March 23, 2014
3rd Sunday in Lent
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Two old men, life long friends are sitting across from each other playing checkers. One breaks the silence of the game to say, gosh…we’ve been friends for a long time, but for the life of me, I just cannot remember your name. The other friend looks up, stares at his friend and sits in silence for a while. Eventually he takes a breath and speaks and says, “How soon do you need to know?”
How’s that for a moment of relief and grace?
I heard this on the radio a few weeks back, when I was trying to get to my tried and true station, but all that would come in was a Christian radio station. Truth be told, I don’t often listen to Christian Radio.it’s just not a go to station for me. So here I was, listening and I caught this joke…which spoke to me instantly.
I was drawn in, thinking that the friend whose name had been forgotten was going to lay into his friend for forgetting in the first place. Yet, he himself, could not remember his name either. I heard (in a place least likely for me) a word of forgiveness and grace.
Isn’t that how God almost always breaks into our world and our lives? In the places least likely?
It’s definitely the case with our gospel lesson this week.
We are in a much different place then we were last week. Last week we heard about Nicodemus (a leader of the Jews) coming to Jesus in the dark of night, to ask questions to learn more about who Jesus was and what his mission was.
This week, it is broad daylight…the middle of the day, actually, at the public well, when a Samaritan woman comes to draw water and meets Jesus.
Two meetings….one in the dark, one in the light.
One a respected leader….one an outcast in society.
Both asking questions of Jesus…and allowing Jesus reveal who he was…who he is…to them and to us.
As we enter this story, we seem to get caught up in the line that describes this woman’s past and present. When Jesus says to her, “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband”. Yet if we read more closely we discover that neither John as narrator nor Jesus as the central character tells us her current state is a result of sinful behavior. Jesus at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all. She very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced.
Five times would be heartbreaking, but not impossible. Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what’s called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband’s brother in order to produce an heir yet is not always technically considered the brother’s wife). There are any number of ways, in fact, that one might imagine this woman’s story as tragic rather than scandalous.
So instead of getting caught up in the how and why of this woman’s situation, maybe we should focus on Jesus addressing her, engaging her in conversation and revealing to her who he is as Messiah.
That may be the biggest challenge for us in hearing this text…seeing beyond the characteristics of the woman, to see that that does not matter to Jesus…and if it does matter to Jesus he is going to her in spite of who she is, where she is from and what she has done (or has had done to her) and reaches out to her to show her love and grace.
And then here’s the kicker….she get’s it. She is changed, transformed and leaves her bucket, leaves the well….and goes to tell others. That’s the thing with grace. When we’re changed, received into God’s arms, surrounded by love and forgiveness…how can we not continue our lives, shouting for joy and sharing that amazing good news with others? Each week, in this place, we are greeting the same exact way.
We come together…knowing our faults, foibles…knowing our weaknesses, our struggles our pains, hurts, sicknesses and sadness. And God reaches out to each and every one of us…no matter what. No matter what we’ve done this past hour or week….to say, hey, I know you….and you are forgiven and loved.
In terms of John’s story and world, this nameless woman has pretty much everything stacked against her: she is a Samaritan in this Jewish story, a woman in a male-dominated world, has lived a challenging and probably tragic life, and is very likely dependent on others. And yet after her encounter with Jesus she leaves her water jar -- perhaps symbolic of all the chores and difficulties of her life -- behind to live a new and different life and to share with others what God has done for her.
Gosh, how can we see this with new eyes? That God’s grace reaches farther than we can imagine? The God reaches out to the people and places where we think God doesn’t reach or will not show up.
It’s all too easy for us to let our own expectations and prejudices get in the way of the places where God’s grace will reach. How can we see…as this woman saw…Jesus…in the world, in our lives and in the lives of people and places we don’t expect him to be?
How can we see….with new eyes…that we are all God’s children that in those moments when we feel least valued, ignored, hurt, challenged, that God embraces us. And that God does that to all others, too.
How can we keep that grace to ourselves?
We can’t. It’s going to keep reaching…beyond our reach, beyond our grasp and outside of the places we think it should reach. Because that’s grace. Unending…ever reaching…all encompassing…grace.
Would you join me in prayer,
Gracious, loving God. Open our eyes. Help us to see Jesus. In our hearts, our lives and world. Really help us to see Jesus in people, places and situations where we don’t expect him to be…help us to always see you love and grace in all people. And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.