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Lent 3A Sermon
John 4:5-42
15, 2020


Sermon Archives


John 4:5-42

So he 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, but 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 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 worshipped 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 worshippers 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 for 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.’

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Amen.

Unless you have been living under the proverbial rock, you know what is filling our news these days. Never mind that it is usually bad news most of the time, this week we have been hit over the head with the Covid19 “Corona” virus. Sports events, schools, worship services, cancelled and closed; conferences and gatherings of more than 100 people banned; store shelves empty of bottled water, hand sanitizer and (for some odd reason) toilet paper. That last one puzzles me – this virus attacks the respiratory system, not the digestive system! And for better or for worse, the press is being blamed for unduly spreading the mania around this current world-wide medical crisis. Now, I am not sure I buy into that, but they like to report bad news. It helps ratings and makes money. But it also builds our expectations of negativity. We see the world and expect negativity. We have a difficult time seeing the good or the beauty in the things and people around us. We also become cynical about the people and events around us, expecting the worst. We view others with doubt and suspicion.

This interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well is fraught with doubt and suspicion. There is no reason for Jesus to talk to her. There is a cultural prohibition against it because of she is a woman, because she is a Samaritan, and because she has had five husbands. This is bad news just waiting to happen! Jesus’ disciples know it, and they question him about it when they see him. They cannot believe that he would be talking with someone of her stature in society.

If you are like me, you may not understand the stigma against talking to her because she is a Samaritan woman. We don’t always understand the hatred between Judeans and Samaritans, but believe me, Jesus is treading on pretty thin ice. Most Judean people went around Samaria to get to Galilee, but Jesus goes right through. He has just recently told Nicodemus that God so loved THE WORLD that he gave his only son so that WHOEVER believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. It is not just Judah or those who worship in Jerusalem that God loves – it is the world! That even means those who are most despised by your people. That is why he is there in the first place. We don’t even begrudge him for talking to her because she is a woman, even though it was frowned upon in Jesus’ day and age. Today, men and women converse all the time in healthy ways. We don’t worry too much about it today especially when it happens in a public place.
No, the thing that has raised American eyebrows in churches over the last 100 years or so about this woman is the fact that she has been married five times. While the stigma about the “divorcee” may be lightening up a bit recently, it is still pretty much ingrained into our psyche. Divorced women have been deemed dangerous – LOOSE over the years!! Easy – especially one that has been married FIVE TIMES!!! I dare say, this Samaritan woman has been portrayed with some pretty broad and negative strokes by preachers – maybe even by THIS preacher – as someone who probably had a bit of a reputation.

But we don’t know that for sure. We impose that assumption based on our own recent cultural standards. I want to propose something to you – to ask you, “what if?” What if she has been married five times because, according to the Levirite laws of the day, she did not produce a male heir for any of her husbands and was forced to marry the next youngest brother of the family? That was part of their cultural expectations, that if a woman’s husband died without producing a male heir, the widow would have to marry his next younger brother. And if there was no male heir produced there and he died, she married the next one – and so on down the line. What if she went through 5 brothers and had no baby boy as a result? Or worse yet, what if she had no children? She would be labeled barren, which carried with it an entirely different stigma than the divorcee from our day and age. People in the community would think that there was something wrong with her, she was shamed and cursed by God. Something that she or her family had done left her less than fully human. As a result, she herself probably thought that she was not deserving of God’s love and care either.

We don’t know the whole story about this Samaritan woman, just as we don’t know the whole story about the majority of the people that we see every day. Think about that person you see acting differently than you – that you might label as weird, or odd, or just plain crazy. You don’t know their story, so to make a judgement on how worthy they are of God’s love is just not fair to them … especially because God has promised his love to those who are most hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually in the world.

I have noticed that even though 90-some% of news isn’t good, most broadcasts like to share a good news piece at end. One day last week a network showed some positive “good news” stories that have been captured on those Nest Cameras that so many people are installing on their front porches in order to catch would-be thieves or criminals. The gist was that sometimes these cameras catch humans when they are at their very best. One story stood out to me in prticular. A pizza delivery man in Rhode Island named Ryan was seen leaving the porch of a home he had just delivered to when 2-year old Cohen ran after him to thank him. Cohen gave him a big hug and wanted to give him a kiss in gratitude for bringing a pizza to the house. It was an interaction of genuine love and appreciation that warms your heart. But the story doesn’t end there. The mom, Lindsey, posted the video to her social media and somehow found Ryan and tagged him on it, saying, “Thank you, Ryan, for being so sweet with our little guy.” Ryan and Lindsey had more interaction, and Lindsey discovered that Ryan’s 16-year old daughter, Alyssa, had recently and unexpectedly died. Ryan said that the Cohen’s hug was a blessing from God during a very difficult time.

During these days when we are being encouraged to limit our social interaction and increase our distance, we are also people of faith in the one who loves the whole world. As such, we are called to figure out ways to learn peoples’ stories so that we can be the blessing from God that so many need. I leave you with a quote shared by a friend on Facebook, encouraging us during these unique and challenging days- it comes from a man named Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky: “Every hand that we do not shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.” Amen