Sunday Sermon: Politics, Religion and Sex

John: 4:5-29

5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

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.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

27 Just then his 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?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

*****

The Samaritans were a monotheist cult that recognized the Pentateuch and not much else; neither the prophets nor priests of the Jews. They were also used as a political pawn against the Jews by the Romans, who appointed them to Judean towns. They were fairly despised by the Jews in Judea. Jesus decides that three out of three taboo subjects are just the thing wherewith to capture a heart.

“Yes,” says the Samaritan woman, “I want that living water to make my life easier.” Now that he has piqued her curiosity– after He obviously startles her political/racial prejudices by merely speaking to her– Jesus keeps her off-balance with yet another tack and brings her gently, if quickly, to the post: “I know everything about you, and it’s not good.”  He could not have pierced her heart more deftly had he been a modern-day surgeon.

I think she is scrambling for some sort of high ground as she challenges His legitimacy as a Prophet. I don’t see her as immediately rapt with His method; she isn’t asking Him where to worship, she is pointing out that His prophetic gifts possibly may not apply to her casual sexual morality.  Perhaps it’s a desperate ploy to get out of the shame and bring up some rather large theological difference to point out the gulf between them. So Jesus has to get direct with her.

“You don’t know what you worship.”

For the Samaritans, their god had spoken once and that was good enough for them.  They were an erudite, urban culture that was quite open-minded and influenced by their pagan neighbors, and so it was all a nice “religious” thing. Something to identify with, but certainly not make a big deal about except as a point of pride. Think about that: a static faith, a static idea of God. Jesus says to her, “You don’t know what you worship.”

During the Lenten season, take some time to discover just how far away and long ago you may have buried your sense of worship, your sense of the Spirit of God’s nature and where He dwells within your heart and mind. He calls us to repent, He reveals our sins, He pierces our pride, and then tells us He’s seeking for something within us: Spirit and Truth.

It may be hard, at first, to open up to the Living Water that quenches all thirst, but harder still to find it has become a stagnant pond where nothing really grows or thrives. We don’t dismiss it entirely as it provides a lovely reflection of our cultural identity. But lacking an outlet and an inward spring of fresh life, it eventually strangles all life within it and becomes useless to others who are thirsty.  Water is basic to physical life just as the Spirit is basic to a life of faith. Might be time to let God to strike the hard rock of our heart and command living water to come forth. “Spring up, oh, Wellspring.”

A final thought: The Samaritan woman had only just then breathed a hope for revelation, for knowing the answer to her own inward doubts when the Messiah revealed Himself to her.

What are you waiting for? Ask!

Evermore give me this water!

 

 

12 thoughts on “Sunday Sermon: Politics, Religion and Sex

  1. Good stuff. I hadn’t thought about the parallel between the Samaritans and “open-mined, liberal religion”, but it fits with Christ using the Samaritan in His parable. It would be like telling a Baptist that those churches where they dance, drink, ordain homosexuals, and let women preach a social gospel might be still be doing the right thing on some level.

  2. I think the woman at the well was likely not some servant, but a woman of some means, possibly even some social stature within her community. After six relationships, she was certainly not ill at ease with her station in life. The Greek influence in Samaria brings to bear in her situation.

    Jesus engages her mind, pierces her heart and her pride, dissolves her own religion’s disbelief in the prophets by being a real live seer into her own life, and dismays her own defenses. I envision this encounter as a bit more lively than we typically grant it. He shifts focus from one thing to the next, she counters in kind, by changing the subject. It’s actually quite dynamic. After He upends her defenses he dismisses the whole of their differences and brings in a new dynamic: what God is seeking now.

    He’s quite the Evangelist: he tears down defenses, he introduces a new proposition that bridges the gap with something higher, and helps her form the right desire: to have her doubts erased and her questions answered. He does not delay in meeting that desire when it is finally expressed. “I’m the answer to your questions.”

    Not before then, even after his showy “Prophet” trick (heh) did she leave her water pot behind and seek others to tell.

  3. This gospel- today’s readings, in fact, are the ones that cement, at least for me, the purpose of Lent.

    The Story of Massah and Meribah in the first reading refers to Moses striking the rock at Horeb. What most people- even I, early on- fail to remember is that Moses struck the rock again, at Kadesh. He was told by The Lord to speak to the rock, but instead he struck it, and was chided by the lord, and because of his lack of faith was forced to wander in the desert.

    The idea that you will be punished for your disbelief is loud and clear, as is the idea in the Gospel reading that forgiveness exists despite multiple and repeated transgression.

    • Which readings did your church have today? My own church (Episcopal) is independently going through the parables in Matthew.

      Am I missing the correct ones? I’m trying to get it right so that enough of us are on the same page.

  4. I really needed to hear this right now. Lent has been a serious struggle for me. I guess because mostly my family is just like the Samaritan woman. Not with the many relationships, but with the casual relationship to religion. You gave me food for thought, and I’m giving it a second read. Thanks.

    • That anyone enjoys them is reason enough. It’s been a good discipline for my Slack-ish soul. You are welcome and I am blessed!

  5. My pastor had an interesting take on that Gospel passage: the men of that woman’s town feared and shunned her, because she’d buried so many husbands. A precursor to the Italian Renaissance fad for poisoning one’s husband, perhaps?

    • Yes, just think about that when she tells Jesus she has no husband. Is she setting Him up to be her next, er. . . victim?

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