Biblical Reflection on Water Instructions

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					                                      Biblical Reflection on Water

        1. Select two people from your group to read the two versions of the Genesis reading.
        2. On the front side of “Water: a sacred gift for all” read the first reflection under
        3. Discuss question #1 on the back side of the page.
        4. Select two people from your group to read the two versions of the Gospel of John
        5. On the front side of “Water: a sacred gift for all” read the reflection under Today and
           the second reflection under Yesterday.
        6. Discuss question #2 on the back side of the page.

    Genesis 29:1-8 (NRSV)
      Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. 2As he looked, he saw a
well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying there beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The
stone on the well’s mouth was large, 3and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the
stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the
      Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” 5He said to
them, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?” They said, “We do.” 6He said to them, “Is it well with him?” “Yes,”
they replied, “and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep.” 7He said, “Look, it is still broad
daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” 8But they
said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well;
then we water the sheep.”

      Genesis 29:1-8 (MSG)
     Jacob set out again on his way to the people of the east. 2He noticed a well out in an open field with three
flocks of sheep bedded down around it. This was the common well from which the flocks were watered. The
stone over the mouth of the well was huge. 3When all the flocks were gathered, the shepherds would roll the
stone from the well and water the sheep; then they would return the stone, covering the well.
     Jacob said, “Hello friends. Where are you from?”
   They said, “We’re from Haran.”
     Jacob asked, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?”
   “We do.”
     “Are things well with him?” Jacob continued.
   “Very well,” they said. “And here is his daughter Rachel coming with the flock.”
     Jacob said, “There’s a lot of daylight still left; it isn’t time to round up the sheep yet, is it? So why not water
the flocks and go back to grazing?”
     “We can’t,” they said. “Not until all the shepherds get here. It takes all of us to roll the stone from the well.
Not until then can we water the flocks.”
John 4:1-15 (NRSV)
 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than
John” 2—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—3he left Judea and started back to
Galilee. 4But he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of
ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was
sitting by the well. It was about noon.
       A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone
to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a
woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you
knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he
would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep.
Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with
his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty
again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give
will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this
water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

John 4:1-15 (MSG)

     Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed 2(although
his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him
and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. 3So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.
     To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. 5He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the
field Jacob had given his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the
well. It was noon.
     A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” 8(His
disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
     The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a
drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
      Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and
I would give you fresh, living water.”
      The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you
going to get this ‘living water’? 12Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank
from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
      Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. 14Anyone who drinks the water
I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of
endless life.”
      The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this
well again!”
 Water: A sacred gift for all                                                                 Reflection 3

                                             the women face. There is an issue of
                                                                                         What does democracy have
The Old Testament tells us that
                                             sharing. When the herdsmen arrive to            to do with faith?
problems of access, management and
use of water were a reality for              water their animals, they empty the
Abraham and Sarah’s descendants.             well and deprive not only these women       Many people of faith, including
                                             but also the whole village of water, a      Christians, seek to defend the
Genesis 29:1-8 tells us of Jacob’s arrival   resource supposedly available to all
                                             human kind.                                 environment and ensure fair and
at a well in the midst of the desert
where there were three flocks of sheep                                                   democratic community access to
waiting to be watered. Jacob                 Today as in Biblical days, the need for
                                                                                         water for all. Water is more
suggested that the people from Haran         true community control over water
water their flock right away. But they       access is vital.                            than a national or local issue; it
replied, “We cannot until all the flocks
are gathered together, and the stone is      Yesterday                                   is part of the common heritage
                                                                                         of not only humanity but all
rolled away from the mouth of the            John 4:1-15 tells us the well-known
well.”                                       story in which Jesus meets a Samaritan      creation. Water is God’s sacred
                                             woman at “Jacob’s well”. He breaks          gift to all beings.
What was this all about? A huge stone        the social rules of his day by asking her
had been placed over the well, a stone       for a drink—a daring act for a Jewish
that could only be                           man addressing a woman of a different       Why are we concerned about
moved if all of the                          religious and cultural tradition. His act
shepherds helped                                                                         democratically-managed water
                                             is all the more shocking because the
out. Until all were                          woman is at the well alone in the heat      services? Privatization of water is
present, none was                            of midday, which tells us that she was      not an ethical response to a
able to draw                                 of such low social status that she was
water. It was an                             not permitted to draw water in the          growing crisis about water
ingenious device                             cool of the early morning with the help     access and pollution. This is not
for community                                of the rest of the women.
control that                                                                             a solution that respects the
ensured equal                                Discrimination blocked this woman’s         integrity of creation; nor does it
access and a fair                            access to water, and this remains an all
                                                                                         recognize water as a basic
sharing among all                            too-common situation today. Women,
the herds. This                              poor communities, and Indigenous            human right. It comes down to
passage in the Book of Genesis               people are among the world’s people         who is responsible for life. It is
illustrates how one group of people          who face an especially difficult struggle
were able to ensure that their well          for fair and equal access to drinking       everyone’s responsibility to
would not be exhausted by some to            water. Too often they are denied a          ensure that water is accessed,
the detriment of others.                     voice in how water is used, protected,
                                             and made accessible to all. The             managed and used
Today                                        Samaritan woman likely experienced          democratically.
                                             this on a daily basis.
The women in a desert area of
Senegal, Western Africa, also have           Yet, Jesus ignores her supposed
access to a well. Here again they must       inferiority, and goes a step further by
all go together, not only because the        freely offering the woman “living
older women count on the younger             water”. He does so while sitting next
women’s help to fill their containers        to a well that symbolized Israel’s
but because there is no pump. The            connections to her ancestors. As in the
well is so deep that at least three          days of those ancestors, access to a
women are needed to pull up the long         secure water source and the right to
rope that reaches the water. However,        use it when needed was crucial to
access is not the most difficult problem     survival in Jesus’ time.
With reflections and research by Renaude Grégoire, the staff person of the Réseau
œcuménique justice et paix, a Québec-based ecumenical partnership
that includes CCODP and KAIROS among its 40 members.

