Monday, March 27, 2017

Resurrection Faith!



THE GOSPEL comes to us this week from Saint John. Within the text provided, we read about the raising of Lazarus… given as a sign of God’s powerful love freely given.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it." 
 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.  Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go into Judea again." 
 The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?" 
 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep." 
 The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." 
 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." 
 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.
 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." 
 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 
 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 
 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 
 She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world." When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you."  And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 
 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 
 Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 
 Jesus wept.  So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 
 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 
 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." 
 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" 
 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that you hear me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you did send me." 
 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." 
 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." 
 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him… (John11:1-45a)

What Does It Take?
This story coming out from the gospel of John was intended to bolster faith in his disciples that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. The writer tried to prepare the readers’ minds for the good news of our Lord's own Resurrection in the story told of salvation, and thus strengthen the resolve of those early Christians. Reading this account given from a day which preceded Jesus own death and Resurrection, the early churches of John could not say in Spirit that resurrection was impossible.
 However, we note as the telling begins that Jesus answered the request for his presence, but he did not go immediately. Yet the Son of God had gracious intentions even when he seemed to delay. We can take from this delay, that whenever the work of divine deliverance whether public or personal, seems far removed… it does not mean that healing is denied. Indeed, God’s attention is not absent; it just may not abide favorably until the right time.
 At the time of this occasion, the disciples thought that it was needless for Jesus to go to Lazarus. We might guess that they wanted him to heal his friend without going to Bethany. Or possibly, it was thought that they were already too late. As well, returning to Bethany, located just outside the walls of Jerusalem, would expose them to danger. You see, they had just fled the zealous powers of unbelieving persons.

  But note here! Lest we judge the early disciples too harshly, we need to remember that today we also often hope that good works will be done by someone else… especially if great peril exists in the doing.
 After several days passed, Jesus went to Bethany in spite of hazard. He found that Martha’s house… which once been a place of love, care and concern, was through death  made a house of mourning. As Jesus walked by grace toward her house, it is of little doubt that he went with a love to be expressed in ways of mercy and comfort that was far greater than could be imagined.
 Hearing that he approached, Martha first went to meet him. She told him what he already knew. Lazarus was dead. But Martha exhibited faith. She believed that Jesus could ask the Father for anything, and it would be granted. We repeat for emphasis, his response to her faith…

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 

 Martha answered, “Yes Lord, I believe…” Amid this witness, Jesus provides that for God time is not a barrier. Indeed, Mary had been sitting alone in the house. Her solitude at one time was an advantage for her when she sat at Jesus’ feet. But in the day of loss, that same time of independence disposed her toward being melancholy. Lazarus had been dead four days.
 Here I believe that John demonstrated much to his readers. He stressed that much time had passed. By this I believe our author stressed that with God it is no harder to restore life in one moment, than in another. It was commonly thought amongst the Jews that after three days the spirit had completely left the body… surely by human standards the expiration date had passed.
 Jesus stated clearly to Martha that he is the Resurrection and the Life. In every sense, John pointed out to his readers that Jesus is the source, the substance… the first-fruits… the very cause of life. For Lazarus, Martha and we believers living today, therefore, death cannot have the last say. Jesus asked Martha if she believed this Truth. We ask ourselves, as we who read such at Christ's feet and are taught by him.., “Can we run from our solitude like Mary? Can we proclaim Christ in days of unbelief and persecution?”

What of Loving Power?
Upon hearing this lesson read, the early church of John was called by the writer to cast persecutions and death at God’s feet. We are called as well to do this whenever we suffer any loss, and as the people of God we are admonished by John to corporately “only believe” as we are assailed by times of trial.
 Notice that Jesus’ tender sympathy with faithless mourning was shown by tears. Whether it was tearful anger at sin, or sorrow because of our human unbelief… we cannot know. We do know, however, that he loved greatly. His feelings for mourning friends showed up. He asked after the remains of the deceased man.
 Jesus arrived at the tomb. There he demonstrated that God does not let death have the final say. Being a man of tears and acquainted with grief, Jesus Christ set an example in that we too can be brought to tears in our comforting of the afflicted today. We too can cry out, but not just for the passing and missing of someone deeply cared about… but rather we are called to mourn a greater loss. We are to grieve the sinful stubbornness and unbelief found in the world around us.
 Finally, we surely are to know through this lesson that we have not a High Priest who is distant from our infirmities and finitude. Indeed, Jesus could have raised Lazarus by a distant and silent exertion of his power and will. He could have acted in a remote, unseen way. Instead, John told that God is intimately involved and willing to shed tears. So should we be also involved in the deaths of those around us.

