Sermon for 3/23/2014 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA. Sundays aren't counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, so if you missed your yoga exercises yesterday, don't feel bad!
Gospel: John 4:5–42
5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The 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.) 10Jesus 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." 11The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" 13Jesus 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." 15The 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."
16Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." 17The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" 19The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But 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. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 25The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." 26Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."
27Just 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?" 28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he? 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 33So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" 34Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do 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. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They 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."
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
This morning, two women encounter Jesus.
One, has nothing but an empty water jar, a long-list of exes, and that’s about it. She’s a Samaritan, or someone who a Jewish person like Jesus would perceive as perpetually unclean and impure at the time. As it was, this woman was of very little value to her society.
The other, isn’t really a woman but instead a little girl. She doesn’t carry water jars, but instead bottles or sippy cups, and as far as I know, she has no exes. And, unlike the Samaritan woman, this little girl is one of our greatest treasures, and we are amazed by her.
Today, Jesus will encounter this little girl, Lexi, in the waters of Baptism. In those loving waters, Jesus will value Lexi so much that he will give her his life. We as Lexi’s family and community will be witnesses to this loving act, and we will be called to promise to nurture Lexi in the life and love that Jesus gives her. And, while we give thanks for this gift, and rejoice in it, we’re also not all that surprised by it in this time and place, because of how much we love our children.
Indeed, because of how much we love our children, it’s pretty natural for us to understand why Jesus would give them such a gift as baptism. And, it’s very normal for us to see this little person who Jesus loves, and make promises to love and care for her just as Jesus does.
What’s harder for us to understand, or normalize, is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, at least in today’s context. Because of sin, we look at many people and place little value on them, just as the ancient world placed little value on this Samaritan woman.
While it’s easy for us to love and care for a beautiful baby girl, how do we feel about the 30 year old woman who has been walking the streets since she was 16? How do we feel about this woman who puts up with the beatings and enslavement of a cruel john, because she has nowhere else to go? How we feel about her is pretty well summed up by the way we put up a barrier between her and us with a word like prostitute.
Or how do we feel about the woman who has two children and lives with the man who is not their father. What value do we give her, apart from our skepticism, shame and judgment? We might command her to get us an iced coffee or a large fries, but we don’t value her enough, or care for her enough to give her a living wage, much less living water.
As we begin to understand Jesus’ encounter with this Samaritan woman in terms of our world today, we can understand a little more just how radical and life changing God’s grace is. This grace is the living water that Jesus gives to this woman, a water that springs and gushes and gives her life not just for one day, but for all of her days. This living water gives the life that comes when the type of person who can tell you all about your life, like a prophet or a messiah, doesn’t condemn you, but offers you his life instead.
This is the living water that will be given to Lexi today. It is the water of Jesus’ life, the water that will say that she will be God’s favorite for all of her days, along with all of us, no matter what.
And we remember, as Lexi is given Jesus’ eternal life in these waters, that she has already encountered Jesus’ love in the love of her parents, and family, and so many others. She has encountered Jesus in the life that these people, and even our community of CtK, has passed on to her. We remember that as Lexi receives this grace filled living water, this eternal life of Jesus Christ, she will be called to share it with all people just as it has been shared with her. And she will be called to share this life just because grace filled sharing, as we know from our story of the woman at the well, is simply the nature of this life.
For Lexi, as she receives this baptized life, we pray and promise that we as a community will nurture in it, so that she can learn to trust in it, grow in it, and return to the life that it offers. And we also pray and that we will nurture her in this life by showing her our trust in it. We pray that we will show her how Christ, through each of us, is breaking down the sinful barriers that we put up between ourselves and those our society marginalizes. We pray that as God gives Lexi this living water, God will renew it in us, so that we may tell all people about the source of this water, through our love, concern, and care for them. We pray that we can tell others about the source of this living water by showing them the value that God places not only upon Lexi and all of us, but upon all people, and all of creation.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,