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February 23, 2005
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts for this Sunday: the first is the usual sermon preparation and the second is one intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the service of the Church to the poor and those who suffer in disasters through the ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

Water in the Heat of Noonday

Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.
John 4:15

I understand that the experience of physical thirst is a sign that things in the body have already gotten out of hand chemically: if you feel thirst, you are already dehydrated. You need to drink water before you feel thirsty, in order to keep all the cells plump and satisfied.

The water of baptism, of course, is administered only once -- and it's good for a lifetime. You don't need to be re-baptized, even if you didn't know if was happening the first time and have since experienced a profound quickening of faith that makes you want to do something public to show it forth: you can reaffirm your baptismal vows, but you don't receive the water of baptism again. It worked the first time.

So physical thirst is well underway before the first signs of it appear. Maybe spiritual fullness is, too: maybe it's steadily at work within us, even when we are busy straining mightily against its grace. Maybe it waits patiently while we explore our blind alleys and pursue our red herrings.

Certainly there was no physical change in the Samaritan woman after she met Jesus that day at noon. Her social situation didn't change much, either -- an unsatisfying life, probably a humiliating one: she would return to that life when she left the well. But the waters of life poured into her somehow, that day, and she was spiritually transformed: an apostle to the Samaritans was what she became, an apostle they didn't expect but to whom they could not help but listen.

We hear no more from her in the New Testament. We never get to learn the story of her chaotic life, of why she came to the well in the middle of the day, when nobody in her right mind goes outside, why she didn't come when the other women usually went, in the cool of the morning. Maybe it was because that's when the other women usually went. Maybe she was afraid of them. Probably.

But had it not been for her shame, she wouldn't have met Jesus alone. She would have been in a crowd. The leading woman would have spoken to him -- or maybe none of them would have spoken to him, since he was a Jew and it would not have been respectable to address him. Probably.

So it was her hard life, no matter whose fault it was, that led her to the place where she could meet him. The journeys we take can all lead us there, whether we take them for the right reasons or the wrong reasons or for no reason. Whether we know it or not, he's been waiting for us at the well of life all the time.

Volume II of Let Us Bless the Lord: Meditations for the Daily Office is now available from the Farm. It begins with a meditation for Easter Day and carries on to the end of Pentecost. There is a special "two-fer" price if you order both volumes. Visit the bookstore at >u>

And here is the ERD meditation...
Water, Everywhere

Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty...
John 4:15

This week: flooding in Colombia, in Guyana, mudslides in Venezuela -- rain has poured from the sky, leaving a swath of ruin across South America. Water pours from the sky today throughout Iran, hampering the efforts of those who dig frantically through the rubble left by yesterday's earthquake, in hopes of finding people still alive.

And in each of these disasters caused by too much rain, what is one of the biggest crises? Finding enough safe drinking water. Water is everywhere, too much water, so much water that it breaks down walls and sweeps people and cars and houses away in a flash. And -- you can't drink any of it. Not a drop of all that water is safe to drink.

People will drink it, of course: filthy water, muddy water, even salt water. If there is no fresh water to drink, they will drink contaminated water. And then will come the next crisis, as predictable as the next sunrise: waterborne disease.

In the array of first-response help Episcopal Relief and Development offers local partners in time of disaster, technical assistance and supplies for the purification of water is of first importance in ensuring that a terrible tragedy doesn't become an even worse one as the first days and week go by.

Water in bottles, tablets for cleansing water, pots for boiling water: the bodies of those who have been so terribly wounded by water need water to survive. And their spirits need the living water of Christ, who comes to each of us in the way we need him most. Not everyone in a disaster area is a Christian, but everyone there is a child of God. Some of us have experienced the waters of baptism as little babies in white dresses, with a lovely party afterwards to celebrate, a tiny bonnet kept as a keepsake to remind us of the occasion. And some have received the water of Christ's love in a different way: two cool plastic bottles placed firmly in our hands as we stand along the muddy roadside with a thousand other thirsty people. We screw open the top and drink deeply, and our hearts revive within us. We will live for another day.

To learn more about ERD, visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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