The first reading is part of the story of the journey of the people away from Egypt after their escape from slavery there. Moses, under God’s guidance, had helped them across the water with his God-given rod, and now they were literally wandering in the desert to which they were not used. The reading is about the people’s quarrelling with Moses and complaining about God leading them to this place of draught and desert, called Massah and Meribah (respectively meaning “testing” and “quarrelling”). The place names become almost symbolic in the Bible of this kind of situation. We notice the simplicity of the relationship between God and Moses, and the wonder of God’s action in our world of difficulty and disappointment. This is expressed through the experience of being in an inhospitable place – the desert, and short of the basic necessity for life – water. This imagery is quite fitting for the second and the gospel readings that follow.
The reading from the letter to the Romans is from the same section we read on the first Sunday of Lent, namely, a key part of his exposition of how he sees and expresses what Christianity is essentially about. He uses what amounts to technical terms like, faith and grace, peace and hope, ungodliness and glory, which can loose their meaning either because of their strangeness or because of over familiarity with them. He is saying that God has entered humanity as one of us in the person of Jesus Christ; a Christian tries to accept this and to live with this enhanced humanity – favoured by the life of God; and this brings the hope of sharing in the wonder of God’s life. Paul stresses the basis of this hope, using the image of water, stating that the vitality of God is poured into the very centre of our being. This transformation is made clear, he says, by the selflessness of Jesus’ life here on earth among us, lived entirely for others, even to the point of death; and this for people who were quite ungodly. This is clear proof of God’s love for us, to die for those who don’t deserve it!
This delightful story from John’s Gospel which we hear today, has so many interesting and attractive touches! Jesus is alone, as John tells us, just as he seemed to be with the learned Jew Nicodemus in the middle of the night. Here at midday He is with a lady, a lady from a mixed race disliked my decent Jews. He wants something from her: “Give me a drink.” (later she will be asking him). The conversation begins about water, but Jesus has in mind the true Spirit of life. Her way of addressing him develops, from ‘sir’, through ‘prophet’ to, possibly, ‘Messiah.’ The discussion develops into the best place to worship because of differences between Samaritans and Jews; true worship will soon be a matter of Spirit and Truth Jesus says. She has been honest about her past (the five men in her life at different times) and Jesus refers to himself honestly too with the divine name “I am.” She leaves, leaving her jar, when the disciples return. They can’t grasp what is going on. But she returns with the villagers whom she has told of her experience, and they persuade him to stay two days and they all come to recognise him as the Saviour of the world – John means that to be the whole world, all people, of any or no faith, both good and bad. What a revelation, what a story! What good news for us
See Jeffs Jottings – Unity for all.