|Easter 7, Ascension Sunday, year A||June 1, 2014||Seventh Sunday of Easter||Acts 1:6-14|
|Easter 6, year A||May 25, 2014||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014||Acts 17:22-31, John 14: 15-21|
|Easter 5, year A||May 18, 2014||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A||1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14|
|Easter 4, year A||May 11, 2014||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A||John 10:1-10, Acts 2:42-47, I Peter 2: 19-25, Psalm 23|
|Easter 3, year A||May 4, 2014||Easter 3, Year A||Luke 24:13-35|
|Easter 3, year A – Shrine Mont||May 4, 2014||Third Sunday of Easter, Year A||Luke 24: 13-35|
|Easter 2, year A||April 27, 2014||Second Sunday of Easter, Year A||John 20:19-31, Psalm 16|
|Easter||April 20, 2014||Easter Day, Year A||Jeremiah 31:1-6, Matthew 28:1-10|
|Good Friday||April 18, 2014||Good Friday, Year A||The Passion according to John|
|Palm Sunday 2014 reflections||April 13, 2014||Palm Sunday, year A||Matthew 26:14- 27:66|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent||April 6, 2014||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A 2014||Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45, Psalm 130|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent||March 30, 2014||The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A||Ephesians 5:8-14|
|➤Third Sunday in Lent||March 23, 2014||Third Sunday in Lent, Year A||Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, John 4:5-42|
|First Sunday in Lent||March 9, 2014||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday, Year A||March 5, 2014||Ash Wednesday, Year A||2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21|
Third Sunday in Lent
Sermon Date:March 23, 2014
Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, John 4:5-42
Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday in Lent, Year A
"Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well" – Guercino (1640-1641)
John’s gospel is all about God’s love for the world—for all of creation
God’s love for you,
God’s love for me.
In last week’s gospel lesson we heard that verse that many of us memorized as children–
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And in John, all of the conversations Jesus has with people struggling with belief, all of his discourses (those long speeches that we get in John and in no other gospel) and all of his actions, up to and culminating in his choosing death on a cross and then his resurrection—all of these things in the gospel according to John are about God’s love for creation,
About God’s love for you,
And about God’s love for me.
Today’s gospel story is about our thirst for God’s love. The discussion that Jesus has with the Samaritan woman begins with the physical thirst of Jesus and leads to the woman’s spiritual thirst—and the revelation that she is hoping for the Messiah. When she goes back to the village to tell everyone about this man who can see into her very soul, her hopeful question is this—
“He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
This question is ultimately about God’s love. Can it be true that God loves us so much that God really has sent the Messiah?
At times in our lives, we struggle with this question about whether or not God loves us, especially in the tough wilderness times in our lives when we find ourselves in some desperate situation or physical need—the times when we’re so thirsty, like the Israelites in the wilderness, that we’re near death and we can’t feel God’s love.
When we’re dealing with things like pain, illness, divisive family issues, poverty, or even having too much—in these wilderness times we sometimes have trouble believing that God loves us so much that God has sent us a Messiah.
And these are the times when we are at risk of developing hardened hearts like the Israelites did when they were journeying through the wilderness and had no water to drink.
And the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well in today’s gospel certainly has a rather crusty heart—“How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman?”
She instantly wants to define this person based on what divides them—he is a Jew and she is a Samaritan.
But Jesus takes the conversation to a different level—rather than a hard hearted response on his part, Jesus, with his open heart, seeks to address the woman’s deepest longing—a longing for respect, dignity, and ultimately, love.
This open hearted response on the part of Jesus leads to a lengthy conversation between the two—a scandalous conversation when you think about it—a Jewish man talking with a Samaritan woman,
Which leads to the swelling of hope in the woman,
And her witness to the people back in Sychar
Who then leave the city and are on their way to Jesus.
Ultimately, this woman’s decision not to have a hard heart leads to openness and hospitality on both the part of Jesus and the Samaritans—
The Samaritans ask Jesus to stay with them and he does, for two days. And many more believed because of his word.
They come to believe that Jesus is not only the Messiah that the Jews are expecting, but also the Savior of the entire world.
If the Samaritan woman had held onto her hard heart, this story never would have made it into Holy Scripture.
It might have been brief article on the back page of the city newspaper, with a headline something like “Strange Man Reported at Jacob’s Well.”
Not surprisingly much of the news in our world today is about hard heartedness, because in our world we have trouble seeing God’s love for us and presence with us in the midst of all of the negative things that happen in our lives and in the world—so we, along with others, respond defensively, with hard hearts to things that happen and to those around us who are not like us.
The problem with hard heartedness is that it just leads to more hard heartedness, which leads to despair, and also to hatred and to evil. Hard heartedness keeps us and our society and the nations of the world from living into the fullness of life that God longs to give to us.
As Christians, one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and for the world around us is to have open hearts, and to foster a state of loving hospitality with ourselves, with one another, and with God.
Here’s some practical advice from C. S. Lewis. He’s one of the great Anglican theologians of the 20th century. In his classic book, Mere Christianity, he writes about how to we are to live as those who believe that God loves us, even in the hard times, especially when we’re sorely tempted to have hard hearts toward God and/or one another.
Lewis says that “love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will….”
So here’s the deal. When we’re feeling hard heartedness toward someone else for whatever reason, then Lewis says that “the rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love your neighbor; act as if you did.”
Lewis goes on to point out that when you act as if you love someone, you will eventually come to love that person.
And if you go ahead and do something good for the person you dislike in order to please God and to obey the law of love, you will dislike that person a little less than you did before.
The opposite is also true. “If you injure someone that you dislike, you will find yourself disliking that person even more.”
And then there’s hard heartedness toward God.
Lewis says that “nobody can always have devout feelings; and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards others, is an affair of the will.”
The idea is to live as if God loves us, even when we can’t feel that love.
God’s love for us is immeasurable and permanent. As Bishop Goff pointed out last week, God never stops loving us, no matter what we do.
God always loves us, especially when we’re doubting and thirsty and our hearts feel like hard dusty stones. And so, as Christians, even in our most hard hearted times, we can claim Jesus as our Messiah in the way that we live. We can have the will to open our hearts to the stranger, and to share God’s love with others through our hospitality and witness to God’s love.
And in so doing, we find within us the spring of water gushing up to eternal life, and we can enter even here and now with one another into the fullness of life that God has promised to all of us.