Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, you visit us when we are unprepared; but in our unpreparedness we awake to your presence and take note of your message: may those moments be stories that we share with others, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“When you were a child, how many times did you beg your mom or dad ‘Please give me another list of rules and regulations.’”
That’s what I thought.
“But how often did you try to put off bedtime by begging to hear ‘Just one more story. Please!?’
“What do we do at family reunions and holiday celebrations? We trot out the same old stories, initiating each new generation in the stories of the ancestors. In their telling and re-telling, we make them living history, not just dead facts.
“Stories are how we learn who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we are going. A mature human being lives a well-storied life.
“There are stories that teach us about our identity as Americans — George Washington stories, covered wagon pioneer stories, North and South stories, Great Depression stories, December 7, 1941 stories, hippy-dippy sixties stories, 9-11 stories, Katrina stories,” C.C. Peirce stories, and especially in our diocese, Bishop Haden stories.
“There are still other stories that teach us about our family identity. Ellis Island stories, proud moment stories, scandalous secret stories, celebration stories, triumph and tragedy stories, new love stories, old grudge stories.
“Christians are more than just our country’s stories. Christians are more than our family’s stories. Christians have the “greatest story ever told.” We have the story of Adam and Eve. We have the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have the story of Jesus.
“Our most basic identity as Christians? We tell the story of Jesus to the world.
“But do you know the living story of your faith?
“The truth is that we Christians are woe-fully under-storied. A few months ago a Pew study of religious knowledge (http://religions.pewforum.org/reports) found that our knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says - about religion in public life is embarrassingly low. How low?
“Atheists and agnostics scored better than evangelicals or Catholics. Bible belt Southerners who (sic) scored the worst. Those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God did slightly worse than average, while those who say it is not the word of God scored slightly better. A lot of Americans think Deuteronomy is a rock group. More Christians than you’d care to imagine think Joan of Arc was married to Noah.
“In today’s gospel text Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman as he rests in the shadow of Jacob’s well. According to tradition and culture, these are two people who should not speak to each other. In fact, except for Jesus’ initial request for a drink of water, he and the woman do not really ‘speak.’ Did you catch it when” the text was read this morning?
“You say, well if they didn’t speak, what did they do?
“They told each other stories….” (Leonard Sweet)
Today we not only hear stories being told, but we also see stories told in movies and TV. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is on You Tube. After this sermon is posted on our web site, you’ll find a link to the video in the sermon text
Jesus meets woman at a well .
Jesus is feeling that the Pharisees may be after him. Last week we heard from John that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover and he overthrew the money changers. This would have brought attention to Jesus from people who didn’t like what he did. So rather than take the Jordan Valley to home in Galilee, he went by way of Samaria where no respectful Jew would travel.
At Jacob’s well, Jesus asks for water, which surprises the Samaritan woman. Jesus tells her that if she knew who she was talking to and if she were aware of what God is offering her, then instead of questioning Jesus she would ask him for living water and he would give it to her. Living water is, literally, running, spring water. Jesus is talking about living water from baptism giving the Holy Spirit to the one baptized.
Well, she’s not clear on what Jesus is saying to her. Like Nicodemus, she is taking Jesus literally when Jesus isn’t talking literally. So she tells Jesus that he has no bucket, the well is deep, so just where does he think he’s going to get some of this living water. Now, if someone came to your door and was peddling living water, would you buy it?
The woman continues by explaining that Jacob dug the well for them (presumably not for the Jews) soooo do you think you’re better than Jacob? She is challenging Jesus and is trying to make him look foolish. After all, nobody can be greater than Jacob, who is Israel and father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus explains by saying that he wants nothing to do with this well. People who drink from Jacob’s well will get thirsty again, be they Samaritan or Jew. The water Jesus is offering is a spring of living water that leads to eternal life.
This was indeed good news to the woman! She asks for this living water so she doesn’t have to come back to this stinking well every day to get water. Jesus next tells her to go and get her husband. Jesus gives her the right answer (ding) and tells her that she was wed five times and the man she living with is not her husband. This greatly impresses the woman. Maybe this guy is as important as Jacob.
She calls Jesus a prophet. It could be that John is telling us not about five literal husbands, but that the Samaritans intermarried with five foreign peoples and thereby married their gods, too. The man she is with now may be referring to the Roman occupiers.
The woman says that her ancestors worshipped on that mountain, but you Jews only worship in Jerusalem. Jesus then tells her that she and the Samaritans will neither worship on that mountain or in Jerusalem. Those old traditional worship sites will no longer be important.
Jesus then tells her that she and the Samaritans don’t know what they are doing, religiously. The Jews do know how to worship and it is through the Jews God will save the world. True worshippers will be lead by the Spirit to worship in truth. It is those people God seeks. God is spirit. God is not a physical being, like we are. And the spirit will lead people to worship God in spirit and truth.
The woman expressed a hope for the coming of the messiah, the Christ, to tell the people everything. Jesus said that he is that very person. It is about this time that the disciples get back from grocery shopping and they are surprised to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. They also seem to think that it’s best not to say anything about it.
The woman than leaves her water jar behind running to the town to tell everyone that maybe she found the messiah. Her water jar is now obsolete. In spite of a probably less than stellar reputation, the townspeople go with her to see who this could be
While she was gone, the disciples press Jesus to eat. Jesus is in a puzzling mood and tells the disciples that he has food they know nothing about. Now the disciples are puzzled and ask themselves where Jesus got any food. Jesus says that his food is to do God’s will and Jesus is going to do just that! The disciples are still on an earthly level. The Samaritan woman recognizes Jesus. His disciples are still in the dark.
Then Jesus shares a parable, “You may think that there are four more months to the harvest, but take a good look. It’s harvest time now! Even now the reapers are gathering the harvest that will lead to eternal life. Then the sowers and the reapers will together rejoice after the harvest. So the saying is true, ‘Some plant the seed and others harvest the crop.’ I am sending you to harvest where others worked.”
The Samaritans are ripe and the woman is harvesting. Based on the woman’s story, many in Sychar believed in Jesus. So, they invited Jesus to stay and he stayed for two days. Many more Samaritans believed in Jesus after hearing him talk. They then told the woman, who is now the first missionary of the church that they do not just believe because of what she told them but because they heard him for themselves and they believe that he is the saviour of the world!
The unclean outcast is the second hero in John’s gospel. The theme of a man at a well, a woman coming to draw water, they converse, the woman goes back to tell others how wonderful the man is, and they meet the man and approve, is the same theme we read in the Torah: Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and Moses and Zipporah. Each of these meetings, each of these stories, end up altering the course of history.
“Maybe the prophet is like the cup of cool water: the visible manifestation of a deeper reality. Here is the first step on a journey to provide water for the soul as well as the body.” (Anna Carter Florence) Jesus knows everything the woman did and Jesus still loves her and forgives her. This saves her life. This inspires her to share this amazing gift. This inspires her to share her story.
Text: John 4:5–42 (NRSV)
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A 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.) 9 The 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.)b 10 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but 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.” 15 The 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but youc say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,d the one who is speaking to you.”
27 Just 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?” 28 Then 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,e can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do 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. 36 The reaper is already receivingf wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They 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.”