The woman said to Jesus, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? --John 4:11
The news this past week has been filled with story after story about the COVID-19 coronavirus that is sweeping the globe and is getting a foothold in some parts of the United States. Attempts to contain its spread have not been successful and advice and council about what to do about it seems to change daily. The result has been a wave of fear and uncertainty as people have tried to prepare themselves for the worst. The information out there is so fluid and changing, it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe or think.
In the church, there are, of course, legitimate concerns about keeping our congregations and communities safe, questions about whether or not to cancel gatherings, and plenty of pondering about what to do if worship must be suspended for a time. Because many of our congregations are populated by people over 60 – the age group which seems to be most vulnerable – these questions need to be considered and plans, even tentative ones, need to be put in place.
Sitting in the midst of all this swirling news is Jesus – a thirsty man with no bucket -- who offers a Samaritan woman a drink. She is confused by his offer and maybe, so are we.
I mean, what does Jesus have to offer us in the face of COVID-19? What good is an offer of living water if we can’t even find hand sanitizer?!
And yet, somehow, this man without a bucket sees right into the heart of the woman at the well, and sees into the core of our hearts too. The story of Jesus in the New Testament is the story of a man who gets it. Who understands our humanity and the frailty of it. But, also a man who embodies our Creator God and God’s enduring love for us. A God whose weakness is stronger than our human strength. A God from whom nothing can separate us… not even COVID-19.
It seems somewhat serendipitous that this epidemic is happening during the season of Lent. Why? Because it is during these annual days of reflection, penitence and new life that we make the journey from the ashes of our mortality on Ash Wednesday, through the gruesome death of the Cross, and on to the surprise of the empty tomb on Easter morning. A journey through death to life. A journey Jesus walks with us even as we walk it with him.
You see, the promise of eternal life Jesus talks about in this week’s lesson is not just for some future day when we take our last breath. The promise of eternal life that we anticipate and celebrate during Lent and Easter is one that gives our lives hope and value even in the midst of uncertainty and fear. It doesn’t necessarily take away the uncertainty and fear, but reminds us that whatever we face – even an epidemic -- does not and cannot have the last word. And that changes our whole perspective on things. It gives us the courage to take the next step. Just like it did for the Samaritan woman. It can lead us to run to our neighbors and say, “come and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done!”
Today, a thirsty man with no bucket is offering us a drink of living water. My advice? Drink deep.
Please pray for all those who are dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus around the world: those who are infected, those caring for them, those trying to mitigate and manage the epidemic, and those who are living in fear of it. My God bless us all with healing and hope.
Thanks for reading.