Third Sunday of Lent

Cemetery Statue and Oil Derricks, Long Beach, California by Ansel Adams — black and white photograph, gelatin silver print, 1939. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

March 12, 2023 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Exodus 17:1-7 • Psalm 95 • Romans 5:1-11 • John 4:5-42

View Lectionary

Image description: A white marble statue of a young woman in full sunlight dominates the image against a clear sky. Wearing a flowing robe and holding a ring of flowers in her hand, the woman sits chin resting on fist propped on a raised knee. Her hair flows in large waves and falls onto her back and shoulder. The woman’s face bears an expression of both peacefulness and sadness. In the background along a low horizon are trees and many oil derrick towers.

Once again the people complained to Moses.
Israelites: Give us water to drink! We’re thirsty.
Moses: Why do you aim your complaints at me? Why are you testing the Eternal One? But the people were so thirsty for water, they complained to Moses and leveled accusations against him.
Israelites: Why did you lead us out of Egypt? Was it to kill all of us—our children and livestock included—with this thirst? Moses had had enough of their complaints, so he cried out to the Eternal One.
Moses: What am I supposed to do with these people and their relentless complaining? They are on the verge of stoning me.
— Exodus 17:2-4

For the Eternal is a great God, and a great King, supreme over all gods. Within His control are the very depths of the earth; the mountaintops too — they all belong to Him. The sea belongs to Him, for He created it — scooped and filled it — with His hands He made the dry land — every valley and mountain. — Psalm 95:3-5

Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King. — Romans 5:1

In a small Samaritan town known as Sychar, Jesus and His entourage stopped to rest at the historic well that Jacob gave his son Joseph. It was about noon when Jesus found a spot to sit close to the well while the disciples ventured off to find provisions. From His vantage, He watched as a Samaritan woman approached to draw some water. Unexpectedly He spoke to her.
Jesus: Would you draw water, and give Me a drink?
Woman: I cannot believe that You, a Jew, would associate with me, a Samaritan woman; much less ask me to give You a drink.
Jesus: You don’t know the gift of God or who is asking you for a drink of this water from Jacob’s well. Because if you did, you would have asked Him for something greater; and He would have given you the living water.
— John 4:5-10

If you are at all familiar with the gorgeous landscape photography of Ansel Adams, you may be surprised to see that I have selected a less known but equally powerful image by this master. Cemetery Statue and Oil Derricks, Long Beach, California embodies Adams concerns and trepidations around progress and industrialization. His landscape photography was instrumental in the development of our national parks system for the preservation of natural beauty.

The difference between this photo and much of Adams work is a lack of water. There is no flowing river, no drops of dew, no lush water sustained environment. Instead, we see a hard stone statue in equally harsh daytime sun and a sea of oil derricks. How does this image then become a metaphor for thirst? What connections can you make between the statue and the texts?

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?
    What blessing or prayer is rising in you?

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