Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2020
Read Pastor Julie's sermon as shared on Facebook Live. Visit https://www.facebook.com/saronstrasburg Sunday, March 22, 8:30 a.m. for a brief live service of scripture, prayer, and a sermon by Pastor Julie.
3rd Sunday in Lent
Pr. Julie Brooks March 14/5, 2020
Readings: Exodus 7:1-17 John 4:5-42 (See below for text)
Ever have that time when you are aware how far a conversation has gone beyond the usual “How are you?” “Pretty good, thanks”? (Or maybe these days, “Not so good”?) I had this happen rather unexpectedly at the laundromat this week, actually. I had brought some large bedding items and was standing there waiting for the wash to finish when the conversation with a young woman next to me—who was also waiting—went from laundry to basic personal information to life’s “journey”: The interaction growing deeper as ideas were shared—but also simply by being and interacting.
You might have noticed as Jesus meets the woman at the well how the levels of conversation and self-revelation deepen with each exchange—which can happen when we spend time with each other and also with God! (Especially with a God who already knows and doesn’t let us stay on the surface.)
- First, the conversation is about being physically thirsty and water itself: Jesus asks for—and expects—a drink. (Think about a time you were thirsty and what that felt like.) It was common courtesy for a traveler to have this basic need met. And Jesus takes no exception even though he is a stranger from a land that felt itself superior. In other words, he “levels the playing field.”
- The woman counters, honestly verbalizing the cultural set-up that was a barrier to even having this conversation: Jesus is a Jew and of a similar faith but with a 1 seemingly uncrossable divide- different ethnicity, different center for worship, and different ideal for a “messiah”; the Samaritans looking for a prophet like Moses and not a king like David. This divide was so institutionalized that Samaritans and Jews were not allowed to share food, drink, utensils. (Think about people that you feel different from and how it might feel harder to find common ground or even interact with them.)
- Digging deeper, Jesus then goes on to lay out a far-reaching vision of God that transcends the differences: Things are practiced this way now, but they are ever expanding outward so that Spirit and Truth are what matter. (Maybe you have felt strangely connected to someone with whom you do not seem to share much in common- perhaps in a different country.) The woman tries to apply this to her own understanding of God with mixed results. So then Jesus says “ta da!” “I am!” Which is really like saying the name of God: Yahweh. That is, “I am who I am.” A man is standing here, yes. And yet the well has become a thin place in which relationship reveals God here in God’s fulness.
The mystics have often drawn this journey toward God like a spiral that winds ever inward toward that place in which we come to where we no longer have words to describe God—just Being in the Presence. It’s no wonder Jesus finally just says, “I am” after all the revelation. And we don’t hear specifically hear how or even what the woman comes to decide beyond “prophet” for Jesus, but we do know that it’s her experience of being “known” that inspires this enthusiastic sharing about this guy who is—apparently— someone with much to offer. The Messiah? And in fact, the Women from the Well offers little explanation to the townspeople later, but that they need to “come and see.”
As a lifelong process, mystics like St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila (from the time of Martin Luther- 1500s) say this process of becoming aware and seeing—much like a journey—is one that is driven by some very familiar feelings that work for or against us; that is (from Gerald May, Dark Night of the Soul) “a desire for loves’ fulfillment.” It’s no accident that Jesus meeting the Woman hearkens back to the old betrothal scenes. The question hangs in the air: “How will a woman who has been married 5 times know when she’s found her heart’s desire?” “What will it look like?” “Though we seldom recognize it,” says May, "our senses seek the beauty, the sweetness, the good feelings of God. Our mind seeks the truth and wisdom of God. Our memory and imagination seek the justice and peace of God.” We yearn for things that make up God with every part of ourselves. “Human beings are two-legged, walking, talking desires for God.” (p. 55) This is the thirst that is only partly slaked by water. For there is also Living Water.
But mostly we are—according to the mystics—“asleep to the truth; we do not realize who we are and what we are for.” But the woman at the well—perhaps because of her social, economic and maybe personal situation—has had a chance to wake up. She knows deeply that love can fail and be misplaced; that we attach to things that leave us thirsty again. She gets this! She is well placed to behold the source of her heart’s desire: and union with God.
The Woman at the Well—we soon see—is overcome with joy and energy at being known by Jesus; caught up in love—now a “living physical expressions of God’s love.” Water for the thirsty. Thanks be to God. Amen.
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord comman
ded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
[Jesus] came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The 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.) Jesus 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus 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.” The woman 4 said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “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. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
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?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do 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. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They 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 Savior of the world.”