Lent 3, Year A, 2008

What is Jesus doing?

If you were his political advisor, you would freak out when witnessing our Gospel scene today.  You would pull Jesus aside and say, “Dude, you can’t just waltz through Samaria.  And you definitely, definitely cannot go hang out at the local well.”

You see, Jacob’s well is not any old well.  Jacob’s well is a place to meet the ladies.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament heroes like Isaac and Jacob met their wives at wells.  In fact, this well that Jesus approaches IS the well where Jacob met Rachel and fell in love.  If I were making a soundtrack to the Bible, I’d put some Barry White or Marvin Gaye on in the background.  This passage is supposed to make us very, very, VERY uncomfortable.

Is Jesus going to make a play for this Samaritan woman?  Is he going to reach for her hand and look deep into her eyes?  At first it looks that way.  He takes the brazen step of asking her for a drink of water.  Jews at the time considered Samaritans unclean and were not supposed to talk or touch them.  So, when Jesus asks for water, he is breaking all sorts of social taboos.  He’s asking for something that should have made his disciples’ blood drain out of their faces and pool somewhere deep in their gut.  They are probably feeling what you would feel if you ever ran into your pastor at a local bar, chatting up an attractive stranger and offering to buy them a drink.

The situation is fraught with meaning and very, very icky.

Soon, though, Jesus takes all these dangerous symbols and behaviors and turns them on their head.

Instead of flirting with the Samaritan woman, instead of offering her the fleeting affections of a human man, instead of using her up, like she had been used up in the past, Jesus treats her with incredible respect and dignity.

Not only does he treat her with respect and dignity, he also engages her on a theological level that is deeper and more challenging than any other encounter he’s had so far in the Gospel of John.

He meets this foreign woman who is “living in sin”, meets her eye to eye and reveals to her that he is the Christ.

He meets this broken hearted woman, who has had five husbands who have either died or left her and offers her insight into the nature of God.

He meets this shunned woman, who was invited to no dinner parties, who experienced people crossing the street just to avoid her, and he offers her living water that will never evaporate.

Maybe you are feeling used up and dried out.  Maybe you are being shunned by friends or family.  Maybe you have grieved the loss of a spouse.  Maybe you have a hard time trusting your partner because you have been left before.

Two weeks ago, we talked about bringing our baggage and offering it up to God for Lent.

Well, have you wondered what happens next?  God doesn’t just look at your offerings casually and pat you on the back and move on to the next person in line.

No, God meets you at the well, sits down, looks you in the eye, acknowledges the truth about who you are, tells you to cut out any inappropriate behavior, and then offers you the gushing, rushing, bubbling living water.

Life with God is not just about following a bunch of rules or having a wonderful community like Emmanuel.  God wants us to encounter him personally, intimately.  God wants to visit with us, to hear our sorrows, to speak the truth to us and to fill us up.

And instead of talking more about what it is like to encounter God, I’m going to end this sermon early, sit down and give us all a few minutes of silence so you can experience it yourself.  In this time of silence imagine yourself at the well.  What would God say to you?  What would the living water taste like?  How would it make you feel?

I’ll close with this prayer,

“Lord, we come to you, just as we are, and we meet you at the well.  Please be among us now and give us the Living Water.”

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