Jesus knows all of our secrets. There's no point in hiding from him. We become vulnerable whether we like it or not before Christ, our God. The living water is a gift that changes our lives and gives us reason to live.
This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it. The sermon notes which are included for convenience.
Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.
March 19 - 3nd Sunday in Lent
"Laid Bare". Text is from John 4:5-42
Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God.
The narrative of the Samaritan woman at the well is gorgeous, and so full of possibilities in its own right. We have Jesus walking in Samaria, and he comes to this city and conveniently, while his disciples are away getting food, he stops at Jacob's Well, where he encounters this woman. To understand the tension, it helps to know a little bit about the different characters. While Jesus is a Galileean, he is nevertheless specifically Jewish, just of a rural variety. And furthermore he is, at least to his disciples, a rabbi, a teacher, kind of a holy man. Samaratans like this woman are of a different breed of people altogether. It's not that they're that different from Jews, their religion stems from worship of the same God that the Jews worship.... Yahweh. But for the Jews, Yahweh is at the Temple in Jerusalem, and all worship must take place there. For Samaritans, the worship takes place on Mount Gerazim. The other major difference belongs to the distinction of the Old Testament, because the Samaratans were the ones who remained in the land of Israel during the Babylonian exile, and believed that their version of the face remain uncorrupted from Persian and Babylonian influences.
And from these minor differences comes a major break, because the Jews considered the Samaritans, in many ways, worse than Gentiles. For a holy man such as Jesus to be speaking with a Samaritan woman was simply unheard of, particularly on his own. It was a violation of several laws and more significantly, social customs.
So this encounter with Jesus was all the more important and significant because of the differences between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The fact that Jesus would ask her to draw him some water what have raised many eyebrows among the people of the time.
And then the dialog between the two of them gets even more intense. Jesus mention something called living water and this excites the woman. As soon as he mentions it, this is all she wants. She has no idea what Jesus talking about--she didn't even know she was thirsty. But Jesus mentions the living water and that's all she can think about.
And then the dialog gets provocative. Jesus asks her about her husband, almost as if having her husband there what have made the entire dialogue but much more acceptable. But she responds, "I have no husband." Jesus, of course, knows this. She has had five husbands, count them, five. And the one she has now... This one is not her husband. Yes, the woman is living with the man with whom she is not married. Oh, me, Oh, my. What a scandal we have here.
At that moment, the woman knows that the man she is speaking with is more than she originally thought. She sees him now as a prophet. Oh, but Jesus is so much more than that. Her mind opens up like a flower, the words that he is saying to her are incredible. He tells her who he is, and she believes.
Finally, the disciples return, and they see Jesus speaking to her. They are astonished, they can't believe that Jesus is speaking to this lowly Samaritan woman. But they don't say anything - I think it's better that they don't say anything, don't you?
My sisters and brothers, this is the moment in the Gospel of John that opens up the possibility that God might be more than simply the god of the Israelites. In Jesus's openness to speaking to a woman who is not of his people she has opened the doors to proclaiming that God is the god of all people. Well, at least the god of the Israelites and the Samaritans. But that is saying something.
But what I find more compelling here is that the person that Jesus is speaking with is not just someone who is the wrong gender, not just someone who was the wrong ethnicity, but is also someone who is living in a state of, and may I be indelicate here, at the very least, an inappropriate household situation. This woman, whose history but we don't know, after all she's been divorced five times, which must make for a difficult living situation, this woman has to live with someone to help her make ends meet. What of it? Yes, Jesus comes to her and lays her secrets bare before God. This gift of living water doesn't come to people who are hiding from God, it's for the people who have to come to the well to make their own ends meet. It's for people who move through the shame of what life has to throw at them.
The gift of living water is for people who need to have a conversation with Jesus. The gift of living water is for people ready to learn from Christ. We come to Jesus and all our secrets are laid bare. He knows who we are, who we are underneath the brave exterior we put out there. He knows us who cheat on our taxes. He knows us who drink a fifth before midday. He knows us who sometimes wish we didn't have children. He knows us who have thoughts that disturb us. Jesus... God knows all and sees all and in spite of that the living water is a gift to us. Whether we have shame in our hearts or maybe our lives are on the open no secrets from anyone.
This living water that Jesus offers and is offered without conditions. But see how the Samaritan woman went in proclaims the good news to all the villagers. The Samaritan woman is the first female disciple. And she is the first non jew disciple. And she is our template for how we are to go out and live when we are called by Jesus having drunk of this living water.
This is how disciples are made. This is how we affirm our call to God. In that affirmation of his baptism, our brother, Dana will, in just a little bit, be, committing to being a representative of that promise that God made to us. Showing us what it means to be forgiven and showing us what it means to love God through loving one another.
And we, the people of God, are the bearers of this good news, through Christ, and by God's grace.