Sermon Title: “Do you need a bucket?”
John 4: 11
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
In so many words, she said that she didn’t have a bucket. Did that matter to Jesus? No, because he didn’t come to the well to draw water, he came to take away our thirst.
When I reread this story recently, it struck me that if I was in that story I would have asked her if I could borrow her bucket and I would have missed the point. Jesus knew exactly his mission and he had no need for a bucket – but instead focused on who he was/is.
We are so distracted by who we are not, or who the world wants us to be that we need this “bucket the woman offered Jesus.” What he was trying to teach the woman at the well was who she was and to whom she belonged – truly belonged.
Certainly this “bucket” serves as metaphor for all that we strive to be or feel we need to be – detours in life we go down because we choose the wrong road for a variety of reasons – buckets to fill full of ordinary water of life striving for the happiness that the world gives, not the joy from the Father made possible because of Jesus Christ.
As we celebrate our history this weekend, this great country that God has give us and whose freedom has been won on the backs of many who gave up their lives the metaphor applies to us as well. We as well are striving after buckets to drink richly of worldly water that is leading to the ruin of our founding values and a foundation that once stood firmly on “In God we Trust.”
A recent example builds upon many other instances such as prayer being banned from schools, Christmas trees from public property, and the ten commandments from courtrooms. In Ohio, a 1997 court challenged the appropriateness of the State’s motto “With God, all things are possible. Fortunately, the 6th Circuit maintained its appropriateness, and any further attempts to remove or change it has failed. More recent public outrage led to a public apology by NBC when it decided mistakenly to drop the words “under God” form the “Pledge of Allegiance” when airing a commercial featuring the US Golf Open. We are a country using a bucket to drink from the wrong water – a country no longer comfortable in its “own skin.”
Jesus could see what was happening to the woman at the well and he had no interest in the bucket she offered and I fear neither would he approve of out buckets overflowing with worldly water.
In Mitch Albom’s book “Have a Little Faith” a story about a Jewish congregant who is asked by the aging Rabi “Will you do my eulogy” refers to one of the Rabi’s sermon including an illustration entitled, “He sleeps in a storm.” The farms’ owner is desperate for help, so he hires a man. Several weeks pass, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley. Awakened by the swirling rain and howling wind, the owner leaps out of bed. He calls for his new hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly. So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of food. He runs out to the field. He sees that the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped with tarpaulins. He races to the silo. The doors are latched, and the grain is dry. And then he understands. “He sleeps in a storm.”
The rabbi continues in his sermon lesson: “My friends, if we tend to the things that are important in life – living water, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere. Our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of I could have, I should have. We will be able to ‘sleep in a storm.’ And when it’s time, our good-byes will be complete.” When the biblical thief comes in the middle of the night, we are ready.
The rabbi would describe our lives and society: “Happiness in a tablet. This is our world. Prozac and Xanax, etc. Billions are spent to advertise such drugs. And billions more are spent purchasing them. You don’t even need a specific trauma; just “general depression” or “anxiety,” as if sadness were as treatable as the common cold.
The rabbi was referring to the woman at the well – who indeed had five husbands – and while holding her worldly bucket soon to be filled with the water of life without God that would never satisfy – would also be referring to all of us who have not yet claimed ownership of the King of Kings and Lord and Lords – the “whose we are” – the living water – so that we could really know the “who” we are.
You see that are striving after worldly idenity and a happiness that underlies the fundamental problem that a pill can’t change, money can’t change, fame can’t change, worldly possessions can’t change, and in today’s setting – politics can’t change. It is like looking for self-worth in a mirror. Until we know “whose we are” we layer work, sports, a long vacation, and even financial debt on a grand scale to catch up with the person we see on TV or read about in the newspaper or see driving by in a new SUV that we have longed envied and never really be satisfied with the “who we are.” We can never become completely comfortable “in our own skin.”
I have been there and done all that. There was a stretch in my life in corporate America when I couldn’t work enough hours and went days on end with little or no sleep to pile up accomplishments – money – accolades. But the harder and longer I worked, got promoted, lived the life of luxury, the emptier I felt.
Metaphorically, I would have asked that woman for her bucket and filled it with worldly water to satisfy my thirst; and there was no way that I ever ‘slept through a storm unless’ I was so tired that I was unconscious. I, like the analogy that Albom uses – my life, and I think it applies to our society today as well –was like a flat tire with a hole in it that no matter how much air you pump into it, it still goes flat. We have all observed marriages that have failed when they had all the world could offer – families who couldn’t get along despite all the money and health. It is a picture of our country almost broke, at war, and facing social issues that do not have good solutions – and a mainstream that seems more focused on taking God out of schools, courtrooms, and most other public places. What kind of water are we drinking?
Jesus didn’t need a bucket, why? Because what he had to offer didn’t need a bucket – only an open mind and heart to receive the “living water” – water that is a metaphor for what transforms lives, forgives sins, and offers joy vs. happiness that turns to hope of something more than that derived from what worldly water can give. Albom asked the rabbi to put this living water into words that we can all understand in this life – to which the rabbi replied “being satisfied” with what we have and being grateful for what God has given us. The rabbi confessed that being satisfied means life is more than price tags and that it is more about simple pleasures, relationships, and memories. The verse on his lips was “What profits a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?
You see, Jesus offered the woman the opportunity to become “comfortable in her own skin” – a new life in Christ, and thereafter not be influenced by what the world had to offer. Similarly, our Country has an opportunity to return to its roots of godliness and once again be shaped my its own national motto “In God we Trust.” A life and society that needs no bucket because we all have chosen to drink the living water that woman at the well thereafter chose to drink.
The choice is ours? Do you need a bucket?
Book: “Have a Little Faith” Mitch Albom