March 2, 2014: When You’re Parched (Spiritually Dry)

Posted on : Feb 27th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

By and large, plants to do not do well in churches.  Ours is no exception.  We have had countless beautiful live plants left here from various services and celebrations, but inevitably they die – due to neglect.  When we had our “Welcome into the UCC [United Church of Christ] celebration in June of 2012, one of our neighboring UCC churches, Woodland Hills, gave us a beautiful, large, “peace lily” plant.  Wonder of wonders, it is still alive almost two years later!

However, to be 100% honest, it is nothing short of a miracle that it is still alive.  There are many times we have seen its leaves limp, wilted, and withered.  That’s not a great image for a progressive, “Peace and Justice” Church.  But it’s reality.

The problem is Laurie and I, who are here most regularly during the week, are always busy doing all the things that are needed to keep our ministry going.  One of my favorite sayings is, “11 am Sunday morning comes around every week whether we’re ready or not.”  And there are a million more urgent things to do.  We are just too busy.

That is the reality of our lives these days, isn’t it?   It is getting more so, not less.  We are all over worked, over scheduled, over committed and pushed to the max.  Where our heads were once up, they are now downward looking almost all the time.  One never knows when the next tweet, Instagram, app chat or email might appear.  And only God knows how important it is to “like,” re-tweet or text an instantaneous response.  We are a fast moving society and the “pace of life” is only getting faster.

It’s not surprising then, that the number one personal issue I hear from people is that they are overwhelmed and spiritually “dry.”  “Parched” is an even more descriptive word.  We become like that poor “peace lily” plant: limp, wilted and then withering.

Quinn Caldwell, one of our UCC spirituality writers, wrote these words:  “I think most of the dry wastelands in which we find ourselves are of our own creation.”

I think he’s right.

All of us go through periods of being spiritual “dry” but how often is it because we haven’t taken the time to care for ourselves?  Plants and people all need to be watered.  The only reason the peace lily hasn’t died is because someone stops and takes the time to water it.  In reality, it only takes about 2-3 minutes, but watering makes all the difference between life and death for our dear plant.

The same thing is true for our spiritual lives.  The wonderful story of the woman at the well, which is the gospel story we will explore this Sunday, is a great story about a woman who is overworked and underappreciated.  (Actually, she’s rejected by the other women in her community.  She is marginalized and spiritually parched.)  She meets Jesus at the community well where all the woman went daily to draw water for their household.  The woman in this story (sorry, she’s not named!) is just pushing herself to the max to do what she has to do to survive in a time and place in her life where she does not feel loved, valued or worth anything.  Jesus says to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give them will never be thirsty; no, the water I give will become fountains within them, springing up to provide eternal life.”

And the woman responds, “Give me this water!”

How many times do we feel like that woman, yelling, “Give me that water!”?

This Sunday we will focus on quenching our spiritual thirst when we are spiritually dry and parched.



~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Isaiah 35: 1-10

Isaiah, the prophet, tells of a new day that is coming where the dry desert of our lives shall burst forth in blossom and joy.

The Return of the Redeemed to Zion

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon and the majesty of Carmel and Sharon

shall be bestowed upon it.
They shall see the glory and majesty of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands,

Steady all trembling knees.

Say to all those of faint heart: “Take courage!  Do not be afraid!”

Look, God is coming, vindication is coming,

The recompense of God is coming –

God is coming to save you!

Then shall blind eyes see,
and deaf ears will hear;
then those who cannot walk shall run and leap like a deer,
and silenced tongues will sing for joy.
Waters will break forth in the wilderness,
and there will be streams in the desert;
the dry sand shall become a pool,
and the parched earth shall become like springs of water;
the desolate place where jackals used to dwell shall become a swamp filled with thickets and reeds.

And through it will run a highway, a road called the Sacred Path.

The unclean may not travel by it,

But it will be for God’s people alone;

And no traveler – not even fools – will get lost or go astray.

No lions will be there, nor will any fierce beasts roam about it, but the redeemed will walk there – those whom God has ransomed will return.

They shall enter Zion shouting for Joy, with everlasting Joy on their faces;

Joy and gladness will go with them, and sorrow and lament will flee away.


John 4: 7-30

Jesus offers a woman seeking drinking water, “living water.”

Jesus stopped at Sychar, a town in Samaria, near the tract of land Jacob had given to his son Joseph, and Jacob’s Well was there.  Jesus, weary from the journey, came and sat by the well.  It was around noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The disciples had gone off to the town to buy provisions.

The Samaritan woman replied, “You’re a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” — since Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans.

Jesus answered, “If only you recognized God’s gift, and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink instead, and he would have given you living water.”

“If you please,” she challenged Jesus, “you don’t have a bucket and this well is deep. Where do you expect to get this ‘living water’? Surely you don’t pretend to be greater than our ancestors Leah and Rachel and Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it with their descendants and flocks?”

Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give them will never be thirsty; no, the water I give will become fountains within them, springing up to provide eternal life.”

The woman said to Jesus, “Give me this water so that I won’t grow thirsty and have to keep coming all the way here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband and then come back here.”

“I don’t have a husband,” replied the woman.

“You’re right — you don’t have a husband!” Jesus exclaimed. “The fact is, you’ve had five, and the man you‘re living with now is not your husband. So what you’ve said is quite true.”

“I can see that you’re a prophet,” answered the woman. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people claim that Jerusalem is the place where God ought to be worshiped.”

Jesus told her, “Believe me, the hour is coming when you’ll worship God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you don’t understand; we worship what we do understand – after all, salvation is from the Jewish people. Yet the hour is coming — and is already here — when real worshipers will worship God in Spirit and truth. Indeed, it is just such worshipers whom God seeks. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said to Jesus, “I know that the Messiah – the Anointed One — is coming, and will tell us everything.”

Jesus replied, “I who speak to you am the Messiah.”

The disciples, returning at this point, were shocked to find Jesus having a private conversation with a woman. But no one dared to ask, “What do you want of him?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

The woman then left her water jar and went off into the town. She said to the people, “Come and see someone who told me everything I have ever done! Could this be the Messiah?” At that, everyone set out from town to meet Jesus.

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