The Chinese have a wonderful story about a stonecutter who worked everyday, cutting stones from a mountain. Each day he would rise early and go to the mountain and begin his work cutting stones. Each evening, as the sun went down, he would drag himself to his poor and humble home, eat his meager meal, and go to sleep, exhausted, until the next morning, when he would rise again to go up on the mountain to cut stones.
So sad was he, at his miserable plight, that he cried out loud, “If only I were rich and powerful! I would not be so miserable.” Well, the spirit of the mountain heard his cry, and took pity on the poor stonecutter and granted his wish. Suddenly he found himself in a beautiful home, with a beautiful garden with beautiful flowers. Sitting in the garden gave the stonecutter such peace. Surely, he thought, I am the most powerful man in all the world.
But then the summer came and the sun beat down with fierce heat. And the beautiful flowers in his garden began to wilt under the rays of the relentless summer sun. “Ah,” he thought, as he saw his beautiful garden wilt away, “If only I were the sun; then I would truly be the most powerful thing in all the universe!” The spirit of the mountain, still being with him, heard his thoughts and granted his wish.
Suddenly, he found himself the sun, high above the world. He saw the animals go in search of shade, and even the rich and powerful run to their houses or open umbrellas to shield themselves from his pounding rays. He was happy and proud in his power and enjoyed giving warmth to all living things, until a cloud came and covered him. The people below found rest and comfort in shadows the cloud made. “If only I were a cloud,” he thought. For the cloud is clearly more powerful than the sun. If I were a cloud, even the sun would bow before me.”
Once again the spirit of the mountain took pity on him and he found himself a cloud, wafting gently over the earth. Finally, he was at peace in the quiet of the breeze. People rejoiced in the shade he gave them and in the rain that watered the fields. And so he was happy… until he came upon a mountain. In vain, he tried to go around the mountains, or over the mountains, but he found himself blocked by the wall of stone.
“Certainly the mountain is by far the most powerful thing in all the earth. The sun cannot beat it down and even the clouds cannot rise above it. If only I were a mountain, then I would truly be the most powerful thing in all the world and I would be happy.” So, once again, the spirit of the mountain heard his deepest desires and he found himself a mountain rising high above the village, high above the people below. And he was happy as the mountain. “Surely now I am the most powerful thing there is. I shall stand ten thousand years and nothing can move me.”
But then he felt something picking at his feet. As he stood tall and proud, he felt a relentless picking down below, at his very roots. Surprised at this annoyance he looked down to see the source of the irritating sensation. And there, far below, he saw a stonecutter, picking away at his stones.
And aren’t we all a little like that? In my sixty-two years I have found myself going from one thing to the other, trying to find something that would fill this hunger in the center of my chest. Something, I knew, was missing. And out there somewhere, was that something that would fill it. So many people are out there looking for that something. They try drugs. They try money. They try sex, or exercise, or food, or alcohol. Some people think work will fill that hole. Some folks think family will fill it. But all those things serve to do is to distract us from searching. And something tells us if we keep on looking, or keep on working, that emptiness will someday be filled. And in the end, after we have tried everything, that empty feeling is still there. I often think that is the reason for so many divorces. People look for other people to fill that void, but even after many years, the wanting never stops.
Jesus came to a town in Samaria, to the town of Sychar, which was once a plot of land given by the patriarch Jacob (aka Israel) to his son Joseph (of amazing Technicolor dreamcoat fame). It was hot, being midday, so he sat down by a well to rest. His buddies had gone off to a town to buy food. A woman came to the well in order to draw some water and Jesus asked her to give him a drink.
Now the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other and would have nothing to do with each other. So she said, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan for water?”
Jesus answered, “If you knew who was talking to you, you would ask me for a drink, and I would have given you living water.”
She looked at him and replied, “Look buddy, you don’t even have a bucket, and this well is deep. What makes you think you can give ME a drink of this living water?”
