Yesterday’s ride from Baraboo to Richland Center was only 45.1 miles. It took us about six hours to make the trip — with much less speed than our desired average of twelve miles per hour. In our defense, I will simply say we were spending lots of time climbing hills — at speeds barely approaching four miles per hour. The good news about the uphill battles was the opportunity for downhill respites. One such “respite” exceeded forty miles per hour (with me doing a good bit of riding the brakes!).
We began our trip a bit earlier in the day, anticipating temperatures in the low 90’s. I’m so glad we made that decision. Climbing the last hill of the day (a hill that went on for about a mile and a half), with the sun beating on my neck and the reflective heat oozing upwards off the pavement, water was escaping through every pore of my body –even my pinkie fingers were sweating! During this climb, I was steadily slurping water from my hydration pack…even though I didn’t feel particularly thirsty.
I’d been warned about dehydration and I took those warnings seriously. Unfortunately, there are far too many places in this world where people are thirstier every day than I will probably ever be. These are places where clean, accessible water is a luxury to have and requires substantial commitment to acquire. I took sips at my leisure. Others in our world take a daily trip of miles for a commodity that is rationed in sips. This lack of clean water access is the reason part of the funds we hope to raise on the Tour will go to clean water initiatives underwritten by Episcopal Relief and Development.
As I cranked along, thinking about thirst and water, I found myself re-imagining the story of Jesus at a well in Samaria (John 4). A woman comes along in the heat of the day (probably every bit as hot has the hills of Richland County yesterday!). Jesus asks her for a drink. The two of them begin a conversation, and Jesus says, “…those who drink of the water 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.” By the end of the conversation, the woman’s life is changed and a thirst she never knew she had was quenched.
In the parishes we have visited thus far, we have witnessed communities of people who have tasted this living water. They give witness to the ways in which our spiritual thirsts are quenched when we have places of worship, prayer and fellowship. They are living springs, more than willing to share the water of eternal life with their friends and neighbors. They are also aware of the necessity of reaching out to do the “practical work” of the Gospel — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless and yes…giving water to those who are thirsty.