Lent 3



Thirsty Israelites we supplied with water from the rock in the desert. Jesus in St John's Gospel promises a gift more life giving than water to the spiritually lost Samaritan woman he met at the well. St Paul speaks of this as reconciliation with God through his sacrifical death in his letter to the Romans. What a long spiritual journey there is between seeing God as a convenient source of water in the desert and ally in defeating opposing armies, and knowing God as the source of living water, “welling up into eternal life”.  For living water, read “grace”, the source of strength and renewal from prayer and sacrament freely available to all believers as we build our spiritual life.  Have we made the journey to understand not just with our minds but with our hearts this idea of living water?

Collect for the day:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, now and for ever.

A reading from the book Exodus (Exod 17:1-7)

1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?’ 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD,‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ 5 The LORD said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah,

because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’ 

This is the Word of the Lord

All :  Thanks be to God


A reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 5:1-11)  (Optional)


Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (Jn 4:5-42)

All Glory be to thee, O Lord /or Glory to Christ our Saviour

5 Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her,‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ 11 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 13 Jesus said to her,‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 15 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 17 The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ 19 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ 21 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ 25 The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ).‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ 26 Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’ 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28 Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ 30 They left the city and were on their way to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him,‘Rabbi, eat something.’ 32 But he said to them,‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ 33 So the disciples said to one another,‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ 34 Jesus said to them,‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’ 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony,‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman,‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’ 

This is the Gospel of the Lord

All: Praise be to thee O Christ /or Praise to Christ our Lord

Post Communion Collect:

Merciful Lord, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 




It’s the first time any of us have been in a situation like this. What has God to say to us?

Well, well, well ! That’s my entire sermon outline for today.

This is the first time in eight years of locum ministry away from my home diocese that a Chaplaincy house has its own artesian well water supply. Well water has arisen in conversation several times, its variable qualities across the island, the supply of clean filtered quality drinking water you can buy at the Repsol garage nearby. In urban mission and ministry, a good clean water supply is taken for granted, until a water rates bill comes.

Having a well here is a reminder of how life used to be in many places in times past, and still is for millions denied access to clean water in poorer countries. You can imagine that in places where development aid builds rainwater collection tanks or digs boreholes, the story of how a village came to have its own water will be remembered hereafter, embedded perhaps in the name given to their own well.

Twenty years ago I visited the place in the Jordan Valley where the water table is hundreds of metres beneath the plain, but where fresh water seeps from rock strata in the cliffside below, allowing vegetation to grow. If you hit the cliff surface, water seeps out which can be collected and drunk. There’s a sanctuary here called A’in Mussa - the well of Moses, where today’s Old Testament story is recalled by Christians, Muslims and Jews.

The children of Israel were getting desperate and resentful. Moses was guided by God to open his eyes to the terrain and understand how water could be found in an arid place. ‘In the wilderness, God provides’, not only food but water. It’s a reminder of how dependent we always are on the Creator of everything for our health, our well-being, our survival.

We have places like this in my native Wales, where our spiritual ancestors set up mission stations on trade routes with wells or springs nearby. They prayed, welcomed people and practiced healing there, so you find for example Ffynnon Dewi Sant, Fynnon Gwenffrwd, Fynnon Teilo, at opposite ends of the Principality, and others. Fynnon is Welsh for Well.

Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Remember Jacob’s story? He was on the run from his angry cheated brother Esau. He flees to the east, where his family roots are. He meets Rachel at this well, helps to water her flocks, falls in love with her.

Think of this as a place associated with an epic romance. A well with yet another story.

Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. She’s not drawing water with the other women, and it’s not surprising. Samaria, her homeland is far to the north and west of where she is now. She’s a stranger in a strange land, her distinctive dress gives her away.

She’s shunned for being a foreigner, also despised maybe because of her poor reputation for keeping husbands. She’s a woman rejected and lonely.

Jesus’s disciples are surprised to see him chatting with her. They aren’t party to the same conversation we are. Jesus breaks the religious non-socialisation taboos of the day, not just talking with her, but asking her to give him a drink. She’s surprised too. And even more so, by what he says to her next.

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that’s asking you.” He says. In other words, do you have any idea of who I am, offering you living water? Something even fresher than well water? He seems to be talking in riddles doesn’t he? Until he mentions eternal life. Living life giving water is an image which crops up in Paradise in Genesis, in the Psalms, and in Ezekiel, where it’s a symbol of spiritual renewal. In other words, it’s something that will do more than quench your thirst. It will revive you everlastingly.

The woman has given up on marriage after five failures, but still lives with another man. She might be better off on her own, but spiritually speaking she’s empty, in need of spiritual renewal, a new start. It’s something only God can give her, through worship in Spirit and in truth. She doesn’t think it’s impossible, but the Messiah must first come to show them the truth, to make plain God’s plan and how it is to be achieved.

Then Jesus comes clean. It’s me. I’m the one. In effect what you most need can start here. You can receive the Spirit. Just trust me. No elaborate teaching programme or ritual is  needed. She can start now. We can too. Any person who is non-religious, or who feels that religion has failed them, rejected them can start right here and now - ‘Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief’ Its never too late. That’s why Jesus is Good News, here and now. But isn’t it funny how hard we find it to take God at his word, and trust Him totally?

The days ahead of us are going to be difficult. However well prepared we are practically for a spell of quarantine, are we prepared for solitude? Extra silence, and the occasional voice on the end of the phone if we’re living alone? It’s a different kind of retreat, with so little togetherness. A time in the wilderness, facing all our own fears and temptations. We can’t imagine, only enter this experience with trust that God is in charge, and wants us to learn, to grow, and better appreciate and give thanks for all that we take for granted.