Jesus looked at her and said, “Everybody who drinks the water from this well will thirst again. Everybody who drinks the water I offer will never thirst again; the water I give that person will well up within and become a fountain of water gushing into eternal life.”
She said, “Sir, give me this water, so that I can drink it and never thirst, and so I won’t have to keep coming back to this well.”
Jesus said, “Go on home, and bring your husband back with you.”
“But I have no husband.”
“You have spoken well,” Jesus replied, “because you have had five husbands, and the guy you’re with now isn’t your husband, is he?”
“I can see that you are a prophet,” she said. “In years past, our ancestors worshipped on this mountain. But you Jews say we have to worship in the temple in Jerusalem.”
“The hour is coming, and is here even now,” answered Jesus, “when people will worship not on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth. God is spirit, and those that worship God must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John, Chapter Four)
This woman ends up calling all the people in the town to come and listen to him. So the whole town comes, which kind of throws Peter and the rest of the disciples for a loop seeing as how all these people were Samaritans and basically untouchables by Jewish thought. And in the end the people all say, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
We need to remember here, that especially in ancient times, water was life. And this place is a desert, remember. Water is an absolute necessity. And it didn’t come in convenient little plastic bottles either. So it is understandable that this woman by the well would be amazed by the idea that there was a water that could satisfy thirst forever. Once she saw that this poor, itinerant preacher was no ordinary guy, that he seemed to know everything about her, she understood what kind of water he was talking about.
Here was a woman who had been looking for that something to fill her emptiness. She had, in the past, five different husbands. And she was with a sixth man now. She had been looking for something and was still thirsty for something. Jesus as much tells her, you will always be thirsty, until you drink of this water, the water I offer. Only in this water, will you find that something you are missing. Only in this water, will you find wholeness.
And as always, it doesn’t matter if this story really happened this way or not. It may not be a true story, but it is still a story of truth. The understanding is that it is the spirit of God (or whatever you want to call God or think of as God) that satisfies us. All other attempts to fill that void are transitory. It is only that connection with the oneness that brings us peace of mind and contentment. Siddartha, the Buddha, understood that. All sorrow comes from wanting. We can only escape the sorrow of this life by letting go of those wants. We can only let go of those wants by having faith and allowing the power of love to rule our lives. That is the water that Jesus offers her…and us.
Jesus says that this love energy, this creative power, will satisfy our thirst forever, and will be a fountain of love within us flowing over everything around us. And this love energy is eternal. It never dies. It never fades. The understanding is that God is. This power is. We have no concept of power or of glory. We don’t begin to know what it means. We come close to touching glory when we look at the loving look between a mother and her child. There, we begin to get a glimpse of the power and glory that is God, or whatever you want to call that oneness.
Now Jesus, by all rights, should have gone completely around this town. There was no contact between Jews and Samaritans. He ought to have taken the six days to travel around the town. But, feeling no need to follow the traditions of his people, he took the shortcut straight through the town, cutting three days from his journey. And in so doing, he takes his message to others, showing his message was for all people, not the Jews only. Yet again, he points out that worship isn’t about where you pray. It doesn’t matter whether you pray on the mountain or in the temple. You worship God in spirit and in truth. Worship is an interesting word. It is an Old English contraction of “Worth-ship”. It is an expression of value.
How valuable is this spirit of creation in your life? That is what worship does. It shows the value you give that spirit in your life. And you show that value, that worth-ship, in spirit and in truth. In other words, you worship God by your very connection to God. And you make that connection to God, according to Jesus, by your love and service to others. We connect to God by loving one another. Jesus makes it clear. You are that fountain of living water that cleans and restores us. Do you share your water with those around you, or do you keep it in a jar, for yourself? You have no idea how powerful you are. You are the power and the glory. You are the arms and hands of God. So, like the stonecutter, you could never be more great and powerful than what you are. May that spirit of love continue to bless each one of you.