March 27, 2011
Exodus 17:1-7; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42
Where do we encounter God?
When does God come and find us?
How do we typically experience Jesus?
Often, we encounter God here at worship in the sanctuary.[ii]
But we live out only a small part of our Christian lives within
these walls, within this sanctuary – and that is the way it should be. Where we encounter Jesus most often is in our
day to day lives.
Where and how do we encounter Jesus?
A Samaritan Woman came to draw water from the well at noon, in the
heat of the day.
And there’s this Jewish man, Jesus, sitting there alone.
Now, Jews and Samaritans did not get along.
Many Jewish people looked down on Samaritans.
Most of the time, a Jewish person would go out of the way to walk
around the land of Samaria to avoid the Samaritans.
There were racial, cultural, and religious boundaries between Jews
The first century was also a very patriarchal, male dominated era.
So you certainly would not expect a Jewish teacher, a Rabbi, to
talk with a Samaritan Woman – especially at a well, a notorious
Remember, Jesus is sitting at Jacob’s
well – and Jacob met the love of his life Rachel at a well.
I imagine there’s a singles’ bar somewhere called “The Well.”
But Jesus asks this woman for a
drink of water, and thus begins the longest recorded conversation of Jesus.
The nameless Samaritan Woman was wise and intelligent. In the course of their conversation, her
perspective on Jesus changed.
First, he was simply a Jewish man.
She asks Jesus, “How is it that you, a
Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
Perhaps she expected this Jewish man to recoil from her.
But Jesus does not.
Instead he says, “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.”
Living water. Here’s
another example of humor in John.
Living water usually meant running water in those days, as in
water from a flowing river rather than water from a stagnant pool.
Jesus does not even have a bucket.
How is he going to give her living water?
Jesus is not talking about literal H2O, is he?
Jesus, however, is
surprisingly willing to have a one-on-one conversation with the Samaritan Woman.
So, then she calls Jesus ‘Sir’ or “Lord,” as a title of
respect – because she realizes that Jesus is treating her with respect.
Jesus does not regard their external differences, but their common
And yet, Jesus makes a claim to be the Source of living water that
gushes up to eternal life, the life of the age to come – Kingdom life.
Finally, Jesus seems to change the subject from water by asking
the Samaritan, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
She replies, “I have no husband,” and Jesus says, “You are right
in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and
the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
Now I remember as a child being told that at this point Jesus was
revealing how sinful the Samaritan Woman
But that’s simply wrong.
There is nothing in this passage that suggests that the woman was
doing anything wrong.
So she has had five husbands, and is now living with a man who is
not her husband.
There is nothing in the text condemning
Remember, a poor first century Samaritan Woman did not have
She could not divorce her husband; only
husbands could divorce.
If she has had five husbands, they either died or dismissed her.
If she is not married to the one she’s living with now, whose
fault is that? What choice does she
have? Her only alternative was to live
on the street.
While this woman probably did experience shame in her community
over his situation, Jesus is not
adding to her shame. Instead, he simply
reveals that he knows her.
Her shame about her situation probably explains why she comes to
the well alone at the heat of the day, rather than in the early morning when
other women would go there together.
But Jesus does not add
to her shame. He does not shame her.
When Jesus reveals her past and present, she calls him a prophet,
and she engages Jesus in an interreligious dialogue.
Where is the proper place to worship – Mount Zion, also known as
Jerusalem, or Mount Gerizim in Samaria, where the Samaritans worship?
Jesus responds that a time is coming when true worshipers will
worship God in spirit and truth anywhere, not in a specific geographical
When the Woman shares her hope in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus
tells her, “I AM” the Messiah.
Jesus does not say “I am he,” just “I am” – like God at the
At this point, the Samaritan Woman is overwhelmed. She leaves her water jug by the well and runs
back to her town, telling her neighbors, “Come and see a man who told me
everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
Many Samaritans do come to Jesus. John tells us that
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the
woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”
Jesus’ disciples had gone into the town and brought lunch
for Jesus– the Woman went and brought the town to Jesus.
The Woman and many of the Samaritans come to know that Jesus is
“truly the Savior of the world” (v. 42).
