3 Lent Year A
March 12, 2023
St. Paul’s Random Lake
Crossing the Boundaries
Let us pray. Lord, you come to us and do not even think to judge us before you first shower us with your mercy and grace. Help us to embrace the world before we seek to impose our harsh, judgemental standards and limitations upon it so that others may know the lifechanging power of your love. AMEN.
Today’s Gospel from John is one of the longest recorded conversations that Jesus has with anyone in the Bible. In his desire to make God’s love known to a Samaritan woman he meets at Jacob’s well, he appears to have no hesitation about setting aside the perceived social boundaries and restrictions of his time.
A Jewish man in the time of Jesus had no business talking to a woman in public! On top of
that the woman in this story was a Samaritan which was another mark against her–Jews certainly were to have no dealings with Samaritans. The two races were hated enemies. Last but not least, we learn that being seen with this particular woman would not have been a smart move. She came to the well at noon, the hottest time of the day, possibly to avoid the rejection and ridicule of others for her questionable reputation. As Jesus himself later points out to her: “You are right in saying: I have no husband’ for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. Yet, even though Jesus appears to know everything about this disreputable, Samaritan woman, he doesn’t attempt to judge her as many good and righteous folks might do. Instead Jesus invites her to drink of the living water that wells up to eternal life.”
This conversation between Jesus and this woman who no one else in his right mind would have been seen with makes me wonder, who would Jesus be talking to today? Would he march through our brand new church doors and come and talk to me or go searching for some higher religious authority or would he go looking at some humble “watering hole” for someone who is truly thirsting for the Living Water he has to offer? Someone who is poor. Someone who is lonely and looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. Someone whose spirit feels empty and is seeking to be filled.
As Jesus’ voice in the world are we going to the places that he would have us go? Are we speaking in ways so that they will yearn to be filled with the living water that Jesus has to offer.
When Jesus speaks to this Samaritan woman he doesn’t do it because he’s naive. He knows exactly who she is, where she’s been, that
she is a woman with a “past.” Yet, he simply speaks the truth, not to judge her but to reveal to her that there is nothing she can hide from him. God knows her, scars and all and yet, at the same time Jesus offers her his cup of grace and healing. “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. ”
In much the same way, Jesus holds out that same promise to you, not just here where you try to put on your holiest Sunday morning face, but when you’re struggling, feeling empty in the depths of your spirit, at those times when you wouldn’t want anyone to see you in the darkness of sin or shame. God sees you and knows you then too when you’re at your worst. Without judging you, Jesus holds out the cup of love that will become a spring within you gushing up to eternal life.
spiritually, mistakenly get the idea that the church is a stifling, unwelcoming place where they have no
room to breathe and to be who they are, merciless, unforgiving. Come to the living water and let Jesus
fill you so that you are a spring bubbling up with his hope in a hopeless world, a fountain of grace and love flowing out to those who are thirsting for purpose, meaning and acceptance.
One day, Nick was watching his three year old daughter while his wife was out. She was playing in another room, so he took the opportunity to get some work done. After a while, it dawned on him that his daughter was unusually quiet, so he called out, “What are you doing?” First, she didn’t respond, then he repeated the question and she said, “Oh…nothing.” Not a good sign.
He ran into the room where his daughter was, whereupon she took off up the stairs The Samaritan woman came to Jacob’s well for water and she left her water jar behind. Why? Because when she met Jesus and truly experienced his unconditional love and acceptance he filled her with the living water of which he spoke. And what did she do? She returned to the city to tell others what she had seen. She went to pour out that grace upon the people that she met. Jesus’ love bubbled up inside of her so that she couldn’t contain it anymore.
Is that what happens when you talk with Jesus? All too often we come to church, we hear God’s Word and then when we do take it home with us, it doesn’t come out as a spring of life, but instead it only serves to choke others off with self-righteous judgement. So that people outside the church, people much like the Samaritan woman who are thirsting for God, yearning to be filled up and he chased her until she was cornered in the bathroom with her back to him. He told her to turn around. She refused. So he pulled out his big, mean authoritative daddy voice and said, “Young lady, I said turn around!”
Slowly, she turned. In her hand was what was left of Nick’s wife’s new lipstick. And every inch of her face (except her lips) was covered with bright red!
As she looked at him with fearful eyes, lips trembling he contemplated the voices in his head that had been shouted at him as a child: “HOW could you…you should know better than that…how many times have I told you…what a bad thing to do…” It was just a matter of picking out which old message to use so she would understand exactly how bad she had been. But suddenly he looked down at the sweatshirt his wife had put on her that day. It said: “I’M A PERFECT LITTLE ANGEL!” Nick looked into her eyes and instead of seeing a bad girl who didn’t listen, he saw a child of God…full of worth and value. And so he said: “Sweetheart, you look beautiful! Let’s take a picture so Mommy can see how special you look in her lipstick!”
Like that little girl and the woman Jesus met at the well, none of us are as perfect as God intended us to be. Yet, to God we are children of infinite value and worth so much that he sent his son who washed us clean of every mark of sin. May God’s Holy Spirit poured over us in the waters of baptism, bubble up in us every day to share the everlasting love and life of the one who knows everything we have ever done and yet rejoices to call us all his beautiful children. AMEN.