A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” ~ John 4:7
Two weeks ago, our faith community went down to the Mancos River to pray and to baptize Lyla Page Reick, a three-and-a-half-year-old bundle of joy. It was a cold, overcast morning but the clouds disappeared within the rising sun just in time for the baptism, but we still wore our coats and jackets to buffer us from the crisp fall air.
A mere trickle of water moved gently down the river which was roaring during the spring runoff and spilling over the banks in spots. Don’t we find strength in the quiet fall river as well as the powerful river of spring?
As we gathered on a bank overlooking a small shallow pool, I could not help but think of the vast river system that the Mancos River belongs to. Our river flows for around eighty-five miles until it joins the San Juan River near the Four Corners Monument. The river connects us to Ute and Navajo land and the people, if only we would remember. We drink from the same river which gives us life and hope.
The San Juan flows for three-hundred and eighty-three miles through the deserts of Northern New Mexico and Southeast Utah. The desert is a lonely place and a place where we often encounter our Creator and divine truth. Alan Jones writes in Soul Making, “The desert of the spirit is a place of silence, waiting, and temptation. It is also a place of revelation, conversion, and transformation.” It is comforting to know that water from the Mancos River runs through the deserts of the land and our spirits.
The river of life running through our little town continues to grow when it joins the Colorado River at Glen Canyon. The mighty Colorado flows one-thousand-four-hundred and fifty miles through several western states, and it is the man-made border between the United States and Mexico for around seventeen miles.
Are there any barriers or restrictions to the flow of God’s love and grace? Does Easter love overflow one bank and not the other? Does Grace flood our lives wherever we may live? From God’s fullness do we all receive grace upon grace (see John 1:16)?
Little Lyla arrived in a bright, white baptismal dress with her parents and brother in tow. I called everyone together and we prayed and sang “As I went down to the river to prayer, studying about the good old way, and who shall wear the robe and crown, good Lord show me the way.”
What is the way of Christ? What is the way of Living Water?
With the Mighty Mancos River calmly flowing by us at Lyla’s baptism, I quoted an excerpt from The NRSV Children’s Bible, “Without water, no living thing could exist. We drink water to live. We use water to clean things and clean ourselves. And we baptize with water. The water in baptism reminds us that we are made new in our lives with God. Baptism is a sign that God is with us.”
As I spoke, I wondered what Lyla would remember about this day. She walked away from the safety of her parents and stood beneath me, just a tad taller than my knee cap. I thought she might run when she realized where she was, but instead Lyla wrapped her arms around my knee and held me. Her vulnerability and trust opened my heart. “Who is showing who the way of Grace?” I thought to myself.
Lyla, like many young children, intuitively understands love, kindness, and compassion.
Richard Rohr writes, “In scripture we read about Jesus encouraging a Samaritan woman to draw water from the public well and serve it to him (John 4:7). At this ancient well the expected roles are reversed.” Jesus, Rohr says, invites the woman to receive the water and to be a “source” and giver of the gift of living water as well.
Even though I was officiating at Lyla’s baptism and pouring holy water over her head, she was blessing us as well with the gift of living water flowing forth from her heart (see John 7:38). In a reversal of roles, Lyla, like many children, reminds us that a river of life flows out of us and unites us as one.
Be like children Jesus tell us. Love unconditionally and risk the vulnerability of loving kindness.
May we marvel at the Mancos River and remember its journey through time and space and may we remember God’s living water flowing eternally from our hearts. Amen.
Blessings and peace,