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How good it is to sing praises to our God..." Psalm 147:1
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Third Sunday in Lent—March 15, 2020
In today’s gospel the Samaritan woman asks Jesus for water, an image of our thirst for God. Jesus offers living water, a sign of God’s grace flowing from the waters of baptism. The early church used this gospel and those of the next two Sundays to deepen baptismal reflection during the final days of preparation before baptism at Easter. As we journey to the resurrection feast, Christ comes among us in word, bath, and meal—offering us the life-giving water of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Give Me Jesus 770 ; I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say 332
Come to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty 777 ; Tree of Life, and Awesome Mystery 334
Gospel: John 4:5-42
Jesus defies convention to engage a Samaritan woman in conversation. Her testimony, in turn, leads many others to faith.
5[Jesus] 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, 29“Come 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.”
Reflection/Homily Bill Beckstrand
Did you know that of all the accounts in the four gospels of Jesus’ many conversations (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), that he talks longer to the woman at the well than he does to anyone else?....longer than he talks to any of his disciples, longer than he talks to any of his accusers, longer than he talks to any of his own family. She is the first person he reveals himself to in the gospel of John (as the Messiah). She is the first outsider to guess who he is and tell others. She is the first evangelist, John tells us, and her testimony brings many to faith.
Why is this important? Did you also know that this encounter between Jesus and this woman is as shocking and unlikely as anything his followers might ever have witnessed? Here’s why…..
--She is a SAMARITAN… which is to say she was a nobody, and worse (dangerous), for those who take pride in their religious “purity.”
--She was a WOMAN in a culture where women were seen as property. Women were not even allowed to worship with men, whose morning devotions included the prayer “Thank God I am not a woman.” Women had no place in public life. They were not to be seen, or heard, especially by holy men, who didn’t even speak to their own wives in public. And finally, and perhaps most importantly,
--She was A FALLEN WOMAN. This made her an outsider even among women! Respectable women made their trips to the well in the morning (in the cool of the day), when they could greet one another and share the news. This woman would have been one of the people they talked about, so the fact that she showed up at noon was a sure sign she was not welcome at their morning social hour.
So, imagine her surprise when she comes in the heat of the day with her bucket, and sees a strange man sitting beside the well. He could be anyone… but when he lifts his head and asks her for a drink, she sees the olive skin, the dark eyes, the strong nose. This is no Samaritan. This man is a Jew, but what in the world is he doing here? Has he lost his way? Has he lost his mind, to be talking to her like that?? Jewish people have many rules about what they may and may not eat or drink. She knows that much, at least… and she knows this man will be breaking the law if she lets him sip from her bucket.
And what comes next is as shocking as anything we might expect—completely upside-down from our religious impulses… Jesus does drink from her bucket… he meets her where she is, and honors her completely in an encounter that offers her everything! …his very self, in fact!! It is as if, in this encounter, he throws out all the rules about “religion” and strips it all down to the lowest, and the last, and the least (the lost).
And if that isn’t shocking enough, he goes even further…. By telling this woman who she is (verses 17, 18), he reveals to her who he is: the last, the lost, the lowest… even to the point of death on a cross, so that we might know it, and believe it.
The Messiah is the one who shows you who you are by showing you who he is—the one who crosses all boundaries, breaks all rules, drops all disguises—speaking to you like someone you have known all your life, bubbling up in your life like a well that needs no dipper, so that you, too, can do what the woman at the well did after this earth-shattering encounter:
--Point to the one who is the Savior promised from long ago…
--Point to the one who knows you better than you know yourself, and yet loves you radically…
--Point to the one who encourages and challenges, and yet will never reject or condemn you…
You and I are not a whole lot different from this woman. We run from well to well to quench our never-ending thirst for a life that satisfies… we pursue relationships, status, stability, comfort, money, security, answers, with an energy that appears almost boundless. But invariably, we come to find our wells are dry, for in them is dust—the dust of our own dishonesty and excuses… the dust of our manipulating ways. We come, finally, to an impasse… where we have to say with this woman: “give me this water—this living water—so that I may never thirst again.”
And in that encounter with the Holy One, we stand face to face with no pretense about who we are—or who this Holy One is… We stand fully lit at high-noon for one bright moment in time, while all the rules, taboos, and history that separate us from our One, True Source, fall forgotten to the ground.
“Gracious One, splash us with this water that gives us life! …that our thirst might be forever quenched…”