Lent 3

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Easter Sunday, Year A April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday, Year A Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday, Year A April 14, 2017 Good Friday, Year A John 18:11, 9:28-30
Maundy Thursday, Year A April 13, 2017 Maundy Thursday, Year A John 13:1-7, 31b-35
Palm Sunday, Year A April 9, 2017 Palm Sunday, Year A Matthew 26:36-46
Lent 5 April 2, 2017 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A, Baptism John 11:1-45
Lent 4 March 26, 2017 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41
Lent 3 March 19, 2017 Third Sunday in Lent, Year A Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42
Lent 2 March 12, 2017 Second Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, John 3:1-17
Lent 1 March 5, 2017 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017 Ash Wednesday, Year A Matthew 4:1-11
Last Sunday after the Epiphany February 26, 2017 Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 17:1-9
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany February 19, 2017 Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 12, 2017 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 5, 2017 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt January 29, 2017 4th Sunday after the Epiphany Matthew 5:1-12

 

Lent 3

Sermon Date:March 19, 2017

Scripture: Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42

Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday in Lent, Year A


"Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well" – Guercino (1640-1641)

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 “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

Has anyone ever asked you if you are saved?  Are you saved, brother?  Are you saved, sister?  Have you been born again?  Are you going to heaven, or are you headed straight for hell because you haven’t been saved?

Langston Hughes, in his autobiography, The Big Sea, writes about   being saved as a young boy.   His well meaning aunt had been telling him for weeks that if only he would pray for Jesus to come into his heart, he would see a light, and Jesus would come to him.  Then revival week came, and his aunt and uncle took young Langston to church every night.  Every night, sinners went to the front of the church and were saved.  At last, youth night came.  All of the young people had to sit on the mourner’s bench and the congregation gathered round and began to pray and cry and beg Jesus to come and bring salvation to these young people.  And as the minutes passed and the fervent cries rose to heaven, the boys and girls, one by one, and in little groups of two or three got up and went to the front of the church, where they were met with great rejoicing.  Langston sat waiting patiently for Jesus to come for him too.  He kept waiting to see that light his aunt had told him about.  And the minutes passed and the people prayed and nothing happened.  Langston waited patiently, but still nothing happened.  At last, only he and one other boy were left on the mourner’s bench and the prayers rose up to heaven, louder and more fervent than ever.  Then the other boy got up and went to the front of the church, and only Langston was left.  And then he started to feel embarrassed that all of old ladies had to keep standing there praying, and so after a little while longer, he gave up on Jesus and went to the front of the church into the crowd of all those young people who were now saved, surrounded by their rejoicing elders.

Langston cried himself to sleep that night.  He cried because he had lied to his dear aunt and uncle, pretending that Jesus had come to him with that light.  He cried because Jesus had not shown up for him.  He cried, because deep down inside, he felt that he hadn’t been saved after all.

Are you feeling worried now if you haven’t seen Jesus coming for you, bringing that light with him?  Are you wondering whether or not you’ve been saved?

Have you been saved?  This is a legitimate question for all Christians, and so I want to talk about what we Episcopalians believe about salvation.   

In the Episcopal Church we don’t have altar calls on Sunday, giving people the opportunity to be saved, because we believe that we’ve already been saved, and that salvation is an ongoing process.

To put it simply, we Christians believe and have faith  that we have already been saved, that we are being saved, and that we will be saved. 

I’m using Fred Craddock’s and Eugene Boring’s The People’s New Testament Commentary, in the section on Romans , Chapter 5, to  put some words around this ongoing process of salvation.

The Apostle Paul says in Romans, Chapter 5, verse 2, which we heard in today’s reading from Romans, that since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.

Paul wants us to know that salvation is something that really happened and began in the past, and that is in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus died and was resurrected not just for you, and not just for me, but for all of humanity!  Jesus willingly died and then was resurrected out of love for all of us, and in his obedience to God he set us all free from sin.  We did nothing to deserve this free gift.  This gift was an act of grace, meaning that we didn’t have to earn our salvation—it was freely given to us by God through Jesus. 

Paul says that “God proves God’s love for us that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

So you don’t have to walk to the front of the church to be saved.  You’ve already been saved, through God’s love for every one of us through Jesus.

But the death and resurrection of Jesus is only the beginning point of being saved.

We are all in the process, all the time, of being saved. 

Here’s what I mean.  Salvation is a present experience.  Paul tells us that we stand here and now in this grace of God.  He goes on to say that we can boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Hoy Spirit that has been given to us. 

