SCRIPTURE: John 4:5-42
Jesus and the disciples come to a Samaritan city called Sychar. Jesus stays at the well while he disciples go into town to get food. It is noon when a woman comes to draw water. The parallels between Nicodemus encounter with Jesus and this woman are interesting. In the story before this one, Jesus is encountered by a the Jewish teacher, we don’t know what this woman does. He was a man, now we have a woman. He has a name, this woman is nameless. The man comes at night, this woman comes at day. He is a prominent Jew, she is a Samaritan. Jesus treats this woman without condemnation, no judgment and asks for a cup of water. There is a long standing prejudice that he over looks to get a drink of water. It is a beautiful dialogue of grace, discovery, acceptance and healing. And through the honesty of this conversation truth is told. There is a confession of broken covenants. But this time when she gives platitudes to Jesus, they have a theological discussion about God and worship. She reveals a thirst for God and Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah, “I am he.”
Belief in Jesus brings us into relationship with God. In the previous chapter, the end of the story of Nicodemus we get the John 3:16 passage of God’s great love for us. So much so, that righteousness is given to us as a gift, that if we believe we in Jesus, we may receive and enter into an eternal relationship with God. Relationship with God is the goal of Jesus’ ministry. How do we overcome exclusiveness and build a community through inclusiveness?
In order to do this we have to wrestle with what we do with sin This weekend I went to the ETCL workshop at Iao UCC, on the Bible and Homosexuality. I don’t like focusing on one sin in particular and hammering at it as the Church has done. I believe the UCC has had an approach more like Jesus has with the woman at the well, where there is no talk of condemnation but compassionate actions of a hope and grace, of worshiping together in Spirit and in truth.
Some of us hide our sin better than others. We act as if we have none so we are not truthful when we are critical of others. But if we were honest to the deep dark secrets of sin we harbor we would admit that all of us are in the same boat with God. And we all want to meet Jesus at the well to be accepted, to be known, to be treated with respect and loved.
There isn’t a passage to say that Homosexuality is not a sin, but I don’t think that that is so important as how we treat a broken person. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. And salvation come with belief. Then we wrestle with who we are with God, we wrestle with what God is calling us to do, and we wrestle with how we love our neighbor. So our work as the church is not to condemn but to introduce people to Jesus from our experience. To tell our story of meeting Jesus, to listen to their story and to make the invitation for them to meet Jesus as we have experienced him. Then maybe they could wonder, “He cannot be the the Messiah can he?”
The second part of the passage is about what happens when the disciples return and the woman’s witness of Jesus in the village. Many Samaritans believed because of what the woman said. They asked Jesus to stay a few days, and he did. Then having heard Jesus for themselves they knew that Jesus was the Savior of the world.
The disciples came back from the village with provisions and wanted Jesus to eat. He was not hungry after his ministry to the woman. Doing the work of God feeds him. When I used to go fishing, and the fish were not biting, you were hungry, tired, hot, thirsty, and had to go use the bathroom. But when the fish are bitting you felt none of that.
People are ready to hear the message of salvation that Jesus brings. Jesus was encouraging his disciples to quicken the pace of talking to people about God because they are ready to hear the Good new he is brings to have their lives turned toward God.
Jesus traveled, intentionally into the area of Samaria to share the good news there. The message of Jesus crosses over all kinds of boundaries but mostly over the boundary of sin. We should not keep our stories about Jesus contained within our boundaries but be willing to share it as the Spirit leads.
This Friday Maile and I went to address the Committee on Ways and Means and the Finance Committee of the State. We have an application for a grant for from the state to help us with our mission ground project. They gave us a 3 minute opportunity to talk about our grant proposal. I did, in sermon form. I identified those who are looking for affordable housing as our neighbor, and those who need a place to gather and learn in our community center as our neighbor. Then I shared the story of the Good Samaritan in this way. “Who is my neighbor?” Is the question the Lawyer asks Jesus to define the boundaries of benevolence. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan shatters the boundaries of prejudice to include the ignored, the marginalized and the wounded. They got a little theology with our request to extend our mission.
This weekend at the event at Iao I met a seeker who has been rejected by several other churches. He was unidentified as sin or otherwise, just as a fellow human being. But my hope was that if he came here he would find a welcome as we have felt. The story of the Jesus and the woman at the well is the illustration of John 3:17 for he did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. Because God so loves the world and has called us to do the same.