Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
Living Water - March 15, 2020 - Third Sunday in Lent - Text: John 4:5-26 (27-30, 39-42)
Three weeks ago we witnessed the transfiguration of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that was the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Two weeks we witnessed Jesus defeat the temptations of the devil in the wilderness. Last week we witnessed Jesus explain to Nicodemus the fact that we must be born again, we must be baptized for forgiveness and eternal life. This week Jesus applies that forgiveness to the sinful woman whom He meets at the well. As we reflect on the life of this woman whom Jesus confronts and comforts, perhaps we might be reminded of our own sinfulness and reflect His forgiveness in our own lives, no matter what our sin, no matter how big or to us, how small.
Also, make note of the theme of suffering and water this morning. In the Old Testament lesson we hear the Children of Israel grumble, even after being rescued from slavery and we see God provide water. In the Epistle lesson Paul reminds us that suffering ultimately produces hope and strengthens us in faith in Jesus. And these two tie in together in our Gospel in which we see the woman at the well having had a difficult life, being quenched with the living water of faith in Jesus.
Our account begins with a bit of confrontation (v. 5-9), for you see, the two characters in our lesson are of different cultural backgrounds, although they could truly be cousins. A Samaritan was someone who was half Jewish and half something else. This Samaritan culture was from what was deemed forbidden intermarriages of some of the Jewish people with those natives from the surrounding area. So, the Jews did not like the Samaritans, because they were not pure Jews and the Samaritans did not like the Jews because they were not liked by them. And so there was this conflict, this struggle between Jews and Samaritans. Their conflict was so great that even if they were the only two people in the same place at the same time they would not speak to one another. The Jews despised the Samaritans and the Samaritans despised the Jews.
Our account is about a man named Jesus. He is truly a human man and we can see this fact in that in His human state we are told He was tired. He had been on the road with His disciples, walking everywhere as they did, which reminds me of the old saying that anyplace is walking distance, if you have the time. Jesus had been walking and now He was tired and it was time to rest.
By the way, about Jesus, I should tell you, if you do not know it, but He was Jewish. He was not a Samaritan. He was not Hispanic. He was not oriental. He was not an Anglo. He was Jewish. And remember, Jews did not normally speak to Samaritans, even if they were the only two people present, yet, Jesus does speak to this Samaritan woman He meets at the well where He stopped to rest.
Her response was that she reminded Him that they don’t talk to one another. Now, I am sure you are wondering about this woman, but I am not going to tell you about her just yet, that would ruin the lesson. Anyway, our lesson begins, then, with this confrontation between Jesus, the Jew and this woman, the Samaritan.
What happens is that Jesus asks her for a drink of water. But, I guess I should tell you that Jesus has in mind more than talking about physical drinking water. Jesus’ intent is actually to bring this woman to know Him as her Savior, it is just that the water is a good starting point in their conversation (v. 10-15).
Jesus asks for a drink of water and her response is something like, “are you talking to me?” Jesus answer is, “if you knew what I could give to you, then you would be asking me for a drink.” But, again, remember that Jesus is speaking of a spiritual water and the woman is thinking of physical water.
The woman does not understand this distinction, she is like many who come to church on a Sunday morning, she has come to have her physical needs met and Jesus is looking to fulfill her spiritual needs. The woman’s thought is that if this guy can give me water, even though he does not have anything with which to draw the water from the well, then he must be greater than Jacob, our great-great-great-great grandfather who dug this well. So, her response, and I would say her doubting response, is, “Sir, (I’d like to see you) give me this water.”
Not yet, Jesus is not quite ready to give her what she wants, because she still does not understand what it is that she really needs. She is very much like many of us today. We know what we want, or at least we think we know what we want and we think that what we want is what we need. We think we need this, that or the other thing, but what we all really need is what Jesus is about to give this woman. Jesus tells her to call her husband, so that he can share in this gift. The woman’s answer is that she has no husband, and she is not lying, she does not have a husband, at least, not at this time. Now here at this point, Jesus lays out her sins. She has had five husbands and the man she is “shacking with” is not her husband. In order for Jesus to give her what she really needs, in order for Jesus to give us all what we really need, she and we need to recognize and confess (v. 16-18) our sins. Our greatest need is not to feel good about ourselves; it is not to be a part of some self-help group; it is not to learn how to look within ourselves for the answer to life’s questions; our greatest need is to repent for we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. It is only when we see how sinful we are, it is only when we realize that without forgiveness we would be lost forever, doomed to eternal death and hell, it is only when we confess our sins that we are given what we truly need, but, again, I do not want to get ahead of myself.