And it all started because Jesus was thirsty, and the Woman had a
jug for drawing water from the well.
The Samaritan Woman was performing a mundane, daily chore, and met
Holy conversation took place in the midst of her daily life.
Jesus crossed boundaries to meet the Samaritan Woman.
Boundaries of race, gender, culture, religion.
She may have been something of an outcast. She was rough around the edges, but sharp. Jesus cares nothing about the boundaries that
separate him from her. He pushes them aside
and speaks with her.
Jesus does the same with us.
“While we were still weak,” while we were yet sinners, Christ
became one of us, lived and died for us.
No matter what our past has been, Jesus come to us.
There is no boundary too high for Jesus to overcome.
There is no sin too big for God to forgive and forget.
[iii]So, where has Christ encountered
When do you feel closest to God?
What conversations become holy conversations in your life?
Through whom does Christ speak to you most clearly?
What can you do to strengthen your faith in your daily life?
It can be as simple as picking up a daily devotional book in the church
entrance – and reading it.
It can be as easy as starting your day with 15 minutes of prayer
and Scripture, centering your day on Jesus.
Sometimes it just takes getting out your door and connecting with
your neighbors, showing up at a school board meeting, speaking up at a public
Get involved in the struggle for justice for the sake of your
neighbors – all of them.
For all of us,
it is a challenge to stay connected with God from Monday through Saturday, to
live out our faith in the midst of our every day work and play.
But your everyday life is where Jesus wants to be, because that is
where God calls you to love God and serve your neighbors.
Think of the Samaritan Woman. She was not an ordained pastor, or the
president of her church council, or a person of economic power or political
But Jesus overcame all boundaries to connect with her, and she
went to her neighbors and brought them to Jesus. She became the first evangelist.
In the process, she was reunited with her community as she was
united with Jesus.
That’s good news for us.
Come to the well, all of you.
Drink deeply of the living water hidden in the bread and wine of
Let your food be to do the work of love and justice to which God
Take your bucket, and share the living water of Jesus with a
We continue our worship in spirit and truth…
We are in a holy place, worshiping a Holy God in
the power of a Holy Spirit.
So, indeed, we encounter God in this place, when
we hear God’s word, sing hymns to God, listen to the choir or a beautiful solo,
That’s why we’re here. Worship is bread for the journey, fuel, inspiration for our
pilgrimage through life.
We come to confess our sin to God, and receive
We come to lift up our hearts in praise and
We come to hear God’s still small voice in
scripture, in the liturgy we recite, in the hymns we sing.
We come to confess our faith, our trust in God
through Jesus our Savior, and share the Lord’s Supper around the table.
There is no question that the Holy Spirit of
God, the Spirit of Christ is alive and active whenever we worship together.
But, do you know how many hours there are in a
So, if you come to worship every week, you spend
one or two hours each week out of 168 hours actually worshiping God in this
Now, God has not told us to come to the
church building 7 days a week, morning, noon, and night.
God has commanded us to worship God
regularly, and be an active member of the church, the body of Christ in the
And that time of weekly worship is essential to
our walk of faith – we need it. We need to hear God’s
Word, receive Holy Communion, pray, praise, worship, and thank God together.
Worship is a time for us to center our lives,
individually and as a community.
So Jesus comes to us while we are at work, and
says, “Do good work, trust in me, and be trustworthy. Do your work, but do not let your work rule your life. Keep your faith connection alive and growing in the midst of
your work. Love your coworkers,
care for your boss, serve your customers, defend justice and equity for all.”
Jesus comes to us while we are at home, and
says, “You have work to do at home too, with your family and friends. Do it in faith, in a prayerful spirit. Love your family, care for your friends, help your neighbors
in need, get involved in your community.”
Our lives are often joyful. Holy laughter is common in this congregation.
But life is also tough. If you live and love long enough, you will know sorrow,
pain, suffering. Although no one wants to
struggle, we also know that muscles grow when they encounter resistance and are
It is the same with our faith.
The trials and tribulations of life turn us to
God, our source of strength and life.
If we did not have challenges, we would not grow
If we faced no resistance, we would not grow
Trials and temptations can grow us in faith when
they drive us to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.