 I emphasize that Jesus provided a call for each of us spoken in full sight of others. Surely those whom Christ loves also shall become sick and bodily die. This tells us that Jesus came not to preserve his people from afflictions, for we still suffer under the condemnation of the Law… but our Lord came into the world to save us from the penalty of our sins. Therefore, we are not abandoned to the grave. Through the mercy of the Father provided through his Son, death like sleep shall not eternally hold us.
 For the church of John this lesson provided a prophetic call as they were sent out into a hostile world. Harsh persecutions were fast upon the young church, but here they were pronounced as not standing over against the love of God. John told that Lazarus had been revived and had returned not only to life, but to health! So it was told to be the future with John’s church as they faced the world.
 Indeed, the Church proclaimed the gospel of God during the last years of the first century and on into the next era. The Church had been separated, disdained, and declared dead by Jewish authorities. But those churches of John were proven alive, though they were driven into the catacombs that housed the dead. The Church endured to see God’s glory. We are its descendants.
 Consequently, this good news comes to us today as we live in our own turbulent time. Politically liberal and progressive powers of this modern world would yet assail faithful Christians within the church. But here we are reminded by John that these things are not new. We are encouraged by the Word of God that despair, isolation, and even death shall not seize our day. Through the Word given by the Holy Spirit unto eternal life we know that through believing in his redemptive power, we of the Church eternal shall also see the glory of God. So it was then, and so it shall be now. Amen!





.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Be Insightful!

WE READ a rather lengthy lesson from Holy Scripture for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. As this entire chapter rolls forth as the Word for the day, we may also note that some persons within the congregation, even we ourselves… drift away as our eyes glaze over. However, though long, this story shines brightly to us. It glimmers like a diamond amid the other occasions of healing accomplished by Jesus.
 As proof for this, I offer that this reading describes to the short-sighted, not only an initial healing… but also gives us a detailed account of the many long term repercussions caused by human sin. Our lesson reads…

As he passed by, he (Jesus) saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 
 Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; for night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 
 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent).
 So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" 
 Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." 
 They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?"  
 He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." 
 They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." 
 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." 
 Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?"
 He said, "He is a prophet." 
 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" 
 His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." 
 His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him." 
 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." 
 He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." 
 They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 
 He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" 
 And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." 
 The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 
 They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out.  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" 
 He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" 
 Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you."  He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." 
 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?"  Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.  (John 9:1-41)

Define Miraculous!
God performs the miraculous by creating each and every nanosecond of our existence, but we humans take the miraculous for granted. Additionally, we habitually try to scientifically define the miraculous events. We hold up our own measures… just as our ancient forebears have done. Consequently, we share the spiritual blindness of those such as the Jews who were contemporary with Jesus.
 For example, we read from John that during a former day Jesus was leaving turmoil behind in the temple at Jerusalem. He had just caused much tumult in saying that he was “the Light of the World” (John 8:2). Leaving those arguments and tumults behind on his way out of town, our Lord left the temple courtyard and went through the streets toward the southeastern corner of Jerusalem. There in the streets, he and his disciples encountered a man who was blind.
 The blind man’s plight before them suddenly caused a deep theological discussion. We note here that his disability formed theological questions for them, rather than prompting any responsive and active caring. How insulated they seemed to be. Surely, if they had even dropped a coin in his donation basket, its thud would have been resounding enough to make mention here.
 We note that even before they proposed their very human “Why?” question, written scripture had historically pointed to possibilities they might entertain. Was it his fault…. or his parent’s sin… that caused such a malady? The Mosaic scriptures had long said…

"You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”  (Exodus 20:4-5)

