Sermon Bures March 20
Water from the rock
17 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarrelled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’
Moses replied, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?’
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’
5 The Lord answered Moses, ‘Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’
Jesus came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’
11 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’
13 Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
15 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’
16 He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’
17 ‘I have no husband,’ she replied.
Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’
19 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’
21 ‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’
25 The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’
26 Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you – I am he.’
The disciples rejoin Jesus
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?’ 30 They came out of the town and made their way towards him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’
32 But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’
33 Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’
34 ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.’
Many Samaritans believe
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I’ve ever done.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.’
In the Old Testament reading today
things had got just about as bad as they can,
the people were going through a terrible time,
they really don’t know whether they are coming or going
they had lost faith in Moses … and, even worse, they had lost faith in God
they were asking, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
And actually at the moment, right now … for us
life seems to get more and more complicated by the week …
by the day almost … we are living in a sort of limbo
trying to imagine what will happen next with Corona-virus,
how will it affect us? … how will it affect the people we love?
Every time I turn on the news it’s more doom and gloom
and in a way … when we turn on the news, what do we expect?
that is what we are asking for!
But personally speaking, when I come to church I’m not asking for that …
I’m asking for some encouraging news,
some hope for my life … now and in the future,
some reassurance… that even if my life were to end now:
well… that’s when the really good bit starts,
that’s what we are all looking forward to,
because life in Heaven is going to be so much better than life here.
And if we are not thinking like that … well we should be!
We know that God loves us and we know of his promises to us
So this is the time to hold on tight to our faith in his enduring love
and our hope of Heaven.
This might be a good time to re-set, to re-calibrate and re-fresh our faith,
give it a bit of new sparkle and fizz!
Perhaps is has gone a bit flat, like out smart phone or computer
when it goes a bit flat and stops working so well
and we have to turn it off for a minute and then turn it on again (I forget that).
And the gospel reading today really fits the bill …
full of life and hope for every single one of us.
The Gospel story is a real revelation because,
Jesus goes against all of the normal ideas of what it was like
to be a ‘Holy Person’ at that time…
before He changed all the rules
and turned the whole world of religion on its head.
For a start Jesus was a good Jew and a Rabbi
and normal Rabbis wouldn’t have dreamt of speaking
to a Samaritan woman …. a hated and despised foreigner… a Pariah …
being a Samaritan was bad enough,
but being a woman just added to your woes.
Some Jews would even refuse to speak to their own wives in public –
they counted for so little.
And let’s consider THIS particular woman who…
because of her rather questionable morals
had to come to the Well on her own…. in the worst part of the day
because she would have been ostracised by the other women in the village.
The other women, a merry band of friends perhaps
would have come out all together … earlier in the day –
and they didn’t want her being part of their group
most likely because they saw her as a threat to their own marriages.
Like most of us, she probably would have loved
to have been included … to be part of the gang,
but she was paying the price for the way she had lived.
The good news with Jesus
is that he wanted her to come back, to be re-included.
She probably had a rather troubled past,
And once bad things have happened in your life…
it can be very difficult to change.
That isn’t to say that she didn’t have to bother trying …
or that her lifestyle didn’t matter,
simply that the reality was…. that forgiveness was her only option.
And perhaps for the first time in her life….
someone noticed and took her seriously – and it had a dramatic effect.
Jesus talked to the woman about the water she was drawing from the well
because it helped him to illustrate her deadness… and his life.
She was drawing from still water, perhaps stagnant water…
and she was trying to live by a faith that was also lifeless and stale.
The Jews and the Samaritans had limited God –
according to them… he only loved certain people,
he only lived in certain places.
It was as though the children of God
had come to know of their father
only through what was written down by others
There was no living relationship that made God real to them,
just the words written centuries beforehand.
And I wonder if we too occasionally live off
other people’s experience of Jesus …rather than re-kindling our own?
I was talking to my daughter yesterday and she was saying
“This will change everything, really put things in perspective,
life will never be the same again…
and we will all have to go back to basics”.
She is so right …and that is a good moment for us all to re-set our faith.
