Third Sunday in Lent
12 March 2023
Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Church of South India (United)
St. Sebastian’s by the Sea, Melbourne Beach
St. Luke’s Church, Merritt Island
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Just before our Gospel lesson begins today we hear that Jesus has taken some heat from the Pharisees so he and his disciples leave Judea headed for Galilee via Samaria....Samaria? As you probably know the Jews and Samaritans were fierce rivals. The Jews despised the Samaritans for building a rival Temple on Mt. Gerizim for believing only in the Pentateuch, for failing to keep Kosher law and for being mixed breeds—Jews and Foreigners. But Jesus “had” to go through Samaria”, crossing boundaries, challenging laws because God called him.....
Today’s Gospel lesson reminds us that no matter how many boundaries Jesus has to cross or how many sins we have committed, Jesus wants to find and know each of us to fill us with His word and His presence to transform us as He does the Samaritan woman, free from bondage to become channels of living water for all our neighbors.
Leading the disciples through Samaria, Jesus stops at Sychar [Si-car] at the ancient Jacob’s well
supplied by a spring flowing 150 below the earth’s surface. Sitting on the well’s rock ledge high above the ground, Jesus is covered in dust from the arid land, tired and thirsty.
Can you remember the last time you were truly tired and thirsty? Thirsty in body and in spirit?
What did you find to quench your thirst? One of the top rated waters in the world, Mountain Valley spring water, Evian, Fiji, Essence, Waiakea Hawaiian volcanic water may have slaked your physical thirst but your spirit was not likely refreshed with Christ’s hope, joy, and love.
Only Jesus Christ, the living water, the living word can quench our spiritual thirst to become a wellspring gushing up to eternal life in our hearts and ebbing into the waters of our community life.
Jesus sees a Samaritan woman coming toward him with her water pot. ”Give me a drink,” he asks. “Why do you a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? This nameless woman is shocked that Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, would address her, a nobody, she is a woman, men and rabbis did not speak to women in public and a Samaritan. Jews did not share with Samaritans who were unclean and a woman of questionable reputation. How do we know this? Even before Jesus takes time to know her he sees the clues, she is an outcast, coming alone at noon, the high point in the day, to draw water she is a social pariah, avoiding her neighbor’s dirty looks and whispered criticisms.
Women traditionally came early in the morning and later in the afternoon to draw water and visit socially. This encounter would have surprised those who first read St. John’s Gospel a Jewish man, a rabbi, none the less, asks a Samaritan woman to drink from her unclean cup, engages her in theological discussion and focuses not on the differences, but the similarities in their two religions. Jesus, in this meeting transcends barriers of gender, race, religion and respectability
and encourages her to do the same!
To you and me, Jesus’ actions are not a surprise. Jesus, friend of sinners and outcasts, treats the marginalized with dignity and respect, loves and spends times with those on the outskirts, crosses over boundaries imposed by accepted religious and social practices, and openly disregards man-made laws and regulations to show compassion.
While despised by everyone else, sinners and outcasts consistently hear from Jesus they are people God wants to know and love and God wants them to love God. Jesus’s compassion for all people originates in his being aware and sensitive to their needs. The nameless woman alone here at midday is thirsty not only for water for her body but for community, connection, and hope for her spirit.
As they converse, Jesus senses her willingness to engage and to challenge him so he offers her living water to relieve her thirst and restore her life. But just like Nicodemus the educated, wealthy male Pharisee we heard of last week this uneducated woman, clearly at the other end of the social spectrum, fails to understand Jesus’ metaphor, interpreting it literally
“Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?”
Her curiosity peaked, her need seen she wants to know who Jesus is and leans into her Jewish heritage asking if HE is greater than their common ancestor, Jacob. Jesus reveals living water will quench her spiritual thirst and remove her need to carry water to and from the well again. So, when the woman asks for a drink of living water the story’s turning point comes. Jesus challenges her go, call your husband, and come back.
Ouch....I bet that women felt inside, Jesus knows something she has tried to hide and a painful vulnerable place in her heart is stricken, a shadow side she prefers to keep hidden. So she responds with a half-truth...“I have no husband..” If she has no husband, why is she shamefully coming to the well at midday?
At times, each of us are like the Samaritan woman, we end up playing a game with God offering God half-truths putting up a wall between God and ourselves, avoiding taking responsibility for our whole truth for what we have done and left undone.
Jesus wants to know our whole truth.. the good, the bad, and the ugly, the warts, bumps, and sins and all and promises to love us anyway.....
You are right in saying, I have no husband,’ says Jesus, “for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” “Now...Go, get your husband.”
What would you and I say if Jesus asked us: What are you wedded to? what ideas, desires, cravings keep you from thirsting for God above all things? What secrets do you and I cherish
what faults do we cover up, what people or possessions do we cling to and create a wall between Jesus and ourselves and to avoid acknowledging those shadowy, painful, embarrassing places in our hearts?
Jesus wants to shine His healing light into our hearts, just as he did with this woman, to find the arid, hardened desert-like places we try to hide from others, God, and ourselves and that haven’t been nourished with His living water. We can be reassured based upon his interaction with the Samaritan woman Jesus seeks to see and know us, will wait patiently, encourage us to tell our whole truth past and present and love every part of our hearts... even the dry arid parts.
What might he say to you and me? Go and forgive the friend with whom you have been holding onto a grudge. Go and bring back and apologize to the person you just cut down with your sharp, unkind words. Go back to care for the lonely person who needed your ears to hear and for whom you were unwilling to give up your leisure time for.
.Jesus calls us to go to the last places we ever want to visit for there our denial and illusions about ourselves in those places will be shattered, we will see ourselves as we truly are sinners who deeply need God’s grace and forgiveness and see Christ as he is... merciful, filled with grace and love.
Interestingly, the Samaritan woman, who could have fled or pushed back to remain in her denial,
accepts Jesus’ words which expose her vulnerabilities as the words of love and compassion she has needed and needs to hear. And we see what Jesus promises as living waters spring up to cover the parched and barren soil in her soul she is brought to a place of inner freedom and joy...
“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” she shouts to her neighbors. “This man could he be the Messiah?” helped me to see the truth, the whole truth about myself. I am broken and incomplete, I have sinned but I am also a person with dignity created in God’s image worthy of love.
And so this week, I invite you to live into the truth that sets us free. God loves, welcomes, and delights in you and me and invites us to take Jesus’ s hand to enter into the dark places in our hearts so God, who already knows our whole truth and will extend gifts of forgiveness and healing reconciliation and hope living water for our parched and weary souls.
Be like the Samaritan woman transformed to know God’s truth you are loved, forgiven, and healed... delivered from bondage.... set free and become channels of living water for all your neighbors.