A Sermon for Lent 3

By the Rev. Sarah Woodard, Deacon

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Matthew 28:19

This account from the Gospel of John is the longest conversation in the New Testament between Jesus and anyone else.  Clearly, there is more to the story than how many husbands she had had in her lifetime—six to be exact but who is counting?    And, stories about women in our scripture don’t happen very often. 

The woman at the well believed what Jesus said and she told someone else about her belief.   This famous story moves from physical, literal water to the spiritual water of eternal life. It moves from the Jewish hope of the Messiah to the Messiah Himself.  All of this happens within hours, not only for the woman but for the people of Sychar.  As you know, it doesn’t take long to spread the Gospel!

The Israelites have been rescued out of Egypt and what do they do – they complain – can I have a drink of water? Why did you take us out of Egypt only to let us die of thirst. 

Jesus said to her, Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.  Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. 

To which she replied, Sir, give me this water! ”

The woman at the well was astonished that anyone would talk with her. For she had been ostracized because of her relationships with men. She was sad and perhaps lonely.  That might be the reason she went to the well at the hottest hour of the day – to avoid running into anyone – shying away from people – feeling ashamed, unworthy of anything.  After all, no one spoke to her or seemed to care about the woman at the well who was from Samaria. No one except Jesus.

Yet, Jesus engages her in conversation and she doesn’t call for any one of her husbands as Jesus commanded.     Perhaps this is a rhetorical question to which he demands no answer –how important is that?

He asks her for a drink of water.    But we know it’s not the water he offered to her. The woman realized that Jesus is the Messiah after comprehending that he was talking about the living water and she takes her new, tentative, shallow faith. Rushes back to the city and shares the good news with others about her experience with Jesus.  

Many Samaritans believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.   The Samaritans who came to him asked Him to stay with them which he did for two days.

Making disciples is about continuing the cycle of redemption, passing on the faith that was passed to you.  Revitalization is offered by Jesus for everyone.  And how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!  And, we know that disciples will in turn make disciples of others.  That is what Jesus did with the woman at the well. 

How will history remember you?  Will it be for your behavior? For your testimony?  When is the last time you talked with someone about your faith so that they might believe?

Jesus was thirsty having traveled a great distance. It was unusual for a Jewish man to speak to a Samaritan and a woman.  But, the Lord’s motive was deeper.    Yes, he needed to quench his thirst but he really was thirsty to offer salvation of the Samaritan woman.   We see that thirst again when Jesus was hanging on the cross at which time he was physically thirsty, yet again, the words have deeper meaning.  Thirsty to offer us salvation; Thirsty for our faith and love.

They gave him vinegar while he thirsted on the cross.  Actually, he was thirsty for our love, attention, affection and sharing of His passion. 

We might satiate Christ’s thirst by loving Him in our neighbor, in those people He places in our lives, especially those in need of our care and attention.  Jesus thirsts for us to entrust ourselves to Him. 

The Samaritan woman, like many of us, had had disappointments in her life.  She thirsted for meaning; thirsted for authentic love which she had not found in six marriages.   

Jesus gives us the living water: he is the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and whom Jesus pours out into our hearts.  Remember that he said, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

This is a time to come across Jesus like the Samaritan woman at the well and to be transformed by the encounter with Jesus, just as she was.  By responding to Jesus leading him to reveal his true identity to her and in doing so, her own identity evolved.   What a beautiful story about trust, about discipleship and about making a difference to someone else.

We will no longer be thirsty when we drink from the living waters of the Holy Spirit, remembering our Baptismal Covenant thanking God for the gift of water.  In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection and through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.……   we are strengthened with the Holy Spirit and empowered for service with a prayer at we will be sustained by God’s love all the days of our lives.  And, as we lift others up and help them maintain the covenant, we are transformed into missionary disciples, going forth to bring good news to the poor and downtrodden, just like the Samaritan woman.  Oh, it’s the people we least expect give us a new look on our faith.

Jesus finds in the woman an unmatched potential as a preacher.  By the time the disciples return with food to share with Jesus, he is no longer hungry, no longer interested in the food that they offer; he is now full of the food that actually fulfills –the doing and completing his Father’s work in the world; John’s Gospel has it at the work of creating is ongoing, the time of rest is yet to come and the laboring toward this perfect end is itself sustenance, living water, fulfilling food ready for reaping now.  The woman awakened Jesus to trust or reawakens him.

She reawakens her neighbors in the village to the presence of our savior while her awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego and results in a new courage – fearlessness and power.  The woman put her inferiority imposed by others and with her faith and by awareness, she overcame fear and transformed it in to the power to strive, to achieve and not to yield.  (Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited).

Jesus recognized in the woman not a charity case but someone who was ill-fitting to her type yet powerful for the work of the gospel. 

Let’s keep an eye out for people such as these.

Kindness, respect and love toward others goes a long way.  Jesus expects an open heart—oh, heart of Jesus, make my heart like yours is a prayer that you might pray. 

So, Go, baptize;  and teach others to be disciples.   There is plenty of work to be done and needs to be met. 

He can’t be the Messiah, can He?  Oh, yes, He is.  So, shout it from the rooftop.  Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.  The gospel story is not about the woman of Samaria but about Jesus and the living water poured from his hand. Jesus empowered the woman and she spread the good news and talk of faith and the wonders of God.  

Could it be that the way we receive living water is by giving it away?

Let us pray:
Gracious God, help us to Rest and pray for Lent is a time for us to quench our thirst and rediscovering the meaning of our life in Christ.  

What would we need to have Jesus tell us so that we might believe that he is truly the savior of the world? 

What would we need to have Jesus tell us so that we are passionate about telling others and inviting others to experience the power of the savior of the world? 

Lord, hear our prayer and make our hearts like yours.

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