Jesus thirsts. Jesus is not alone in thirsting. The thirst of all creatures, the thirst of God’s people, his thirst. Jesus reminds of our thirst. Jesus thirsts, and so lets our thirst lead us to God.
All creatures thirst. You know, I was walking my dog yesterday, we go for a long walk on Saturday morning after we’ve eaten our oatmeal and kibble, and mr. dog has licked out the cooled oatmeal pot. In the summer we always bring a little collapsible bowl and a bottle of water. It’s cool but not cold, as I understand letting an overheated dog or horse drink too much too cold water can be dangerous. We stop in the shade, and we pour him a drink. We don’t even have to strike a rock or anything like that. We might open a spigot in the cemetery. Well, that’s the summer, when it is warm and there is no water standing or flowing where we walk. It is a dry season. In the winter, we don’t carry water. The dog doesn’t get thirsty as much, and if he does, there is usually a puddle somewhere out in this area west of the cascades. He seems to actually prefer puddle water! He’s no different than we humans who prefer tea and coffee and all manner of flavored water. We ask him “why do you want to drink that water from the parking lot”? He’s thirsty. So, we try to find him some cleaner water, or use our own hands to open a spigot. He is thirsty, like all creatures are thirsty. Have you ever seen a thirsty horse drink water? Or a bird sip water from a stream on a hot day? And think of human beings around the world who need water. Clean, accessible water, safe and working pipes, publically-owned water infrastructure, access to water-what a gift.
The Israelites, God’s people liberated from Egypt, also thirst. They thirst as they travel by stages, setting up camp and taking it down as a whole body, through the wilderness. You might imagine that as people who had perhaps lived more urban lives in the Nile delta, they were not particularly acquainted with how to live in the dry wilderness of the northern Sinai Peninsula, like nomadic herders and hunters and traders would have. They might not have known so well where to find water. Even as the people complain, grumble, whine, and Moses turns to God in lonely desperation, God gives Moses’ guidance-walk before the sight of the elders, take the staff with which you struck the Nile and turned it to blood, take it in your hand, and strike the rock. Give them a drink. They will know God there.
As we journey and wander, and lose our way and find better paths, as individuals, and as communities like congregations, we come into times when we thirst. That may not mean something is wrong. It may mean something is right. Can we tolerate the sense of need, of lack, of thirst enough to feel, discover God kicking in the thirst? The ancient theologian Origen of Alexandria wrote about the stages of the Israelite journey as a kind of spiritual map of our journey with God. A map, like the labyrinth out back. Along the way are dry and thirsty places. Liberation is just the beginning, we have learning, and simplifying and letting go to undergo. We have old ways of satisfying our thirst to lose, so that feeling our thirst anew, we can discover God in our thirst as we walk with God.
And Jesus lets us know that God is to be discovered in thirst. Jesus, the image of the invisible God, in whose face we have seen God revealed in all manner of wilderness and rural and urban journeys. Jesus thirsts. He thirsts on the cross. He drank and ate with friends, strangers, hostiles, outcasts, sinners. He thirsted on a day like other days and asked a woman different than his people for a drink. It’s rather a big ask, given the work she had to haul water from this ancestral well, and Jesus plucky or naïve or just plain thirsty and humble enough to ask. Jesus thirsts. The Samaritan woman, remembered in eastern Orthodox tradition by the name of Photine, ‘luminous one’, thirsted. Jesus offers her a drink, a drink from the well he says would satisfy her thirst. What does she thirst for?
What do you thirst for? Maybe this Lenten season can be a time when you simply acknowledge, accept, that you thirst. You, like all creatures, like God’s people, like Jesus, thirst. And in receiving your thirst, re-discover your need for God as you journey each day, and God’s compassion and presence for you in your thirsting.