Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday in Lent (March 12, 2017)

JOHN 4:5-26


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord Jesus is not predictable.  He does not do what we think he should do.  His disciples learned that lesson in a Samaritan village called Sychar.  The woman whom Jesus met at the well learned it, too.
     Jesus and his disciples were traveling from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north.  Passing through Samaria was not the usual path.  It was the easier and quicker path, but it was avoided.  Samaritans were a Jewish-Gentile mixed race.  They were half-breeds with false worship.  Rather than going to Mount Zion where the temple was, the Samaritans had adopted their own mountain, Mt. Gerizim, for their worship.  For these reasons, devout Jews despised Samaritans and usually avoided them altogether.
     Jesus, however, took the shortcut through Samaria.  He was tired, so he took a rest on the covering of a well while his disciples went to buy food.  In the heat of high noon, a woman came from the city to draw water.  This woman was alone, and for good reason.  She was the town hussy.  The townsfolk avoided her in disgust.  She avoided them in her shame.  She wanted to get her water and quietly disappear back into town.  But Jesus is not predictable.  He did what was shocking.  This Jewish man addressed a Samaritan woman.  The straight-and-narrow Rabbi spoke to the woman with loose morals—not to berate her, but to ask her for a favor!
     Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”  Jesus answered her, “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.” (John 4:7,9-10)  Then later he added this: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
     Jesus had this woman intrigued.  What Jesus was offering meant that she would never again have longings that were constantly leaving her empty.  This woman had sought happiness and fulfillment from a number of different sources, and she always came up lacking.  She was tired of the drudgery of the daily trips for water.  She thought that a man might bring stability to her life.  She had been through five husbands already.  She did not even bother marrying the sixth man in her life.  As hard as she tried to make her life full, she was still empty, still longing for peace, joy, and something substantial.
     We may live in a different time and culture, but you still probably know the emptiness and frustration that this woman had.  Day after day, you show up for work and do your job.  You come home and do your chores.  You collect a check and you pay bills.  It is monotonous, and it seems meaningless.  You wonder: Is this really all there is?  You try to find fulfillment in amusements or fantasies.  But amusements don't last and fantasies are never real.  We believe our lives are miserable or meaningless because of someone posted a neat photo on Facebook.  We are convinced that our lives should be fantastic and that we are too important to be bored.  We are trying to find joy and fulfillment in the wrong places, just like the Samaritan woman.  Her days were full, but her life was empty.  This world will never provide comfort or peace or assurance.
     Jesus alone satisfies our longings.  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)  The woman instantly longed for the living water which Jesus had to give.  She yearned for greater comfort, for lasting peace, and for continual refreshment.
     One more thing we learn about this woman—she was religious.  Once she perceived that Jesus was a prophet, she wanted to debate religion with him.  She wanted Jesus to acknowledge that her way of worship was as good as any other.  She shares much in common with people today.  Most people are interested in religion.  Most people have ideas about who God is and what God should be.  Jesus addressed the woman's concern: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)  
     Jesus alone satisfies our longings.  He first noted that we do not get to approach God as we choose.  We do not get to make God what we want him to be.  God reveals himself to us.  God speaks to us; we respond to him.  And God comes to us in the words of the Holy Bible.  For that is the only truth there is.  To worship God in spirit and in truth means that we hear his truth and take it to heart.  Then only can we know who God is and what he wants.  Then only can we order our lives according to what is true and put our faith in promises which are true.  Then only will our faith rest on something substantial and not on wishful thinking or our pretend lives.  Only when we hear God's truth will we know Jesus who satisfies our longings.
     Jesus alone satisfies our longings.  He knows all that we crave.  He knows our needs.  And he satisfies them.  The peace that Jesus gives is that you are forgiven of all your sins.  You don't have to pretend your life is perfect or that you have a handle on it all.  You do not have to carry around shame and guilt any longer.  For, Jesus Christ has taken up your guilt upon himself.  He was put under God's judgment for you.  He stood condemned for all your sins, no matter what they were.  The charges against you have been put upon Jesus, and he died a shameful death on a cross for you.  That is where your sins were dealt with.  You don't have to pretend about your sin and shame.  Here is God's truth: You are forgiven.
     Jesus alone satisfies our longings.  He gives us the comfort of knowing that we are forever loved by God.  Jesus shows us that our God is a good and merciful Father.  And if the Father is good and merciful, then we know that whatever he gives us is for our good.  The Father has given you the blessings he deems are best for you.  He has given you your vocation that you may honor him with your skills and ambitions and in turn serve your neighbor in his need.  Even if your job is boring, your chores are monotonous, and your marriage is not a Disney fairy tale, know that the Lord is pleased to put you where you are and to give you what you have.  It is for God's honor and your neighbor's good.  And God is pleased by your service because he delights in you.  Even if the people of Sychar forever branded the woman at the well as the town tramp, Jesus gave her a different, and in fact an eternal, identity—forgiven and beloved child of God.  It was not a pretend identity.  It was God's truth.  It is for you, too.
     Jesus alone satisfies our longings.  And he continues to refresh us with his words and promises.  He is not bored with you.  He continues to pour out his mercy on you, to encourage you in your struggles, and to console you in your difficulties.  For, your life rests in Christ alone whose words provide an unbreakable joy, and whose promises point you to an eternity without pain or problems.
     Jesus alone satisfies our longings.  So, what is it that you long for?  A life without shame, guilt, or regret?  A body without aches, weakness, or disease?  A family without strife or sarcasm or separation?  A world without terror or tension or trouble?  Relief from grief over death and fear of the grave?  Dear Christians, Jesus alone satisfies our longings.  The world may fantasize over these things; we merely wait for them.  Jesus alone supplies them.  Jesus alone assures them.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.