                                                        accessible and lasting solutions as an        meaning of good governance and
                                                        alternative to privatized water services.     water. These include:
                                                        Often run by women, these
                                                        committees were elected by the                 ◗ Participation in decision-making
                                                        community. In 2002, more than 150              ◗ Transparency
                                                        public fountains were installed. These         ◗ Flexibility
                                                        are now run by local, democratic               ◗ Consensus in reconciling
                  “For lack of water                    committees. More than 100,000                    interests that might compete
    democracy, we are denied                            individuals come to these water                  with each other
                                                        sources. Unfortunately, challenges             ◗ Equity, effectiveness and
                   a democratic life.”                  remain: this number represents only              efficiency to satisfy needs
   Indian activist and writer Vandana Shiva meeting     3% of the 3 million Dhaka citizens             ◗ The responsibilities of decision-
     with representatives of the local government of    who do not have access to clean                  makers and civil society
   Hardwar, India, asking them to stop damming the
                                        Ganges River.   water.                                           interveners
                                                                                                       ◗ A strategic vision of sustainable
In this desert land, water was and is a
life and death matter. Then as now,
                                                             Democratic                                  development
there is no substitute for water. Jesus’                     management                               By linking these principles to our faith
offer of living water, which is open to
the whole community and can be
                                                               of water                               understanding of water as God’s gift
reached without a bucket or even a                            resources                               to all creation, we can move towards
                                                                                                      participatory democracy and not limit
well, is a powerful promise of equal
                                                        United Nations principles on                  ourselves to simply being “informed”
access to new life. If we understand
                                                        governance can help us reflect on the         or “consulted.”
water to be a sacred gift on which all

                                                                                                                                                 Fall 2005 / Graphic Design: Caroline Léger / Photos: Julie Perreault and Thierry Vogler. / Disponible en français
life depends, Jesus could not have
chosen a more powerful image. And
he makes it clear that this gift is for all

                                                           Questions          From Reflection to Action

About one third of the people living in                   Use the following suggested questions       3 The Canadian churches are involved
Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, live in and                  to guide yourself or a small group            in a campaign for access to clean
around huge slums which have no                           through a discussion.                         water for all. Reflecting on Jesus’
water service as these areas are                                                                        promise of a “spring of living water
“illegally”occupied. Over a number of                    1 Reflecting on the Genesis story: what        gushing up to eternal life”, discuss:
years, pressure on the city’s municipal                    can the Biblical way of ensuring fair
council to privatize water services                        water distribution teach us about               ◗ What gifts can people of faith
intensified. The city’s workers formed a                   community water management                        offer to democratic and
cooperative and were able to take over                     today?                                            community-based decision-
the management of the water services
                                                                                                             making on water?
by demonstrating better results than
                                                          2 In the John passage, the Samaritan
the private sector. This cooperative
showed itself to be very open to the                        woman is blocked from fair access to           ◗ What can your faith community
initiatives of popular organizations. In                    water by discrimination. What are                contribute to the struggle for
the poor areas of the city, several local                   some modern-day equivalents for                  access to clean water for all?
committees developed participatory,                         your area? For our world?

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