Have you ever heard that saying that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?  Maybe that’s true, but Paul is not talking about that kind of suffering in his inspiring verse.  He’s talking about that as people who stand in God’s saving grace, we can see that our lives, and all that goes on in our lives, including suffering,  are “part of God’s larger purpose for the world and for history.” 

We may not be able to understand the suffering in this world, but we have faith that God’s purposes are being carried out in spite of the ways we make one another suffer.  We have faith that God’s purposes are being carried out even in the face of suffering that seems unexplainably random and senseless.   

We have hope and confidence that God is always working toward having God’s kingdom to become a reality on this earth.  Jesus himself taught us to pray in hope by praying  for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth, just as it is in heaven.

And this hope for God’s kingdom to come and to be realized on this earth is the third dimension of our ongoing salvation.  Remember, the first dimension is that our salvation began long ago on the cross; second, it is the reality in which we live as Christians every day; and third, it is the future about which we dream.  And–we have “sure confidence in the coming of God’s kingdom,” just as Paul and Jesus had. 

No one in this room has to worry about being saved.  Salvation  is yours.  God’s salvation is for all of us. 

Jesus has already shown up for us.  And believing and having faith in our salvation then opens the way for us to see that Jesus continues to show up for us.  We are standing in God’s grace, not just ankle deep grace, not just knee high grace, not grace up to our chins, but we’re immersed and covered in grace all the time, immersed  in God’s love, so that we are set free to live, set free to claim and live in God’s peace, set free to love God and one another as God’s beloved children.

Talk about grace!  Today’s gospel is a perfect illustration of God’s grace, and the joyful and strengthening power of God’s saving grace always at work in all the corners and cubbyholes of the world.    

Jesus showed up at Jacob’s well in Samaria one hot day at noon, hoping for a drink of water.  And by chance or coincidence, a Samaritan woman showed up at the well at the same time to draw some water, so Jesus asked her for a drink. 

What makes this story extra interesting was that the Samaritan woman was not on the approved list of people that a righteous Jewish man would speak to, because after all, she was a woman, and even worse, she was a Samaritan woman at that.

And so the woman calls Jesus out on his request.

“What is going on here?” she asks.  “You are a Jew.  I am a woman of Samaria.”  She knows that their cultural differences divide them. 

But what she soon comes to realize, as this most unusual conversation with Jesus unfolds, is that she is standing in the presence of grace, being immersed by love, drowning in living water.  She is experiencing the grace of salvation, and not only that, but she wants to drink this living water, so that it can be a spring of water inside of her, gushing up to eternal life.  

And because this woman has been living in hope and expectation, she is waiting for and looking for the Messiah.  She has been faithfully waiting. 

“I know that the Messiah is coming, the One who will proclaim all things to us,” the woman says.   And Jesus answers, “I am He.  I am the One you have been waiting for all your life.” 

The Samaritan woman goes off to tell all the people in town about all this grace, brought by Jesus, who has identified himself as the Messiah.  And they come out of the town in order to meet Jesus. 

And when they experience his grace, they give him grace in return.  “Come stay with us,” they say to Jesus.  “Come and stay with us.”

And so Jesus takes them up on their invitation, and stays two days with these people who are despised by the Jews and who have up until now despised the Jews themselves. 

Scripture tells us that many more believed because of Jesus’ grace-filled presence with them.    They are no longer simply witnesses to grace, they are immersed in it as well.  They are thrilled to be part of God’s ongoing passionate love. 

“It is no longer because of what we heard from the woman that we believe, but we believe because we have heard for ourselves, and we KNOW that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Like those Samaritans so long ago, who knew that Jesus was truly the Savior of the world, we know that Jesus IS the Savior of the world.   We are living in a time of discord, and yet we dwell in God’s peace, through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We can love one another, in spite of our differences, because we have been made right with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

If only Langston Hughes had known that day on the mourners’ bench as he sat there waiting for Jesus, that Jesus had already shown up long ago and saved him, and that Jesus, an unseen presence, was with him as he waited.  If only Langston Hughes had known that he was being washed in God’s grace, and his salvation would be complete, when God’s kingdom finally came–  if only he had known, he wouldn’t have cried.  Instead, he would have rejoiced.

And so next time someone asks you if you have been saved, what are you going to say?

YES, I have already been saved.

And are you still in the process of being saved as you live in God’s grace?

YES, I am still being saved.

And are you confidently waiting for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven?

YES, I am waiting for all to be completed and reconciled at the end of time. 

So congregation, are you saved?

Yes, we are saved!

Then come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation!

No more crying now!

Amen!

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