 Jesus took the initiative to correct the mindset of his followers. The occasion was a teaching moment. Our Lord explained to all that it was not the man’s sin that caused his blindness, but it was that God’s work would be made known. Thus the cause of the blindness was not specific to the man… but it was a condition allowed by God through which our collective human, corporate sin… was shown. This gave opportunity, for in that occasion grace would be revealed. God would provide a divine answer for all sinfulness.
 Even while verbally explaining this truth to them, Jesus gathered some dirt from which Adam was made. He mixed it with a small amount of water that was indeed blessed… in that it was the very spit from our Lord’s mouth. He applied the resulting poultice to the man’s eyes.
 Amid the reading, therefore, we hearers know that the readers of this gospel already were given prophetic signs by the author. The poultice was certainly representing watery baptisms and healings that had become possible through Jesus Christ..
 The blind man then faithfully did exactly what Jesus told him to do. Though the instruction likely did not make sense to the man at the time, nor to anyone else watching… he in faith went to the pool of Siloam and washed. Thus a miracle occurred. Most assuredly, the water and the Word accomplishes much.
 We… like those of long ago… might also wonder as our minds now race... “Was it the water? Was it the mud application? More so… was it a faith healing due to the man's following of Jesus’ instructions? Or most profound… was he simply healed by the grace of God that was poured out to the helpless man regardless of human sin?” It seems both sinful and ironic to me, that just as the disciples belabored why the man had been born blind, when we today read of his healing... many still encounter this story and argue scientifically how and why he gained miraculous sight.

When Blind See…?
Look closely! So noticeably profound was the attainment of the man’s sight, that religious authorities were called upon to explain what had happened. Great knowledge was needed… and therefore advice was sought from the Pharisees! Being challenged by witnesses, they first tried to determine whether the deed was of God, or of Satan?
 In one sense they argued that the mandate against healing had been broken. Jesus had mixed the mud and done the healing on the Sabbath. They asked, “Was Jesus then a demon?” Could he not have done the healing the next day and not tested the Pharisees in such a way? Tested indeed, the Pharisees then held much discussion with the man, his parents, the witnesses… and each other. Upset were the religious authorities. They could not agree.
 The man who was healed broke their futile resolve to explain. He saws that they were unable to answer… much like we today who try to answer all things scientifically, and often argue uselessly. We question scientifically deeper things. For example, “We ask whether the explosion of a star results in a knowable and predictable physical law in the universe, or is it the force of a planned event happening in a space time instant created by divine edict? Often, even today, we argue until the lights go out… and cannot come to firm, provable conclusions. Human science sometimes casts mystery away which specious chatter, often leaving us with Infinite questions. However, if we heed the Word of God in these times of doubt, we end up like the blind man…moving in faith toward a healing pool of Siloam.

The Seeing Are Blinded!
The man who was healed said to the Pharisees that without God nothing would have happened. Thus Jesus was surely doing the works of God. One proof was that he had been restored from a great darkness. He revealed that the healing was not just one physically accomplished, for spiritually the will of God was revealed before him.
 The result was that others who claimed that they knew, like the Pharisees, were proved as blind leaders. They were leaders who argued over each speck in the Law and missed the point. Thus they found that the Law only convicts and condemns us… both we who offend... and we who judge.
 You see, God’s unchanging Law cannot be fulfilled by man to any positive determination. The Law reveals every one of us to be beggars and unseeing guides. We are found as collectively walking in a sinful gutter that we call our world.
 However, the good news yet prevails. We are driven by that same Law to find salvation in Christ Jesus. For the man born blind… and we who listened to this message with an open mind… see that spiritual sight has been restored. As the prophet predicted, the miraculous comes to us through Christ, shown by the power of the Holy Spirit….
Upon the revelation that the Son of Man stood before him, even though he previously never saw Jesus… the blind man worshiped God. The Son of Man was revealed! The blind man offered thankfulness. It came out of healing and newly formed faith that had been given. Such is the power of water mixed with Spirit. The blind man worshiped right there, openly in the street, and not just in a synagogue as a “gathering place” He worshiped personally in the presence of Truth revealed. Of such is the grace of God that caused faith to come upon him as a gift that could be seen.
 Given this, I offer to you that it follows that whether high or low, great or small, piously private or public, beggar or thief, deaf or blind… when we ironically try to justify ourselves and say that we are smart and scientific… we do not see!” Whenever we do this… we are condemned already. If we say we have certainly been blind and are yet so, however, we are called to kneel and admit our sinfully ignorant guilt. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are poised to really see the Truth by the grace of God. We receive grace upon grace. We become healed! So it was written by Saint John long ago, and so it is forevermore. Thanks be to God.

 For those who wish to do so, view the pastoral message for this week.








Monday, March 13, 2017

Bad Samaritan?



