It was the water flowing from an ordinary pump that became for 6 year-old Helen Keller the living water of communication.
Conversations at the water cooler in the office or workplace are common. Such conversations have probably replaced those at the well or at the village pump of a previous era. But what is the nature of such daily conversations? Do they overflow with living water or otherwise?
A conversation at the well was normal. However, this conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria was not the everyday chat and gossip. This conversation was life-giving. As we look at those who had any part in this drama, this life-giving conversation had wide implications.
Jesus spoke to a woman. He initiated the conversation. Before he even mentioned it, he was offering living water. Having disregarded the social and religious taboos, he is depicted in this story as entering into a serious theological conversation with the woman. Here is the living water of respect for the intelligence, dignity, and equality of the woman.
There is a sharing of concepts as he helps her to unburden her life, and she helps him move to a new place in his own identity. Thus we see the living water of mutuality and collaboration.
The disciples, on their return, were quite taken by surprise. While the scene was strange and not quite right to them, it was actually creating a new and possibly disturbing perspective for them. They were being offered the living water of open-mindedness, and some new insights regarding the role of women and those of other faiths in the basic understanding and mission of Jesus. Here was flowing the living water of inclusivity.
In rural life the place of the well is extremely important. It is fed from the underground spring. A weak spring will be a weak source of water and likely to dry up in the summer time. The water diviner looks for the strong spring that will not be threatened by the summer drought, and will thus provide an ongoing supply of water year round.
Jesus understood the spring and the well relationship as he used this image. The living water he offers is not just for the individual’s own use. No, it becomes a spring that wells up to fullness of life. The story leads us to understand that the woman of Samaria received this living water. It became a spring in her that welled up to provide life-giving water for others too. It gushed out from her as a river, as we see her rush to her village exploding with news of Jesus and sharing the living water with others. Here, in the woman of Samaria, we have the living water of witness, the living water of preaching the gospel with joy.
And was she effective! They poured out of the town to hear for themselves, and receive the water first hand.
What do our conversations with others create? Let us pray that it is the lifegiving water that wells up in us from the underground spring and gushes out and overflows in and through their lives.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP