Third Sunday in Lent– Sermon
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did…. Now I don’t know about you, but in reading and hearing these words from the Samaritan woman I am struck in by how bad they are. As far as a mission strategy or an evangelism tool, they are incredibly weak and if I may be so honest really rather terrible. There is no, umph behind them. No appeal or attraction to them. Had she spoken first to others about her suggested opening line and proclamation on the walk back to the viliage, I imagine they would be standing there shaking their heads with such words. “How is that going to bring in the youth,” they would question. “Woman, don’t you need a rock band to accompany that message and theater lighting,” others might prod as she neared the gate of her city. “Woman, don’t you need a speech writer or maybe some more time crafting a more inspiring message. Something more upbeat and positive,” the would jeer. Yes, indeed looking at these words from the woman they are all to uninspiring, all to plain, and really simply all too bad.
They are bad not only from their un-enthusiastic, un-hip, and understated message, but they are even worse if we think about them. Let’s read it again and listen carefully to what the woman says, “Come, see a man WHO TOLD ME ALL THAT I EVER DID.” Think about that, all that I ever did. Do you know a better way to scare the lost and un-churched people, who don’t know the Gospel, than to tell them to encounter and meet a man who can tell them everything that they have ever done? Especially, if I were the woman, I’d want to make sure that the townspeople stayed far far away from such a man. If someone knows my deepest darkest thoughts and sins, words and deeds, I’m pretty sure I don’t want anyone else to know who he is. Especially the people that I have to see every day of my life in my tiny home town. Think of the looks, the judging gazes, people would give you, if they knew everything you had ever did as well.
That is even more a reason why they are terrible words, because reading this encounter with Jesus and the woman at the well, it’s in all likelihood the people of Sychar already knew everything that this woman had done. Before the office water cooler to gather around, there was the town well. The women would make their daily march in the morning and again at evening to fetch the water needed for the day. They would leave early in the cool of the morning or in the shade of evening, but they would rarely if ever go at noon, in the middle of the day, in blazing heat of the noon day sun. That is unless they were avoiding running in to people, avoiding those judgmental gazes from the towns folk, and being shunned and mocked by the other women there. Her life, her deeds, her husbands in that small little town of Sychar would not have gone unnoticed by her neighbors. What became news to her at the well, news that she had to run into town leaving behind her water pitchers to tell the people, had likely already been the town gossip for years.
Because having lived in a small town, let me tell you news, especially gossip, travels at break neck speed. It was only 3 to 4 days after Alicia had gall bladder surgery after the birth of Justin, when we got a call from the former pastor of St. Paul who had just heard about Alicia’s surgery. Maynard, Iowa to Estes Park, Colorado is 845 miles. In a mater of days they knew out there, can you imagine then how quickly the news traveled just around town! I imagine it was faster in Sychar as they saw this woman move from man to man to man.
Yes, thinking about these evangelic words from the woman to her fellow Samaritans, they are indeed terrible, bad, bland and boring, but they the only words she knows how to speak. For unless she was an ISTJ, like myself who analyzes and is hyperactive in self-reflection and self-examination, the words from Jesus at the well regarding her life was a true and holy revelation for her. What might have been old news to the townspeople, was true news to her. For the first time in her life, she is encountered with the truth. How common is it just for us to go through the daily routine of life, living out our sins unchallenged, unknown, if only unknown to us and go about life as usual. The day begins and it ends, rarely without any divine intervention from above or below at the water cooler. We tend to be well versed in knowing the sins of brothers and sisters, but rarely are we told or do we have revealed to us our own. In fact, I would say we’d pay good money and expend good energy to make sure no man or woman ever knows ALL that we have ever done.
Perhaps that is the reason we only make it to church 1.3 times a month as Christians.
Perhaps that is the reason we have Bibles in our homes, kept on the shelf, and never read.
Perhaps that is the reason we fill our time and our weeks with anything and everything unrelated to God, His Word and His worship.
Perhaps that is the reason we might think these words from the woman are bad and need to be replaced by hipper, cooler, and youth attractive ones, whatever that means.
Because we fear meeting a man who knows all that we have ever done.
Yet, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the Truth is not in us. The words from St. John’s epistle, begin our confession each week. And they maybe found boring, old and terrible, un-hip and un-cool, but they like the woman’s are words of life. For this woman at the well, calling her townspeople to see this one who knows her deeds, runs to them in pure and total joy. Her words are the exclamation and the breaking freedom of the Gospel that has taken hold of her life. Her deeds, her husbands, and all that she has ever done is made known to her in Jesus Christ, and they are drowned in the water of life that He speaks to her. The shackles, chains, and sins of her past are removed by the rushing water of life in Christ Jesus.
Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ? Yes He can. Yes He is as should believes as do the rest of her town as they too encounter and abide with Jesus Christ. I imagine they too, were confronted with the truth of their own lives during those two days, as He told them all that they ever did and imparted to them that same living water. It is the same Jesus, the same truth that we encounter every time we come, splash, and drink from His everlasting water of life. The water that flowed from His side, the water that stirs in the Christian font, and the water mixed with wine at Holy Communion. For we are met not only with the Truth of what we have done, but with the truth of what He has done, is doing, and promises yet to do. In bland, un-hip and boring words, But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. From His mercy and His grace the well-spring of His love for us flows in and through us. For where we encounter His Law, which is nothing more than the word of His Truth, we will always encounter His Gospel and His Grace. Just as the patient must learn the truth from his doctor in order to begin to be healed, how much more so than the samaritan woman of today’s gospel lesson, how much more so for us.
Therefore, let us never fear, but with great joy continue to meet this Man, this Christ, this Jesus not 1.3 times per month or even once a week to get our allotment of religion out of the way, but let us daily meet Him, who will tell us all that we have ever done, but will even more tell us what He has done in spite of ourselves. Let us daily drink from the water of His life, in Word and Holy Sacrament. And yes, let us invite, our husbands, our neighbors, and our friends, to come and see this Man, this Jesus Christ, who knows all that we have ever done, but who loves and forgives us just the same.