Thursday, April 2, 2015



A sermon by the Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles

Sunday February 1, 2015

Ps 111; NT John 4:7ff

The one who provides living water is asking for a drink.

Is he truly thirsty?

We know that Jesus did get thirsty.  In fact one of the last things Jesus said was: I thirst.

It is an indication that Jesus led a strenuous life. He walked everywhere he went, he kept long hours, he slept in uncomfortable places, he went out of his way to meet people in need, and then he MET THEIR NEEDS.  It is any wonder that Jesus knew what it was to be tired, and hungry and yes, thirsty.

So there at the well outside the city of Sychar, he said to the woman at the well: “WILL YOU GIVE ME A DRINK?”

We appreciate the fact that Jesus knows what it is to be thirsty.  To feel parched and dry and to wish for the coolness and the refreshment of pure water.  We have been thirsty.  And we have been thirsty for good things – righteousness is the way Jesus says it.

“Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness.  They shall be filled.”

Even as an empty water jar, on a hot Middle Eastern day at noon, is filled with water that is gold and quenching.  They shall be filled.


It took work, for the woman to draw the water and share it with Jesus. Sometimes we don’t think much about the work that is behind meeting needs.  But there is always work to be done, resources to be expended, time to be given—a gift that is also a sacrifice.

In olden days homes did not have running water.  You had to go to the well to get it.  The walk was long, the path was uneven, the weather was fickle and the jar was heavy in one direction and even heavier on the way back.

You can suppose that everyone who went to the well wished that they did not have to go.  They wished for easier lives.  They would marvel at our homes today, where we can simply turn the spigot and there’s the water.  I wonder how many of the women who went to wells down the ages prayed for easier lives.  They were thirsty for easier lives.  And who knows, maybe their combined prayers brought us to the place we enjoy today…

But there are other needs and concerns we pray for nowadays…aren’t there?  And they are so much like those other prayers of long ago.  If we picture the people who went to the well in Jesus day, as people who were on their way to have needs met, what do we find…?

It is much like what Phillips Brooks (who wrote the beloved Christmas hymn, O Little town Of Bethlehem) once said,

“Do not pray for easy lives.  Pray to be strong… do not pray for tasks equal to your powers.  Pray for powers equal to you tasks.  Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle.  But you shall be a miracle.  Every day, you shall wonder at yourself—at the richness of life which has come to you—by the grace of God.”

He was talking to people like you and like me. 

          Have you though of yourself as a miracle? 

          The psalms say we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  The very fact that we are here is a miracle. 

          Have you though of yourself as a miracle? 


          The fact that we have grown and learned, and worked at jobs that make a difference and cared for others – these are also miracles. 

You may have a story to tell about the miracles that God has done for you—cured you of an illness, comforted you in sorrow, opened a new pathway for you when you thought every door was shut.  Guided you through dangerous places to a haven of shelter and calm.  Given you a second chance in life, or third or fourth.

I am reminded of a story that Harry Emerson Fosdick used to tell.  He lived for awhile in Bronxville New York, and every morning, he would take the early train for the 27 – mile ride into Manhattan – to his office. 

He noticed that every morning, a fellow commuter – whom he know causally and who always rode the same train – would pull down the window shade as the train crossed over 128th Street.  And then he would close his eyes. 

One morning, Fosdick said something to the man across the aisle. 

“I have watched you pull down your shade as we neared 128th street, every morning.  And I am curious to know why?”

The other man answered:

“I was born in that slum.  And I find it painful to remember those early days.  Besides there is nothing I can do about it anyway”

After a sympathetic silence, Dr. Fosdick, who had seen so much of the city's needs, said:

“I don’t mean to poke around in your private life.  But, surely, at least, you could leave your shade up”


          How do we go from thirsty people to being a miracle?

Leave your shade up.  Be open to what Jesus is doing now.  Let Jesus fill you in ways you may not have imagined or guessed.  Jesus can do that.  Jesus will do that.

Christians do get thirsty.  We look at the world around us and we are thirsty on behalf of others.  We see the problems of the world, and know that Jesus wants them to be addressed.  We may have a part in addressing them.  We may look at the needs and they seem all too big, for us to know how to address.


You have perhaps felt that way. 

Think of that woman at the well—and everyone Jesus has filled  with living water…

          “They responded to the Lord where they were.  And God transformed their little defeats into his great successful victories. 

Let us look at our lives—at our service for Jesus Christ, and say:

I will do what I can.  And maybe someone else will join me. 

 I’m not sure of success.  But I leave that in the Lord’s hands.  You see, it isn’t a question of whether God is on our side.  God is not a partner in our efforts.  God is the effort itself.  We are God’s instruments. 

And God does not fail.”

-         Be open to what Jesus is doing now. 

-         Let Jesus fill you in ways you may not have imagined or guessed. 

-         Jesus can do that. 

-         Jesus will do that.


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