I teach preaching at a theological seminary, and each year my colleagues and I assign this passage as a sermon text to a number of students. I’m accustomed to hearing sermons that berate the Israelites for their grumblings and lack of faith.
I remember one sermon that bucked this trend....
God, help me to have compassion for my thirst and the thirst of others, knowing that longing and thirst are not foreign to 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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