Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42
“Then another clear voice, as young and as ancient as spring, like the song of a glad water flowing down into the night from a bright morning in the hills, came falling like silver to meet them.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
When traveling the highways and by-ways of America, looking for a good place to eat, stop where all the trucks are parked. Good advice! So it was also for near eastern water holes. They were a place where one could quench one’s thirst after being parched by the desert. Jesus stops at the truck stop of his day. Jacob’s well was one of the most popular of such places in Samaria. It was hard to beat, both for its water and for its nostalgia. Yet Jesus tells the woman at the well that he has even better, fresher water to offer, a veritable fountain of living water (John 4:10) and eternal life (John 4:14). After talking about the best place to be refreshed, his conversation with the woman eventually moves on to where is the best place to worship: on this hill in Samaria or in Jerusalem. Jesus says “neither” but true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). Now that sounds pretty vague and even a bit anti-establishment as if to say “don’t go to a church building or be in community but only worship in spirit and in truth.” And so it has been misinterpreted by black and white dualistic thinkers or by people looking for an excuse. They may think worship is disembodied. That aside, wherever we may be, in the building, in a home gathering, or on the mountain top, or in the woods, this Gospel passage is telling us something important. By its coupling of ideas, it is saying that spirit and truth are tied together with living water. Jesus’ focus is not so much on where to worship, but the spirit in which we worship. The question is, can we after drinking from this fountain of living water, wherever we find it, can we be saturated or at least be a drop of that love. If we drip of this living water we are one more of God’s fountains, like water holes or truck stops all over the place. Now that has spirit. That is true. That is worthy. That is young and ancient at the same time, glad water that is not vague unless, in analyzing it, we forget to live it.
In John 4:26 Jesus says to the woman “I am he.” Literally, in the Greek, it is simply “I am.” The Greek of the Septuagint (The Jewish Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) has these exact same words for the name of God given to Moses (Exodus 3:14). John’s Gospel is making a connection. That is why for John things said about Jesus are things that the Old Testament only says about God.
Ancient flowing spring,
young ever more in us all,
bold spirit and truth.