From time to time, we are all beset with regrets that begin ‘If only…’
The woman at the Well must have had rather a lot of those.
But what’s so encouraging about Jesus’ encounters with people generally…
is the way he treats the past – he doesn’t dwell on it.
His honest, open handling of the situation __
broke through the woman’s emotional smoke screen,
preparing her to hear the words of comfort that she most needed.
Jesus seemed to understand her circumstances and feelings,
he already knew about her previous marriages… and her present adultery
so when he points all this out to her,
it’s not to accuse her …. or to condone her sin
it’s really just to lay the groundwork for her forgiveness…
and he then goes on to talk about the future.
A parallel story to this one
is when Jesus comes across the woman caught in adultery.
She was brought before Him
and everyone was shouting about what she had done.
And all Jesus said to her was, ‘Go and sin no more.’
They were going on about her past…
Jesus just wanted to set her right for the future.
From the beginning of the Old Testament and right through the Bible,
God wanted his people to grow up
and become a trusting and forgiving people,
When we harbour grudges and bitter memories,
we do ourselves no favours.
There are all sorts of aspects of the Christian faith
that are hard for us to practice, not least forgiveness,
but even just asking for forgiveness
goes a long way, not just in our lives…
but in the lives of other people as well.
And sometimes it can be even harder to ask for forgiveness… as to forgive
And that raises another question …
how good are we even, at forgiving ourselves?
Jesus always sticks to his promises
and he’s always pouring out forgiveness himself…
not just because that’s what he does,
but to show us the way as well.
Imagine a world where all churches always offered that kind of love and grace.
Jesus said later on in John.(10:10),
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus wanted that ‘full life’ for his fellow Jews,
but also for you and me… and for everyone on earth
– including all the modern-day Samaritan men and woman … that we know.
In the reading, that poor woman experienced that new life for herself,
she discovered that she mattered …more than she had ever imagined,
and that her seemingly desperate search for true love ..was over at last.
She came alive, she was set free.
And what a lovely message for us at a time of “going back to basics”.
Another thing strikes me about this story…
and perhaps it’s a bit of a theme in Jesus life..
He doesn’t just launch in …. He begins by asking HER for something,
He has nothing to draw water with
and she has a container … so he asks her for a drink.
What an ice breaker that is! A good way to break the sound barrier
Here he is… a complete stranger asking her for a favour!
And there is a certain sort of generosity
in willingly becoming the recipient of someone else’s kindness.. isn’t there?
Jesus came to this earth in a stable borrowed for the night,
his life continued to be quite poor materially.
He ate with gratitude at the home of a notorious tax-collector
and allowed his head and feet to have precious perfume poured over them.
When he died he was anointed with someone else’s spices
and was laid in a borrowed tomb.
Jesus doesn’t just come barging into our lives without asking
he stands at the door and knocks…. asks us a favour… can I come in?
and waits for us to invite him.
When the woman at the well returned to the town where she lived,
She had nothing to lose, she had hidden away… perhaps for many years.
But now all her shame had been wiped away
so shamelessly.. ..literally without shame
She told the people about her conversation with Jesus.
John tells us, “Many of the Samaritans from that town
believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them.
And because of his words many more became believers.
They said to the woman,
‘We no longer believe just because of what you said;
now we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.'”
In other words, these people first knew about Jesus
from the words the woman spoke,
but eventually they were able to say that they
themselves had met him.
No longer did they depend on someone else’s words,
now they had a living relationship for themselves.
Still water had been exchanged for sparkling life.
The good news for us today and for all the world
is that God doesn’t stand aloof and distant,
he doesn’t want the Christian life we lead to be dull and stagnant,
with us living off stale memories from the past.
So… here we are… reasonably enough
all worrying about the trials and tribulations of this world
about if we will get Coronovirus or not.
Let’s be sensible and take the right precautions, of course….
but also fix our eyes on our own knowledge of Jesus, re-fresh our faith,
and put our trust in his forgiveness and his promises to us.
Because nothing … absolutely nothing ….can separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
May God bless you. Amen