Looking for Christ

livingwater_altlessredKenora 3rd Lent
Year A
15 March 2020

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

Gracious God,
you provide us with living water in abundance for all to share.
Nourish us with this abundance,
so that we may be streams of living water to those who thirst for you;
through Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation. Amen.

Jesus language of sowers and reapers, in today’s gospel is one we don’t often remember to associate with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.

But there it is, for all to read.

When we look at this story, what we focus on is often the conversation between the woman and Jesus when he asks for water, then offers the water of eternal life, and then tells her the truths that he is the Messiah and she’s living into the mistakes of her past.

And from our modern perspective, we need to look at the circumstances of this story closely to see that she’s not a woman in the centre of her social circle, but rather, once again, a woman on the edge of society.

After all, if we want a bottle of water, we either pick it up when we get the chance in our round of tasks, or errands, or we have a planned delivery schedule with our bottled water supplier. (So much for the great history of drinking from our garden hose.)

On the other hand, the Samaritan Woman, whose name we never know, is someone who by either circumstance or life choice has made some doozy decisions that has knocked her down the social ladder, or rather off of it, and now she stands to one side as others climb that ladder to social success.

She is truly a woman on the fringes of society.

So, she comes to the well in the middle of the day, when all of her friends and neighbours are otherwise occupied and its here and now that she encounters Jesus, in the hot noonday sun.

At Jacob’s well, she discovers this man who can tell her all about her life, about the choices she’s made, about the mistakes she lives with, and he doesn’t condemn her for it, but rather affirms that she is worthy of being a child of God.

He tells her that she is worthy of receiving the water of life.

And so, when they come back, as this lady is rushing back to Sychar, to tell everyone who she’s just met, Jesus talks with the disciples about sowing and harvesting, and how late it is for the harvest to be only beginning.

Maybe the clue for us, today, is when Jesus says: “‘One sows and another reaps’ … 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”” (Jn 4:37b-38)

In the season of Lent, we, along with Jesus are walking toward the events of the cross.

Today, we know that he’s heading, if not at the moment toward Jerusalem, that this is the inevitable destination of this season.

But they’ve taken the road through Samaria, and they’ve stopped for a bite of lunch. At the same time Jesus doesn’t stop working.

He tells us: “34 “My food … is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (Jn 4:34-35)

And this brings us back to much of the angst of our society who has trouble seeing God’s plan in the face of our own plans for our day, for our lives. They can’t, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

The disciples are getting used to Jesus talking with strange women, as they see him doing when they return with something for lunch.

What they’re not expecting is that while their focus is to look after Jesus, his focus is for them, for each one of us, to turn around and to see, and to reach out to the people who need to know of the love of God.

To see those who long to step into the light of God’s love, but don’t feel that they’d be welcomed, for one reason or another.

Our text tells us that all Jesus has done is ask her for a drink of water, when she first came to the well, and from there their conversation grows.

“13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”” (Jn 4:13-14)

While the disciples are out looking for a good take out lunch, or possibly scouting hotel locations, in Sychar, Jesus is working. He’s “harvest[ing] a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” (Jn 4:36b)

Now, this doesn’t mean that the disciples aim is off, but rather their focus is too close to Jesus. They wish to honour him, they wish to support and uphold him, but they’re not seeing, the work that Jesus calls us to be doing.

At the same time, we’re often forgetting that our focus isn’t needing to be on Jesus, but on those who continue to live, to exist on the fringes of society.

They’re looking at him, not at the neighbour in need, and sometimes we do the same, in our lives.

I find it interesting that when we look at those in need of the love of God, we often look at them through eyes that more often see the mistakes instead of the person.

Even in today’s gospel, the woman coming to the well at noon – this isn’t an ideal time to come.

She’s had to come from town to the well, in the heat of the day, a hot empty container in her arms in order to draw water, alone, and carry the tepid contents, in the now heavier container, back to her home to be used.

Women would go to the well in the cool early portions of the day, often as a group, so that they could support each other, gossip together, catch up on the latest news, since yesterday, and help each other to draw the cooler water from the well, returning to their homes to carry on with the chores and the demands of the day at their own pace.

But here is this woman, for whom we never learn a name, who comes in the heat of the day, alone, to draw her water.

Why? Because she’s had five husbands, and her current partner isn’t her husband. She, then, has quite a ‘reputation’ in the community.

We’re not told if the previous five partners have died or if they’ve divorced her.

We’re not told the circumstances of her current relationship, but everyone in town knows who she is, as we see later in the text.

We’re told that the “disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” (Jn 4:27)

So, those of her village have judged her by the choices she’s made for survival, for a roof over her head, for care of any children she may have had with the five husbands.

And when they see her, the first thing they see are the choices that have led her to where she is, today.

And unfortunately, we often do the same, still in our lives.

We look at the people who are on the fringes of society and we pass judgement based upon what we see, rather than who they are, not to mention who they are to God.

But Jesus encourages us to see beyond those choices to see the wealth, the joy, the wisdom, and the treasure of the person beneath / behind those choices.

And this is easier said than done.

After all, we may have been hurt by similar choices in our own lives, whether it was you and I making those choices or if our peers and those around us who made those choices for us and our lives.

We may have overcome situations that make us unwilling to reach back and help someone else to stand because the memories are still too painful to recall.

We may find that looking for Christ in faces that don’t look like ours is difficult.

But this is what Christ is asking us to do.

After all, we’re all the children of God, as is the woman at the well.

We’re all like the Samaritans amongst whom Jesus ministers, today, and we’re all like the Jews who minister to Jesus, as well.

Jesus tells us: “36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”” (Jn 4:36-38)

“40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.”” (Jn 4:40-41)

The harvest may be late, others may have started it, but there is still plenty of work for each one of us, when we turn to look at where Christ urges us to look to find those who believe, but may not know that they are loved as they love.

Those who live where we don’t expect to see them, on the outskirts and fringes of society, as well as at the well, in the heat of the day.


About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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