I sent this out to our members through e-mail over the weekend. However, since many of you may have more time to read and reflect these days, it was time to share this with a wider audience. I have attached a copy of the assigned Gospel Lesson for the Third Sunday in Lent. As for the sermon, sometimes it is better to hear a different voice and some of you are probably tired of hearing my voice by now. (I know I am!) So after a very long Gospel reading below (be patient and read on!),and a reflection I have prepared, there is an attached video of Pastor Will Willimon preaching on the Samaritan Woman at the well. He is a former Methodist Bishop and the former Chaplain of Duke University. We have used his messages in our Thursday lunch time Bible study and I have quoted him several times in my own sermons, most recently on Ash Wednesday. It's worth hearing and a powerful reminder of the God who meets us where we are and will use whatever handle God can find, (maybe even trials like we are experiencing now)
We plan to dwell on this text for awhile as it has much to say about welcome, worship, and transformation,
On St. Andrew's Facebook page, there are some important petitions for us to keep praying in the days ahead. Here's another prayer for our use:
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors through Jesus Christ, our Lord
Grace and peace,
5So Jesus 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.
7 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.'
16 Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come back.' 17The woman answered him, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You are right in saying, "I have no husband"; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!' 19The woman said to him, 'Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.' 21Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.' 25The woman said to him, 'I know that Messiah is coming' (who is called Christ). 'When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.' 26Jesus said to her, 'I am he, the one who is speaking to you.'
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, 'What do you want?' or, 'Why are you speaking with her?' 28Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29'Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?' 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, 'Rabbi, eat something.' 32But he said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.' 33So the disciples said to one another, 'Surely no one has brought him something to eat?' 34Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, "Four months more, then comes the harvest"? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps." 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.'
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I have ever done.' 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.'
So this story of the woman at the well contains Jesus’ longest recorded conversation in the Bible. And isn’t it just like Jesus to have that conversation with the ultimate outcast. Jesus’ disciples are likely confused, irritated, impatient, and, since it is noontime, hungry. But there’s Jesus, chatting with someone a good Jew ought not even notice. Conventional rabbis did not waste their words of wisdom by attempting to teach theology to a woman. But here is a Samaritan woman who on the way to the well to fetch some water was taught some pretty complex stuff at the hands of the master. Oh, and by the way, not only did men have few public conversations with women. The Jewish people at that time had no dealings with Samaritans. Samaritans were considered not real Jews, mixed race half breeds, religious troublemakers, collaborators with the Romans, and not to be trusted at all, making this story and the Parable of the Good Samaritan all the more shocking. So let’s review – she’s a woman, she’s a Samaritan, but that’s not all as Jesus will point out. “You are right in saying I have no husband for you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband.” (Next on Dr. Phil) To be fair, there’s a good chance that she did not lose all of these husbands to infidelity, despite the bad reputation that many who have read this text have given her. Women were property back then and men could pretty much issue a decree of divorce for any reason and often did. Also, mortality rates in those days were sky high and a few husbands could have died untimely deaths, which would then make her one of the most unfortunate widows ever. Another reason not to stand too close. So let’s review again – wrong gender, wrong race, wrong religion, wrong behavior, and wrong fortune. And yet Jesus is right there at her side.
She comes there for water. She carries with her a heavy jar and an even heavier story. And if this story isn’t weird enough for Jewish listeners thousands of years ago, here’s where it gets weird for us. Jesus lets on that he knows that she’s had five husbands and the man she lives with now is not her husband. And what does she do? She runs back to her village saying come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done, as if that would be a good thing! I don’t know about you but I would not enjoy having someone tell me everything I had done. For starters, I just don’t have that kind of time on my hands. Just doesn’t seem like it would be very good stewardship. But there are also things that I really don’t want to be reminded of again. So what’s the wow factor for this woman in Jesus acting like a really good psychic. I think that it may be more than the fact that he told her what he had done. Maybe it was the way in which he told her what she had done. Maybe, just maybe, he could tell her what she had done without implying that those things define who she is.
She carries with her a heavy jar and a heavier story. Jesus says yes, what you have done and what you have left undone, what has been done to you and what has been left undone to you really happened and that hurts. But it’s not who you are. Jesus says God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth, and that includes the truth of you are, not the regrets of who you were nor the ideal of who you might become, but who you are.
There is a rather crass saying I learned from someone in Alcoholics Anonymous. When you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future you are peeing on the present. How often are we not present to God and others because we keep one foot in the world of regret and nostalgia and another in the world of anxiety and worry. We are so absorbed with either the hurt or glory of the past or the fear and hope of the future that we miss who God is calling us to be for the sake of the world in the present moment.
So there’s John 4, verse 28 – The woman left her jar and went back to the city. So may you put down your heavy jar. May you put down your heavy story. May you be filled with the love of God who knows you and loves you. May you be filled with the truth of this present moment and our life together, a truth that combats fear, a truth that draws us to pray and care for one another, a truth that gives us hope. May you know forgiveness and healing and purpose and peace. Amen.