Upon hearing Jesus’ admonition, the woman says to Jesus, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.” What she really was asking was, “what must I do to be saved?” She was ready to confess her sins and she was seeking His absolution (v. 19-24). What we all really need is Jesus’ absolution. We need to hear those most beautiful words that we hear at the beginning of every divine service, “Your sins are forgiven!” Because Jesus gave His life for you on the cross, because Jesus paid the eternal death penalty of hell for you on the cross, “your sins are forgiven.” Those are the most precious, the most beautiful words we can hear, because with our sins forgiven, the door to heaven is open and we have eternal salvation.
The rest of the conversation turned to the subject of worship. The woman was not necessarily changing the subject, rather she was wanting to know how she might continue to confess and be given absolution, forgiveness. Jesus’ response is to worship in spirit and truth. We might translate that best for ourselves by saying, “We worship best when we say back to God what He has given us to say.” Worship is not worship because of where we do it. Worship is not the externals, not the ritual, nor the traditions, although those things might be helpful in facilitating our worship, rather worship that is true worship is worship that comes from the heart of the individual. To say it again, “We worship best when we say back to God what He has given us to say.” Personally, I struggle and fumble with what to say to God. When I open my Bible I have His Word which gives me a Word to speak to Him. How much better can I speak to my Lord than to speak to Him in the Words that are His Word? As you have been following along with our divine service this morning you will notice that most of what we have been speaking to the Lord this morning has been His Word, which we are speaking back to Him, that is what the liturgy is all about, speaking back to God the very words He has given us to say. And it is our liturgy which flows out of what God has given us and which is what ties us to those who have come before us and those who will come after us, transcending time, not simply contemporary, with time, here today and gone tomorrow.
But let us get back and finish our lesson. The lesson concludes with a bit of revelation (v. 25-26). The woman, the Samaritan, who had come out at an odd time during the day, so as not to be seen by others, this woman, having met Jesus, by His design and plan, now confesses that she believes in the coming Messiah. Jesus confesses that He is the Messiah. The woman confesses that she believes that He is the Messiah and then she must go and tell the others. The others come and hear and say they believe because of what the woman said. And finally, the others say they no longer believe simply because of the word of the woman, but because they, themselves have heard the Word. Here we are reminded, again, of the importance of the Word. It is through the means of grace, the Word in particular, that faith is given, along with the other gifts which God has to give, forgiveness, life, eternal life and salvation.
As we read and study this text today we come to a restoration, that is we come to restore our broken relationship with our Lord. I have heard people say, “I do not go to church because it is full of hypocrites!” And I suppose they have a point. As Christians we profess to try to do good, but we often fail and we show how sinful we really are, and that is why we go to church to confess our sins and be given forgiveness so that we might have the opportunity to start over and try again, with His help, to live godly lives. We come to divine service to have Jesus fill us with His gifts and blessings through the Word and Sacrament. I guess a good answer to the hypocrite statement would be to say, “so because somebody else ‘pretends’ to be religious you would rather forfeit your own soul as well?”
We come to church to divine service to worship in spirit and in truth. We come to be given the gifts the Lord has to give to us. And as we are given those gifts we are filled. We are filled with faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. We are filled with peace and joy. We are filled with the Lord. We are clothed in His righteousness.
Ultimately, as we are given the gifts our Lord has to give to us and as we are filled, we overflow, that is we go out and live lives of faith always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus, telling others the good news that we have heard and been given. You have heard me use this illustration before and it is a fitting illustration. We are a lot like a glass and God is like a pitcher. Through our making regular and diligent use of the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, God pours His gifts into us until we finally overflow and share those gifts with others, which is a very important part of our Christian faith and life, the getting to the point where we share our faith with others. The difficult part is that as we grow and mature in our Christian faith our glass becomes bigger and bigger. It takes more and more to fill us before we overflow and share with others. And that is unfortunate. Maybe that is why God reminds us to be as little children, to have small glasses, ones that will overflow quickly.
We worship Jesus best when we worship Him in spirit and truth, recognizing and confessing our sins and being given from Him forgiveness, newness of life, strengthening of faith and salvation. And as we given to from the Lord, so we pass that on to others. Today we give thanks for the opportunities that we have daily to hear God’s Word, to be strengthened and to be filled so that we might take God’s gifts out and share them with others through our actions as well as our words and thoughts. Praise the Lord and may He continue to bless the Word that is spoken here. To God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.