WE NOW consider the gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Lent. Coming from the Gospel According to Saint John, this text told of the encounter between Jesus and a woman in Samaria.
 We find at the beginning that the woman was presented in scripture as a person shunned. She was a woman who lived on the fringes of acceptable society. She was treated badly, even by those who were themselves treated by Judeans as lowly outsiders.
 The story thus revealed to the Church the radical grace and acceptance that God universally offered to the lowest of the low, and so this grace also comes to us…

So he (Jesus ) came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 
 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 
 The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 
 Jesus 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." 
 The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" 
 Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." 
 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." 
 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 
 The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." 
 The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." 
 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 
 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." 
 Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." 
 Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" 
 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" They went out of the city and were coming to him. 
 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." 
 So the disciples said to one another, "Has any one brought him food?" 
 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.'  I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." 
 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word.  They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."  (John 4:5-42)

On Being Thirsty…
Traveling from Cana where he had turned water into wine during a wedding celebration, our Lord went onward in ministry. He walked a short, but not highly traveled route through Samaria along the way. He went there in spite of the fact that no devout Jew would have dealings with any Samaritan. Most devout Jews would take the longer route around the region. The historical disdain between Samaritans and Jews went way back in time, as likely recorded by the prophet Nehemiah, in Chapter 4.
 The Samaritans had since those days of the ancestors, been driven from their temple on Mount Gerazim. They had been forced to the location of Shechem by Alexander the Great. Later the Maccabean ruler Hyrcanus destroyed that temple and tried to suppress the cultic practices there. Scripturally, however, we have little other knowledge of them than this history and that which is found in the Lukan telling of the “Good Samaritan”.
 Thus the place called Sychar was indeed classified as lost and desolate to Jews. And yet Jesus deliberately went there… as if to retrieve the lost. In surety however, let us be reminded that both Samaritans and Jews had belief in the coming of the delivering Messiah. As evidenced here, the woman believed that a Deliver would come.
 Therefore, we read that the woman went to the well of Jacob as recorded by this story in John. There a prophetic event occurred between that fallen woman and Jesus. The event revealed to John’s churches, and to us… the unfolding grace of God which was to be poured out also upon lowly Samaritans through his beloved Son.
 Of first importance, let us note that all of the disciples were elsewhere doing errands. They were sent grocery shopping. We then must consider that this story was likely found present in John’s telling simply because of local witness and legend. It surely comes from an independent Johannine source… and not from direct observation of the disciples.
 Thus told by word of mouth by the followers of Jesus who kept the occasion in remembrance, possibly the very citizens of the area in Samaria, the story told of Jesus arriving in thirst to the historically-important well. Jacob’s well had indeed supplied precious water for centuries
The place was recorded as thus…

“Then Israel said to Joseph, "Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to you rather than to your brothers, one mountain slope which I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow."  (Genesis 48:21-22)

 The well, therefore, had sustained community life for a separated people and flocks of that area for hundreds of years. The problem was that the woman our Lord found there was one who her own society shunned. As a Samaritan, she was shunned also by the Jews as they even rumored that the women there were perpetually in menses. In totality, she was a scorned woman of a scorned people. As well, it seems she was not thought of highly because of her own lifestyle, whether placed amid social squalor by circumstance, life choices, or acts of survival. Therein was the door-clanging heat of condemnation for her as Jesus approached the well. She was scorned so thoroughly that she had to physically go to the fountain during the high heat of the day. She went to the well while being scorched by the world… trying to refill her empty vessels. At the time, therefore, Jesus seemingly baited her..., in using authority that seems to have been a haughty tone.., “Give me a drink.”
 We note the absence of the word, “Please”. Then, somewhat like a disgruntled congregant who was called to supply water or wine on short notice for an unplanned churchly baptismal thanksgiving dinner, she reacted sarcastically. Some might say the answer bordered on the demonic. She challenged Jesus with a “Why should I?” attitude. Somehow we fathers today might sense these words as echoed by an obstinate teen-aged daughter. In other words, it seems she retorted… “Why? I am not a Jew! I am not your daughter… one of yours!”
 This retort in our reading is where Jesus spiritually breaks the earthen vessels in which she carried sour and brackish water. He almost scolded her. He told her of “living water”. He related that he knew her station of living in a town that had rejected her, and he knew that she led a life with questionable path.
 This was revealed as true… but even so he would give her some wondrous, lively water if she only asked. Now, for those of us who are uninformed… water bubbling with the Spirit was surely scriptural. We read from many places describing this enlivening water… such as…

“Behold, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1).

