March 15, 2020, What Are You Thirsty For? by Pastor David Tatgenhorst
What are you Thirsty For? St. Luke
Thirsty. We all know what it’s like to be thirsty. And when we’re thirsty, we go get a glass of water or a bottle these days (I prefer a glass). In Jerusalem and in Tucson Arizona I felt a different kind of thirst. Jerusalem is a very high place and the sun sometimes feels like its right next to you, and you can feel dry and you can get really thirsty. Tucson Arizona is a different order again. Arizonans always brag about their dry heat. It’s like a sauna. It can be a hundred ten degrees and you don’t get as miserable as you get here in Philly where it is humid. That’s good and bad.
It doesn’t feel as miserable, but… In that desert heat, you have to be really careful. The dry air sucks the water right out of your body and you’re not always aware of how thirsty you are. A person can get dehydrated really quickly. Around the Grand Canyon signs are posted that say, “Drink, You are thirsty whether you know it or not.” If you were here in the sanctuary, I would have pictures on the screens of a guy crawling through the desert, maybe imagining an oasis with water to save him from the empty canteen in his hand.
One time I hitchhiked through the Negev desert south of Israel, before that land was transferred to Egypt. I did not realize how dangerous that was, how easy it is to not realize how thirsty you get in the desert. But when you realize it, you start to realize why people were so mad at Moses for leading them out into the desert, where they could die of thirst.
Jesus and the disciples lived in that kind of country where a person can get really dry and thirsty. The story that Terri, Sam and Joanne read for us would have been easy for his hearers to imagine, Jesus talking to someone in the desert about a thirst she had a hard time recognizing. The fact that he was talking to a woman, a Samaritan no less, was scandalous and shocking in itself and shows Jesus modeling a way of reaching beyond normal boundaries. The important point for our purposes today is that the disciples recognized the thirst the two of them were talking about. Water was essential to their lives, and to our lives as well. They could identify with the Samaritan woman wanting to get out of the difficult walk to the well to lug water home, and they would be amused by her literalness, not getting the point that Jesus was trying to make about a thirst for living water, a desire for water that satisfies a thirst that is drier than death, a hope for a living water that is sweeter than a canteen of water in a dry desert.
The crisis we are facing right now around the coronavirus has a lot of hiddenness to it. We as a society are resistant to taking drastic action like closing the schools and churches and sports gatherings unless we can see the sickness. But once coronavirus is visible, it has already spread dramatically and will cause a lot more sickness and deaths. We are not taking enough action unless we really keep social distance from each other. No going to Starbucks, no going to bars, a limit to all social activity. Stay home and don’t get sick. Don’t let the virus spread. Montgomery County was singled out because we know of some cases here, and once it is visible that means there are a lot more cases that, because we don’t have testing, we will find out about in a week or so.
As we deal with our fears during these days of the virus crisis, most of us, whether we know it or not, are experiencing a thirst that is deeper than just a thirst to stay well. We are experiencing a recognition of a thirst for the well-being of our whole community, for the well-being of the children who are going to have trouble eating if they are not in school, for well-being of the elderly who are most at risk, sometimes quarantined and able to see even members of their family, for the well-being of caregivers who may be overwhelmed by the need of supplies that are not readily available.
(By the way, I would invite us to be wary of trying to find people to blame for the crisis right now. Don’t waste time on that. This is a crisis for all of us, and we all need to work together and solve it. It doesn’t help much to stand back and say what somebody else should have done, especially when the crisis is moving so fast.)
This crisis is a time for us to recognize our deep thirst for connection when it is threatened. As museums and theaters get shuttered, as the schools close down, and even the liquor stores shut their doors, we can take solace that Conversations will not be cancelled. Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled. Songs (from porch to porch) will not be cancelled. Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled. Hope will not be cancelled.
May we lean into the good stuff that remains. the stuff that can not and will not be cancelled.
A poem which is being shared a lot on line has meant a lot to me.
Pandemic by Rev. Lynn Ungar
What if you thought of it
as Jews consider the Sabbath
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing, Pray, Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart,
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives are in one another hands.
(Surely that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out with all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love —
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
as long as we all shall live.
Responsive hymn 2132 You Who Are Thirsty