm foundation on which our faith can stand metaphorically.
From Exodus 17 and Psalm 95, we learn that rock is also a source of life. God that the psalmist praises is “a high sovereign above all gods in whose hand are the depths of the earth, to whom belong the heights of the mountains, our shepherd,” and so on. We could understand water and rock as metaphors for God, the source of life with the power to sustain us.
Woman by the Well
In today’s gospel story, water is further used as a spiritual metaphor as Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman. This woman is an outcast in her community, most likely because she has had 5 husbands and is currently living with a man without being married to him. People can be very judgmental. That is why she is out fetching water on the hottest time of the day (by noon) where no one is out fetching water.
I believe that Jesus knew about her, and that is why he approached her on purpose. This is something Jesus would totally do; associating with those who are perceived as sinners. Jesus offers her the water that would never make her thirsty again, as opposed to the water in the well by which they are sitting. The earthly water quenches our thirst for a while and the spiritual water that Jesus offers will satisfy us forever. This spiritual water is God’s Spirit of love manifested in the person of Jesus.
God’s Spirit is Like Water
God’s Spirit is like water because it flows generously, giving life to those who have contact with it. The “life” we are talking about today is not about the mere existence of heartbeats and breaths. It’s about adding vitality, joy, and dignity to those who are barely surviving. Those who are marginalized tend to “barely survive,” whether they are poor, disabled, racial minorities, queer, and so on.
Think of this Samaritan woman. She is an outcast in her community who can’t live with her head held high. Jesus approaches people like her and adds vitality, joy, and dignity to their lives. God’s Spirit of love pours out and flows like water, “infecting” everyone on the way. God’s love is like good deeds that we pass on to others, giving joy and hope to all involved. God’s love is contagious, as it is easy for a wet person to make others wet. In this sense, the Doctor yelling, “Pass it on! Pass it on!” is a perfect imagery for God’s people to share God’s love with others.
Remember that, because Jesus splashed the spiritual water on this woman, many of her local people believed in Jesus. It is a typical subversive nature of God’s kingdom that the self-righteous people who judged this woman got to believe in Jesus thanks to her. This teaches us that God’s love doesn’t judge or discriminate.
Pass On God’s Love
During this Season of Lent, let us reaffirm God’s indiscriminatory love for us all. And let us listen to the call to pass on God’s love to all God’s people. There is a hymn called “Pass It On” that we will sing shortly. It starts like this: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing: that’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it: you spread God’s love to everyone, you want to pass it on.”
We used water as a metaphor today, so we could also reflect on this hymn with a water metaphor: “It only takes a splash to get a water going and soon all those around can freshen up in its cooling.” (Yes, I tried to rhyme.) With our service to others, we can show God’s love for them; this is how we pass on God’s Spirit of love. Through our acts of love, we can give vitality, joy, and dignity to those who are facing different challenges. Therefore, let us go out and spread God’s love. Let us let God’s Spirit of love flow like gushing water and splash it to as many people of God as possible.