 The water which Jesus, as the Son of Man and Son of God provides to us is water empowered by the Spirit… the eternal Spirit of God. The spiritual water offered by Jesus comes from the deep well of God’s love which never goes dry. That water is never withheld from those who seek. That water and Spirit cannot be constrained by any container. When desired by a believer, no person, town, nation nor church can stop its flow.
 We note here that this revelation was made by Jesus, who was an itinerant Jewish rabbi… and he was speaking to a rejected woman. We remind that she lived in a rejected town, in a backwater province of an earthly empire. In modern times surely we who should know more of our position at the universal watering hole may marvel the wonder that this love poured out. We spin on a minor planet of a second rate star… in a universe that science now claims as a miniscule speck in the infinitely expanding creation of God. Such is the magnificently focused love of God that was poured out to this singular and lowly woman… and so also to us.

Welling Up!
You see, to feel as you are without God’s love poured out is something the woman had experienced. She had endured the loss of several husbands. The woman was likely considered as spent marital property. Tossed aside, she sought a man’s companionship but did not marry. She was ostracized and scorned by her own people. Thus I believe for John, she indeed represented the early church.
 To further this point, note that the Samaritan woman received the Spirit over against the high powers of Jerusalem and Rome. The woman and her people had existed as outcasts for centuries, yet had survived by the grace of God. But note, the woman was gracefully offered not just her sustenance water for the day, but had she asked… she would have received living water forever!
 Certainly, like those who had come to John the Baptist for ritual cleansing and would need to return again, she instead received the good news of impending eternal cleansing. Therefore, I believe that this telling related to the readers found in the time of the writer, that they too could receive the gift of faith. Subsequently, through baptism, faith had been given by Jesus through the Spirit of Pentecost. That faith would bubble up and spill forth in them… overflowing even to the ends of the earth.

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-39)

 Prophetically bound together then, the woman represented the early Christian church… congregations that were just beginning to know of the grace poured out. That power revealed was yet to grow and would be fulfilled upon the last day.

Her Cup Was Full…
Jesus stayed in that place for a time, ministering with the woman and her people. He stayed and delivered the Word of God. I have little doubt that he built great faith among those who had been rejected, for this very story is evidence. He then continued his mission toward Jerusalem in answer to prophecy. Jesus went from that humble and despised place to Jerusalem on high. There he was to be lifted up, just as had been planned from the beginning.
 In Jesus’ actions at the well, therefore, we see that an exchange surely took place. In Jerusalem he was rejected and set apart. He was persecuted. Though innocent, he accepted for himself that woman’s place in the community of man. There in Jerusalem, the rabbi was beheld as a forever unacceptable outcast.
 Consequently, the man Jesus, who prophetically thirsted at the well of Jacob, thirsted finally upon the cross. The Son of God received the woman’s human plight and gave his eternal life both for her and for us… in a blessed exchange that pleased his Father.
 Take note! Jesus died for her there upon the cross, for her people, and even we today who accept his gift. We who read the story need only try to grasp the fullness of this meaning.
 We who need also to receive water from the spiritual cup and be baptized, need to individually or corporately drink deeply of the living water offered. When we accept the wondrous gift, we are redeemed. Then we may as the body of Christ, offer the living water to others.


 I say to you that we should not depend on the dry wells of religiosity, earthly governments, or the popular progressive opinions within this world. We know these earthen, dry pits shall fail. Instead, let us more certainly grasp the baptismal cup in the knowing that we have been eternally set aside for mission in the world, by immersion in the Spirit at the eternal well of love that does not fail.
 As the Church, let us realize that we receive forgiveness for our separation from God and one another. We note from scripture that in spite of first misgivings (see Matthew 10:5) through which we thought we are determined as separate, we now emerge from the waters joined as baptized and empowered. We are joined together though sinners to become the Sent Ones. This empowerment comes to us amid the furious heat of the day.
 Remember! The grace of God can cool our sinfully parched and argumentative throats… so that we may speak blessed words of salvation to others. Like the woman at the well, we may run to tell the village. In this way, the watery blessing becomes a gift that wells up in the world even unto eternal life. So it has been revealed to us. That is precisely how the blessed enlivened water coming from God flows! May it bubble forth by the power of the Spirit on into our future… even unto the end of the age.
 For a message based upon this lesson, click the video below....






 Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord


nalc.org