I will never forget the first time I saw a waterfall in person. When I was a child I had seen the picture of Looking Glass Falls in my mother’s old photo album. There was something about it—I always wanted to see that picture when she got out her album. Small square black and white photo, my mother and her sister standing primly beside a big stone wall, and the waterfall behind. It looked so powerful, so wild and untamed, especially in contrast to the freshly pressed and perfect little girls in the foreground. In my early twenties I went on a waterfall photography trip in Transylvania County and the first one I had to see was Looking Glass. It was even more powerful, more untamed and wild, even more beautiful than I had imagined it would be. Slick and shiny rocks all around. Fine mist in the air. Everything green and growing in the area seemed to be radiant with life. The smell like rain. And thunder thunder thunder as the falls fell and fell without end. I could feel it as well as hear it. I climbed down to the water level a bit below the falls and was so amazed at the calmness of the water there. Slow moving pools of cool water and slick brown rocks beneath the almost unbelievably clear surface. Since that time, I have experienced many waterfalls, some more powerful, some possibly more beautiful, but Looking Glass Falls has always been “the” waterfall for me.
When Jesus speaks of water gushing up to eternal life, this is the image in my mind.
That is just what Jesus is talking about today in our Gospel lesson. However, the setting here is far from the cool North Carolina Appalachians.
It was hot that day. So very hot. The sun was high in the sky when she went to the well that day. She knew no self respecting woman goes to the well at noon. Why would they? It’s so hot and if you didn’t HAVE to go then you certainly wouldn’t. All the other women of the town went early in the day, or later in the evening when it was cool. And that is precisely why she went at the hottest time. She didn’t want to be with the other women. Well really they didn’t want to be around her. Their sneers and gossip were just more than she could take. She went to the well at the hottest part of the day because she wasn’t a self-respecting woman. She wasn’t respected at all by much of anyone.
When she arrived at the well, she was surprised to see a man sitting there. Quite unusual. By this time of day she normally had the area to herself. For just a moment she thought about leaving and coming back later. But she decided to go ahead and get her water. Maybe, if she was lucky, he will just ignore her…..