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            The first winter {1980)  I served the United Methodist Church at Yulee, [the last pitstop before leaving FL],  I learned something that all of you who grew up in the North already knew:  when the temperature is going to be 32 degrees Fahrenheit or less, you turn a faucet on to at least a trickle to keep the pipes from freezing.  This was particularly important for the parsonage and church which shared a pipe that ran the several hundred yards between the two buildings.  This past January, when I visited my son and his family in Tallahassee, I was glad to see the faucet on when I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night… for the temperatures were down in the 20’s!  And again in February when I visited my daughter and son-in-law near Ft. Bragg, NC and it was so cold it snowed!  Yep, keeping the faucet on for running water is necessary to prevent the pipes from freezing up and thus being without water, a necessity of life!

            In John’s description of the interchange between a very tired and thirsty Jesus, who has left Judea and is now in Samaria {whose people were not considered authentic Jews but were regarded with great prejudice as ones who had perverted Judaism} we see the importance of water and Jesus’ ever flowing compassion.   Even though he sat and rested by Jacob’s (his ancestor’s) well, Jesus chose to forego his human thirst in order to begin a flow of conversation with a person who definitely fit the description of  “the least of these” in order to minister unto her.   Why “least of these”?

  1. Prejudice between Jews and Samaritans was intense. But to get to Galilee He and the disciples had to go through Samaria.  Perhaps the disciples went as a group to the market to be safe as they procured food.
  2. She was a she, a woman…not only did a Jewish man not speak to a woman, especially a Samaritan woman at that! Even today, the orthodox Jewish man that lives at the end of our street will not say hello/speak to me as he walks to and from services of worship at the Chabad.  But he will say hello to my husband.
  3. She was considered a woman of , shall we say, ill repute? Women could not divorce, only men.  We don’t know what happened to her 5 husbands, but they probably did not all die…so she was cast away for some reason or other.  And now she is not married to the man with whom she lives either!   That’s why she has to go to the well and fill those already heavy jugs with water at the hottest time of the day when no one else is at the well.  Afterall, the respectable women come early in the cool of the morning!                                                                                                                                

Jesus sees the woman as at her lowest, stuck, or shall we imagine, frozen in the pipe of her misdoings and surroundings?   And he sets aside his very human needs for the time being, and proceeds to  flow with compassionate love, living water, that she needs.  He calls her out, doesn’t excuse her but offers her first a relationship which is spiritually based, the living waters of unconditional loving acceptance of her.

 She is no dummy and feistily challenges him that only the Messiah who is to come can teach the things of Spirit and Truth.  At this point John utilizes his particular phrase that reveals Jesus IS the Messiah:  “I AM…” he who is speaking with you.

As the disciples return with food at that point, they realize that this is a spiritual, holy moment, and are respectfully silent.  At this point, I think the Samaritan woman at the well has opened her spiritual faucet for the living waters of God’s grace in Jesus and refreshing Truth of Faith, Hope, and Love to flow through the presence of the Holy Spirit with her.   She does not just turn the faucet on but keeps it on by running as an evangelistic witness to the people of her Samaritan village and sharing exuberantly of her encounter with Jesus, whom she knows is the Messiah.   As the Scripture closes, we see the collective faucets of the people of this Samaritan village have opened wide for the teachings and presence of the Christ to flow through them.   Life is still hard, water still has to be carried in heavy jars twice a day for earthly existence … but the Living Love of God in Christ spurs them onward with hope and a renewed faith.

            In this past week, life became incredibly hard not just for us as individuals, or as a country, but as a world when the Coronovirus-19, otherwise known as COVID-19, was declared by health officials as pandemic, ie, a world wide threat to human existence.  Anytime we as human beings lose that false sense of control we tend to claim, feelings such as fear, rage, despair, and ‘me first’ will often abound.  Has anybody been able to find more toilet paper or hand sanitizer?  Stockpiling and shortages have certainly set off some powerful destructive emotions at the grocery stores, SAM’s, drug stores, etc.  We’re learning to literally  ‘keep the faucet on’ as we wash our hands for 2 choruses of “Happy Birthday”!  We  wisely limit our touch/ exposure to COVID-19 when we cancel gatherings ranging from political rallies to our FAITH scheduled meetings to AMC movie theater limiting attendance so spaces could be left between movie attendees, and as we participate in spiritual Holy Communion and prayerful communion with others.  Our elderly in facilities are now experiencing the isolation that jail and prison inmates feel since nursing homes and  ALF’s are quarantined.  Coquina Nursing Center called me right away to let me know they are quarantined for 30 days until mid April, so we won’t be leading their 5th Sunday service.  Exciting anticipations have been dashed with trips cancelled, March Madness called off, and sports events cancelled or postponed.   And parents will struggle with childcare since schools are closed at least until the end of March.   And the list goes on with the spread of this epidemic.

So what do we do and how do we face this?  First of all, we keep the faucet on.  As John Wesley implored in the first of his Three Simple Rules, WE DO NO HARM!  So we definitely wash our hands with soap and water, use gloves and wipes or hand sanitizers; we keep our space by cancelling large gatherings and keeping some personal distance when with other people, and in this awful allergy season we continue to use tissues and  safely dispose of them when we cough, sneeze, or blow our nose.   And  if we are in frail health, we isolate or quarantine as necessary.    We make and uphold decisions that will prevent the spreading of COVID-19.

DO GOOD, is our 2nd simple rule.  I had been to Bath and Beauty to get hand sanitizer, especially for my husband, who works with the 100 most critically mentally ill in our area and he is still being monitored for pneumonia contracted last fall.  They had sold out.  I listened to the cashier as she shared her frustration of not having any to sell and shared with her why I needed to get more.  She told me to come back the next day when the shipment should be in.  I got there a little later and she sadly told me they sold out as they unpacked.  But she had managed to get one for herself, which she GAVE to me, not sold or gouged, but freely GAVE to me for my husband.  We can all be kind and Do Good during this time by how we treat each other and try to keep in touch with those who can’t get out and about.

The last of Wesley’s Three Simple Rules is to STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.   We keep the faucet open and flowing with our dispositions of Hope in Christ vs despair; with our actions and thoughts of Lovingkindness vs greed, fear, and rage;  as well as with  our abiding Faith that we are not alone: God is with us.   We share a sense of the loving presence of God that calms and enfolds us the way the Samaritan woman at the well did when she experienced the living waters of God’s love in Christ through the Holy Spirit and shared that experience and love with her village.  Where she had been isolated and somewhat untouchable, she became a vessel of God’s love.  She and the village feasted on the words and teachings of Jesus as they stayed in love with God.   We stay in love with God when we pray, open ourselves up to Scripture, and  keep the faucet open to allow the living waters of grace to flow in our openness to trust and obey God daily.

I close with one of the most important verses in the Bible:  “This too, shall pass.”  I am reminded of a comic, but true comeback: “Thank goodness it hasn’t come to stay!”    COVID-19 and all of the other barrages and obstacles of this life shall indeed pass.  But God, and therefore God’s love which is for everyone, which the Samaritan woman at the well learned,  is with us forever.  So keep the faucet on.   Amen.


The Rev. Pam Stewart, MDiv

Tomoka UMC   03/15/2020