Sermon, Lent 3 March 23, 2014
John 4:5-42 Jesus and the Samaritan woman 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”17 “I have no husband,” she replied.Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” The Disciples Rejoin Jesus27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.” Many Samaritans Believe39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.”
Friends, I wonder as we continue to reflect on the pretty good life we are living in terms of ease of communication, use of technology, availability of affordable transport, fresh food all year ‘round, and etc, even if we know that not everyone shares this good life both here in our own country and overseas, we are getting a sense of the mind of Christ on life – the mind of the one who humbled himself and became obedient even to death on a cross for us?
We have talked about the good life and how we Aussies are generally going pretty hard at trying to attain the symbols of the good life in one way or another and how it seems that in our 21st century culture in the West, the pursuit of happiness is all consuming for many.
We have acknowledged that us followers of Jesus can get caught up the endless pursuit of what makes us happy and this pursuit becomes very much individual, worldly things centred and a tad self-centred And as we concluded last week, happiness is quite elusive, transient and futile.
We have concluded so far that the good life and its pursuit of personal happiness that so many are slavishly following has placed us, at least in part, in “the age of Entitlement” where everyone seems to believe that everything and every institution and every other person owes them some entitlement – to make us all happy….
So if the good life from the mind of Christ perspective is not about finding the feeling of being happy a lot. Then what else could it be about at its core?
WHAT ABOUT WHOLENESS?
Well, in the psychological world, the other word used in “wholeness”. Psychologists have long offered the view that wholeness is the thing to strive for in this life. It’s a better word – a fuller word.. a more helpful word.
Pursuing wholeness does require courage because it admits that there will be plenty of experiences that will build your character and understanding that will NOT be those of FEELING happy. So, I guess for the more mature approach in living the good life we would want to go for wholeness not just happiness.
But what about the mind of Christ on wholeness? And what about this very dense and intriguing dialogue between two very unlikely people – a Jewish rabbi and a Samaritan woman? What does Jesus teach her and us about his view of our life?
I wonder what this unnamed woman might have been searching for in her interesting life?
Of course, she is of a completely different era than you and I. To suggest she would even be remotely interested in happiness or wholeness as we understand these thing now is stretching things a bit.
But on the other hand, and without “modernising her” in our image too much, she seems like she was searching for something. In fact, her search and her life might be a lot like a lot of people living in your street. Her story might be a bit like yours and mine – more than we know.
She has a story we can relate to now days…
She knows suffering and brokenness and has her eyes firmly fixed on the daily tasks at hand.
She has had multiple serious relationships and none have gone the distance – either through death of her husbands, divorce that her husband carried out, or because of their own self-centredness or because of her unfaithfulness or whatever. Whether her story of broken relationship is her fault, their fault, or both, she is broken.
It also seems she is quite disconnected from her community. Why else would you be heading out in 35 degrees in the heat of the day with heavy buckets to carry water in from the well when everyone else in town would do that in the cool of the early morning or evening?
And she is focused on the things around her – tasks, survival, getting things done, enjoying what she can, keeping her life going along OK….
Whatever her story, she got more than happiness and more than simply a human located wholeness that day she met Jesus. In this unlikely conversation we can see that this unnamed woman gets gently led into a new understanding of her very being and what the good life really is and where it comes from.
She is enabled to see for the first time that the good life is not located in the things and tasks in front of her and her effort, skills, earning, intelligence, suffering, her dreams and visions,….. No, the good life is located in a Living Water she has never been able to see but now sees right in front of her and hears in her very own ears. The Living Water that gives the best life – the divine life is with her and the good life she longs for comes from his word and is given in the worship of him.
The woman herself does not actually know the depth of her thirst. She starts out looking for a drink of water. When Jesus says there is life-giving water on offer she says, yes please. That would mean plenty. She would not have to keep coming out here in the middle of the day to get water all the time, for a start!
But Jesus gently leads her into an awareness that she needs more than water – even a permanent spring at her home. But to give her ears that can hear Jesus needs to show the extent of her need for her to understand the thirst she really has…
Thus the pointed question about the trouble of her life – 5 husbands and now living with a man who is not her husband. When her story of brokenness is exposed (gently) by Jesus she moves to change the subject. It is an obvious subject to move to. Here is a Jewish man (a rabbi even) not only in the presence of a “questionable” woman, but a sworn enemy by nationality. She is Samaritan and he is Jewish. She is usually a person held in very low regard if not just plane derision by Jewish men!
The point of the national hatred is history and the place of the temple and where people are meant to find God’s good life. Mount Gerazim in Samaria or Jerusalem in Judah.
Jesus does not go there but begins to describe a new place, a new good life – beyond wholeness and happiness and human manufacture. This life is not dependent on feeling or even human understanding, the acquirements of the “good life” as we might see it. This life is beyond the human experience and capability and it is good…very, very good.
