As I read the Old Testament scripture for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, I was distracted by the image of Moses striking the rock with his staff in faith and water pouring forth to satisfy the Hebrews thirst. Going on then to read the psalm (psalm 95), in verse 1, the psalmist tells us to 'heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation'. The Gospel reading from John then gives us the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well where he tells her that anyone who drinks of the water he gives will never thirst again.
Now I frequently thirst for a cup of tea or coffee or perhaps on the odd occasion a good beer, when in actual fact all I need is water and I know that my thirst always returns. So what can Jesus mean? the water he provides will quench our thirst for ever? I wondered as I pondered and prayed about the readings if thirst is an alternate way of Jesus saying 'desire'? Desires are what drive us on and take us down certain paths to achieve our desires. Jesus could just as easily have used hunger but the encounter with the woman was at a well and he was physically thirsty in the heat of the day. He uses the reality of his situation, an honest desire to quench his physical thirst, to gently challenge the woman about her desires and through his encounter with her he helps her shift path to desire God and to help others find that path of desire too. What our readings spell out for us is that when we desire God, our search is in the right direction which helps us quench our desire for material things. It seems improbable that water will come from a rock yet this is the exact metaphor used by the psalmist that God is 'the rock of our salvation'. From that rock living water springs forth to quench our thirst and desire for anything else we need. This Lent, let our thirsts for other than God be quenched through us travelling the path in the direction of God.