Have a Drink
Our Lenten journey prepares us for Easter and renewal of our commitment to Jesus, and, in the case of our Candidate, for Holy Baptism. So far through Lent we’ve talked about “desire” and how easy it is for our desires to become distorted, so that everything in our experience comes down to an “us vs. them.” The woman gave it to me to eat. The blame game begins. Last week our theme was “call,” coming from the story of the call of Abraham and Sarah. They were comfortably “us” in their familiar place and God called them to leave there and go to a place, they didn’t know, God would show them. In other words, they would be a perpetual “them,” but doing so, they would become a blessing for future generations. God blesses us, not for ourselves, but to be a blessing for others.
This week we learn “how” to be a blessing. The people in the desert were angry from hunger and thirst. They demanded that Moses do something. Moses, afraid for his life, cried out to God for help. God, somewhat annoyed with Moses, showed him a rock to strike that would provide water for the people to drink. The immediate crisis was handled. Upshot of the story: Moses didn’t realize who he was and who God was either.
This story points to the theme of “Who am I?” Now most of us know pretty well “who we are.” But the real question is “who we are in God?” And of course it matters what kind of God we are talking about as well.
Let’s start with God first. Is God living water flowing inside us? Do we experience God as merciful love? Or is God a god of wrath, someone to fear? These are important questions we’ve got to get clear and it’s not easy. While wanting to believe that God is love, our reading of the bible makes us think that God exists to punish the sinner. Sinners will incur God’s “wrath.” This idea is helped along by translations like the text from Romans today:
But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ die for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.
Jesus saves us from the “wrath of God.” This really gets to me because “of God” is not in the Greek text at all. Even scholarly translators (a lot smarter than I am) put something in the text that isn’t there! The idea is that Jesus saves us from “wrath.” This is the translation. There’s a tendency for human beings to attribute “wrath,” all the bad that goes on in the world, to God, even when all “wrath” is caused only by human beings! It is this human caused wrath, or sin, that Jesus came to save us from, not God’s disgust and hatred for us as children of God! God is Love. God is a loving parent to all his children, praying like every parent that the child will find their way, and merciful when they lose their way. This is who God is!
I should hesitate using the word “God” because in our time it is easily co-opted by all religions. We talk about God like God is right in our pocket, under our control. Karl Rahner, a great theologian of the last century, said we should all agree not to use the word “God” for fifty years and instead refer to God as “the Holy Mystery.” Doing so, might slow us down from co-opting “God” for our own interests and prejudices which encourages us to contribute to suffering (wrath) claiming it is necessary to protect ourselves. God does not send people to hell, humans do.
What about us? Who are we in God? Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. She’s there at mid-day when it’s the hottest and nobody draws water at that time. She’s a them with three strikes against her: She’s a woman, a Samaritan (hated by Jews as half-breeds and unfaithful), and morally bankrupt, because she’s had five husbands and is living with a guy that she’s not married to. Jesus knows her inside out. If anyone could warrant the “wrath” of God, it’s her. What does Jesus do? He talks to her, something a Jewish man wouldn’t do. He offers her, not wrath or condemnation, but the merciful, living water of Holy Mystery. She is worth it. What her townspeople could/would never give her, Jesus gives her: love, forgiveness, and self-worth.
Jesus meets you and I today, just like he met that woman. Each of us have strikes against us like she did (although we’ve for the most part successfully protected ourselves from the judgment of others), but Jesus loves and accepts us as we are, frees us, heals us, and gives us a new identity. We aren’t defined by what people think, Jesus knows us best and invites us to drink daily the living water of friendship with him. Have a drink!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.