Please, Can I Have a Drink?

Nov 27, 2016

By Rev. Dr. Kimberly Kaveny-LaPlante, Church of Hope: South Dakota Women’s Prison.

 “A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (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.” John 4:7-10

The story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 is a familiar one to most Christians.  Certainly, there have been many of sermons and Bible Studies written on this story based on a variety of perspectives and reflections.  Still, today my reflection is based on the fact that Jesus, the promised Messiah, the King whose return we watch for this Advent season asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water.

The simple request for a drink of water reminds me of the pure humanity of Jesus.  Although, He is fully God, He set that divinity aside and lived fully incarnate as a human man.  (Philippians 2:7)  Jesus was truly thirsty and he needed a drink.  Our basic human needs tie us together.  It does not matter where we are from, what we have done or where we are going we all have the same basic needs: water, food, shelter and love.

I began my journey as pastor of the Church of Hope that is held inside the South Dakota Women’s Prison with little or no knowledge of what it would mean to spend a large majority of my time in prison.  Yes, I spent some time ministering in the county jail system in my anti-trafficking work over the years and counseled women who have lived through significant trauma but this was somewhat different.  I was a foreigner in the land and I needed grace.  My first step toward the process was to try-out for the position by preaching a sermon at the work unit.  I was only a visitor, not yet a volunteer and had little knowledge of all the rules and/or procedures necessary for a correctional facility.  I preached my heart out that night on my life’s verse, which is Isaiah 61:1-3 (not knowing that particular verse is the mission statement for Church of Hope).  In my passion my voice began to grow dry and the dreaded speaker’s cough started to rise in my throat and to my despair I realized I had no water to stop the cough.  I cried out,  “Can I have a drink of water?” One of the ladies held out her glass and I took a refreshing gulp and my cough silenced and I continued to preach. 

Last week, in a counseling session with one of the ladies she asked me, “Do you remember the first night you spoke, when you needed a drink a water?”  I thought back, “yes, I remember.” She said, “That night we knew you were our pastor.  No one asks us for a drink but you did and in that moment you were like us.” I believe that is the process of incarnation or becoming part of the community in which you are called to serve.  It was no accident that Jesus asked for a drink for it became a platform in which to offer the woman the water of Life. In this season of giving remember to receive, especially from those who seem as if they have nothing to give and in our receiving, the gift will be revealed.


Category: Witness

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