When my daughter was four years old, she accompanied me when I took my youth group to a Taizé worship service that included the opportunity to walk the labyrinth. Flute, violin, and cello supported the congregation’s soft voices gathered around the canvas labyrinth laid at the center of the worship space as they sang the beautiful, repeating, meditative chants.
I led my daughter to the entrance of the labyrinth and, hands on her shoulders, began directing her along the curves of the path, leading to the center, the heart of God. But she kept shaking off my hands, stepping across the lines, and generally resisting my guidance. In a moment of grace, I let her go. In awe, I watched her choose one of the youth and follow closely at her heels all the way to the center. There she rested until the young woman stood to walk again; she followed her, step-by-step, retracing the path out of the labyrinth and back to me.
I had a choice that night to make her experience about a singular encounter with rules and expectations (that would have resulted in a test and quarrel) or to let that experience be a step on a larger journey of faith, marked by trust and freedom. It seems Jesus has a similar choice as he encounters the woman at the well.
Jesus needs water to quench an immediate and temporary thirst. He could wait for the disciples to return, ignore the woman, maintain decorum, and uphold cultural expectations. Or he could let go, trust a stranger, cross lines of gender to extend an invitation of living water that will quench a lifetime of thirst. The risk, the connection, extended beyond one woman’s circumstance to the transformation of an entire community.
God of freedom, remind us that we never walk alone. Open our eyes to see companions along the journey who will help us find our rest in you. Amen.
Three of the passages this week connect water and faith. In Exodus and the psalm, we read about the Israelites grumbling in the desert. Although they have seen God’s mighty deeds in Egypt, they have begun to question God’s provision for them. God provides water through Moses, but the place is remembered (and named) as a site where the faith of the people fails. In John, however, a place to draw water becomes a site of salvation for the Samaritan woman and eventually for the people in her village through her faith. The reading in Romans goes a different direction. Paul emphasizes the importance of faith in the face of trials and the fact that God brings salvation through Christ when fallen humanity has no other hope.
Read Exodus 17:1-7. How do your memories of God’s provision sustain you through tough stages of your spiritual journey?
Read Psalm 95. What object, image, or memory serves for you as a symbol of God’s faithfulness?
Read Romans 5:1-11. How have you found hope in stages of life when God is forming your character through suffering and endurance?
Read John 4:5-42. When has letting go of your expectations or rules allowed God to work freely in your life or in the lives of others around you?
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