Sermon for March 12, 2023 Lent Three “Because of His Word”
The possibilities for sermon and teaching points in the texts from Exodus and John are expansive and delightful. I would like to focus on the images of short memories and God’s ongoing nudging people to vision bigger.
Since the people of Israel left Egypt they have crossed the sea of reeds dry footed, bread has appeared on the ground 6 days a week ready to be gathered and eaten, birds have fallen from the sky and given them meat and protein, there has been a miraculous provision of water before and there is no reason why that wouldn’t happen again this time.
So why are they not remembering those things? Why are they focussing on the angst of the here and now instead of bringing to mind the many blessings and saving they have already experienced?
Because they are human! Here and now, tends to inform our focus more than faith and trust. Our survival always foremost in our minds and, at times, when we are thirsty enough, clouding our thinking and perspective. Remember three years ago and how even today some still have a multi-year supply of toilet paper. God has saved. God will save again. God has given, and God will give again. God is journeying with us and will show us where to go, journeying with us to a place of liberation and abundance. And still the people complain to Moses saying we are thirsty now…do something and do it now.
‘I’ll be on the mountain says God, waiting for you, on the rock. When you hit the rock with your staff, water will spring forth and you will all be able to drink your fill.’ Trust me, remember what I’ve made you do with that staff before. Just move to the rock. I’ll be there and make it happen’.
It’s funny how God does not provide the water there and then. Moses and his people have to start moving, shift from where they are to another place before they will taste the living, the life giving water God gives. Leave the place of complaint and move to a place where they will find rock solid proof of God’s presence with them. They did and their thirst sated.
In our New Testament reading this morning we encounter another well. Another place where water had been available for God’s people to draw from for a long time. Jacob had given the land and presumably the well to his son Joseph and ever since people had come there to draw water. Like the woman in the story.
Her life was, by the sound of it, a bit of a wilderness. Five husbands suggest that she had not had a happy life and the fact that she is not married to the sixth husband suggests there has been a lot of hardship and suffering coming her way. Some suggest that the fact she is coming to the well at midday is to avoid meeting others. Going when the day is at its hottest rather than in the morning or the late afternoon as is more customary.
She finds Jesus sitting at the well. The woman engages with Jesus. She is no shrinking violet. She challenges him, she wants to know and meets Jesus with an open mind and an open heart. The conversation with her is the longest Jesus has with anyone in the gospel. Longer than with the scribe Nicodemus two chapters back.
Can you give me more than our father Jacob asks the woman? And what she refers to is the story that, after Jacob met Rachel the well where they met did not stop flowing for 20 years. Yes, says Jesus, the water I can give you will go on forever.
You are a prophet, says the woman, so tell me, should we worship here at Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem. Who is right?
With me says Jesus, that is a question that belongs to the past. Future worship will not be depending on the right place, but will bring people together in spirit and truth. Say that again please; spirit and truth is the starting place for real, authentic worship. The buildings, from the simplest to the grandest, are just wood, canvas, brick, mortar and steel, if they do not house the spirit and truth in the hearts of those who worship.
Yes, says the woman, I know that will happen when the Messiah comes.
‘I am he’ says Jesus.
And for the first time in the gospel of John, in conversation with this woman Jesus identifies himself as ‘I am’ the name for God that is revealed to Moses before he embarks on his journey with the people of Israel through the wilderness.
Here is ‘I am’, God self, and his love flows over into a person who Jesus really had no business of being with or engaging with in the first place. She was Samaritan, Jesus was a Jew, and Jews and Samaritans did not talk to each other. If Jesus had been on his way to the temple, he would not have been able to enter after his contact with her before he had been cleansed through ritual and time from her contaminating presence. She was a woman, and in that time, in that culture, women and men did not mix freely, most certainly not for the frank and open conversation they are having, especially not if the woman wasn’t properly married.
And yet. Jesus, tired, thirsty and harassed by religious authorities, who should have been his partners and supporters, finds in this woman the very first person in the gospel in whom the living water he has to offer starts to flow freely. Who shares of the gospel with joy, leaving her water jar behind because she has found a well inside her that will never again dry up. Imagine what possibilities can be pried open in our day when we come to the realization that Jesus first revealed himself as Messiah to a Samaritan woman. That is our day, that our faith in and belief in Jesus is shared with the least, the lost and the most unlikely of our community. So many centuries ago the Word of Jesus changed the heart of a single woman. Today because of His Word our hearts are transformed and the Spirit finds