This life being spoken of here by the One who declares himself to be life itself lasts beyond the age of entitlement, the next Centrelink payment, the next Vintage, wool or grain cheque. This living water that quenches the human hearts desire for meaning and for life itself is just offered – right here, right now.
This life is a life lived in the very presence of a Holy God who pours out his blood for the life of his world and invited Samaritans, Sinners and Sadducees to be baptised into his life and made saints – holy people of God who worship God, Father, Son and Spirit in truth.
What a moment for this woman. The Living Water Jesus, opens up a way for this broken sinner to live with her God in new way – unheard of before – even to Jews. God will now be able to thanked, prayed to, sought after and received as kind and loving Father with whom we share a bond of love which unites us together.
Can you see it friend? The good life is something given to me by this God of love, my kind and loving heavenly Father. He is the one to whom we pray “Our Father in heaven…give us what we need and help us forgive, keep us from too harder testing and from evil temptation.
This is the divine parent who promises a future beyond his death and ours – a future of life in light and love and glory for those who drink from the well of his Son’s death and resurrection.
This God is a God who does not exclude people or draw lines in the sand about how we all should be happy or whole or not, but is constantly seeking and creating people who will be in his holy presence in spirit and truth. He creates our life in him and gathers us together in love to be with him.
How would this woman who has never found this kind of constant love and kindness in her life to this point receive this new “God life”? How would she hear the promise of no more exclusion, no more derision, no more playing games, telling lies or searching for fleeting happiness or merely human wholeness?
You can tell how she receives it. She actually leaves her precious old life support (water) behind in jars and rushes off to do his inviting. “Come and see” she calls to everyone. Come and hear” she yells to those who have hurt her, ignored her, derided her and maybe even loved her. Come to Jesus” she tells anyone who will listen.
Being created by the Spirit of God to be people who can live this life as in God’s very presence by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for us frees us from the constant search for feelings of happiness and the over-dependence on only human experiences to learn and grow and live well.
Jesus, is this woman’s wholeness. He is the world’s wholeness. His living water poured out i his holy gifts of water and word, holy meal of love and every day at work and home is the good life we really need – the life he gives so that we may live life to in all its fullness (John 10:10) because he loves us not condemns us (John 3:16) he really is a man for the world. He really is for the men and women who have their eyes largely focused on water, food, work, houses and the things of the world who live in your street. – people just like this Samaritan woman was – until she Jesus met her.
Friend, will you take your eyes off the plough, off your daily concerns and pause to stay a while in the midday sun with Jesus and let him gently lead you to himself and to his gifts he has been offering you for years?
Will you journey with him in these remaining days through his suffering for you and to the cross for you and await his light and new take on life for you, at Easter dawn?
Let him meet you here and let him renew you in his life then live! Live the good life with worship as your centre and you will be saved from the endless pursuit of fleeting feelings of happiness and the self-orientated search for human wholeness. Instead let him make you holy – forgiven, acceptable and set apart for his work in his world through you – set free by his grace to live this God-life of love and service in Jesus’ name.
Share a high and a low for your week.
Read the text carefully noting what questions it raises for you and what catches your ears and imagination and share these things.
It is not clear if the traditional view of this Samaritan woman is a woman of “disrepute” as we often think. Apparently Jewish men were “allowed” a maximum of 3 divorces and in her world only the man was legally able to enact a divorce. So, it may have been some very unkind men who had caused this woman plenty of brokenness. Then again, this woman may have simply been a widow – five times over. in which case, she is a woman of great suffering. Or, this woman might have been very difficult to live with! She may have indeed had some major character flaws that made relationships very difficult. Whatever the case, her fault, their fault or both, she is broken and isolated and focused on getting through the day and doing the things that daily life requires. Does this sound a bit like people in your street? Chat about the people you know and compare and contrast them to this Samaritan woman….
Skim the text again and note Jesus’ leading of this woman – from a person totally focused on getting her daily task done to a person who is so impacted by this conversation with Jesus that she runs off into town leaving her own water jars behind to tell people to come out and see and hear this man! Note his gentle words just at the right time and in the right order to help this person engage in a faith discussion – this may be very helpful for us all in our daily conversations with people focused on anything but Jesus!
From this extended conversation two things come to light. Jesus is more than happiness and even wholeness he is life and gives life to any sinner who wants it. The other thing is that he is the new place of worship – not Jerusalem or Gerazim. Hie life is given in the gathered community called “church” What gifts of life does Jesus give us there?
We ended up saying that the “God-life” is not happiness, merely human wholeness but being Holy” – forgiven, acceptable, set apart for Jesus’ ongoing work of helping people in our street receive him as their Living Water and come to worship him with us in his presence. How do you feel about this and what can you see this meaning for St Petri, and what does it mean for your group?
Heavenly Father, pour out your living water of holiness on us as we gather in your name and receive your holy gifts at St Petri so that we leave our daily tasks and earthly bound focus and invite people to come and hear and see you. Amen