Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sermon given March 27, 2011: Living Water

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


Mmmmm. Living water welling up in us to everlasting life. That sounds good.

Do you feel any admiration for this Samaritan woman at the well? She answers and engages in conversation as an equal. I detect a little bit of playfulness in the conversation. Do you think I am imagining it? Sir, you have no bucket. How will you draw water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us the well?

The conversation is very mixed. In the course they talk about history.. It was Jacob who gave us this well. Jesus brings up her personal life. They talk about prejudice: You, a Jew, are asking me for a drink. She brings up theology. Jesus teaches that the time is coming when the true worshippers will worship the Father not in a specific time and place but in spirit and in truth. National pedigree, race, gender will not matter. What will matter if a person comes in spirit and in truth. If a person can be really who they are before God. There is self disclosure. "I have not husband." "I am the Messiah."

We often focus on this story being about Jesus' willingness to transgress conventional boundaries in order to include people, and it is that. He goes to Samaria. A no-no. He talks to a woman. A no-no. He drinks from an implement a Samaritan has used, a no-no. Jesus sees all people as his friends.

But this time, I was struck that this story as a moment of encounter and fellowship. It is an informal, every day, normal getting a drink kind of moment. How many times does one drink water in an arid climate? Eight? Twelve? It is like the proverbial water cooler., a place of conversation and community. This exchange where walls between two people were broken down, and where the gracious presence of God became known, happened in a very ordinary conversation at a drinking hole. We should not be confused by the fact it is a holy story. The event is like events we experience every day..

What they did also reminds me of our worship. We come to this table each week to encounter God. To give thanks for our life, for our salvation, to ask assistance both for ourselves and the world. We sit down and we engage in a ritual conversation. We read stories and reflect on our spiritual journey as a people. Then we engage in a meal with God where we give ourselves to God who transforms that gift (us) into the Body of Christ and gives it (us) back to us. In this Eucharist, in the holy conversation and in this holy meal God enters our lives making us into the saints, the people who go out into the world and show and discover his presence all around..

Our worship is a rehearsal for our life. The next thing we do right after this service is also very sacred. We go to coffee hour. There at coffee hour we practice doing in our day to day life the things Jesus and this woman did at the well, the things we do sacramentally in the Eucharist. We care for one another by sharing sustenance. We tell stories. We make friends with people we would not ordinarily associate with. As we grow closer we share the secrets and challenges of our lives. We talk about theology, what is a good and a wholesome and a spiritual life in the midst of a world that seems so crazy? And we discover in each other the face of Christ.

Can you think of a time where you were nourished by a time in fellowship with others? Have you ever felt known or healed from your encounter with others? Did you ever find a spring of water welling up inside you in the love you found in the seemingly ordinary activities of friendship?

We sometimes despair of finding spiritual nourishment, but the truth is it can be found all over. The people in our Old Testament lesson were worried about having enough water, but God told Moses to strike a rock. A rock? okay, dig a well maybe, but hit a rock with your staff? Say what? But when Moses did, the water flowed. God can satisfy our longings in the most surprising places.

Christ is there to be found everywhere we go. We are taught in Matthew chapter twenty-five that whenever we care for those in dire need we do it to Christ. And the Apostles told us that we should show hospitality and kindness to strangers because many have entertained angels, messengers from God, and even Christ himself. Christ comes to us, speaks to us, ministers to us in our lives through other people. Our Christian life is a growing in seeing all of life, all it's interactions with other people, as encounters with God. through listening to people's stories of joy and sorrow, by sharing our bread and drink with them, by imitating Christ's example of care and witness, we see all of life transformed into worship of God and communion in Christ.

We will read soon of the two disciples walking to Emmaus when they encounter a stranger. They begin speaking about all that happened to Jesus of Nazareth and the conversation turns to scripture. When they break bread they recognize Jesus with them and they say to each other, did not our hearts burn within us along the road? I feel like this happens often at our Bible Studies, and our Souper Spiritualities, here at St. John's. Our hearts are warmed and our souls feel nourished. Sometimes I think we cheat ourselves by not talking about God enough because so often when we do we come alive. And I don't mean just the simple things we sometimes say like, "well it is in God's hands" or "God is good." Those are good things to say. But I mean why not find times to wrestle with the deeper questions such as Jesus and this Samaritan woman discussed.

Where can we enjoy pondering on the grace and goodness of God? There are springs of living water waiting for us to chance upon them.

St. Paul writes to us in today's reading that the love of God has been poured into our lives, through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. This love of God, this Holy Spirit is with us always, in all we do, at home, at work, we need only look in order to find.

If there is anything to focus on in Lent, in this time when we examine our lives and repent of those harmful things we do to ourselves or others, as we try to focus on doing those wholesome things that we neglect, it is good to resolve to keep our eyes open for Christ in our encounters with others. To be prepared not only to minister to others, but to recognize when we are being ministered unto. It is good to see that all of Life becomes the Eucharist, a sharing of life giving stories, ours and others, and a sharing of nurturing food and drink. As we say to each other in the Liturgy. The Lord be with you. And also with you. May we notice that he actually is. Every moment of our lives. There is a spring of water welling up in us. Let us open the eyes of our heart and see it, and open the lips of our heart to taste its freshness with great gladness.

(The beautiful photograph is provided by Samurai / Thanks!)