Abandonment to Hope

Launch Sermon Player

3rd Sunday of Lent 2017

Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

Enduring Presence, you go before and await our coming.  Only our thirst compels us

beyond complaint to conversation, beyond rejection to relationship.  Pour your love into our hearts, that, refreshed and renewed, we may invite others to the living water

given to us in Jesus your Christ. Amen.

The American poet, Emily Dickensen, penned “I’m a Nobody…Who are you?”  She could very well have been writing the life of the woman Jesus meets at the well.

Unnamed, unknown, unseen.  She comes to the well in the heat of the day when no one else is around.  Too hot to come outside, she is ashamed to enter into the presence

of the other women of Sychar because she is a rejected piece of humanity.  She is thrice discarded; she is a woman, she is a Samaritan, and she is living with a man, not married to him. And Jesus, traveling at the same time, loves her anyway.

The Samaritans lived outside of Jerusalem, not near the ‘proper’Jewish towns.  They claimed to be descendants from the Northern Israelite tribes, who intermarried during the Assyrian captivity.  Hence, a good Jew would not recognize a Samaritan as any more than a half-breed.  But Jesus pays no attention to this judgment nor to the fact of the woman’s standing in her community.  His conversation with her is about bringing

life-giving water back into her sparse existence.  If Paul knew about this encounter

he would have nodded his head in agreement.  Justification in action.  Justification is God’s gift to humanity of grace, of inner peace, of no longer worrying about being perfect.  This is instead the gift of divine love, shown most poignantly through the cross of Jesus.  And how that grace exerts itself is to free us to take risks.  Which in the end is what this woman does.  She dares to risk the disdain of the towns people, to tell them here is someone who not only spoke with her but gave her what she barely knew she needed.  She could only imagine what it would be like to be healed within her very battered heart, a heart and a life that had been thrown away many times over the years.

She was given hope, that hope that had been negated through the years by abandonment.  And Jesus gives her back what she had lost.  But he does not give that easily. There is deep irony in this Gospel passage.  Jesus comes for a drink of water,

yet it is not he who is thirsty.  Jesus knows the truth regarding her life but what she does not know is he is truth incarnate.  This discarded woman makes assumptions about him being a prophet, but he is not ordinary prophet.  He is not John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness.  Instead he is the prophet sent to the lost, the hopeless, the abandoned.

Sent, going to anyone who needs God’s abundant love.  And she thinks he has just arrived for water!  Her faith has been sorely tried by life’s hardships and her own inability to find God in the midst.  She comes at noon because no one cares about her life.

And we are often this unnamed, unknown woman.  We feel abandoned by God

especially in trying times.  We work our hearts out for justice and peace and hope

and nothing changes.  We feel very angry at God over our own or another’s distress.

It feels as if God does not care and neither does anyone else.  We’re angry at the struggle to be known, we’re angry at the unpredictability of life and the suffering we undergo.  The movement to hope is too hard, the pilgrimage to peace hurts too much to take.  But like this disposable woman we can meet Jesus at our own well, and drink deeply of his ample supply of love.  The Gospel is good news for anyone who has felt like a non-person, for Jesus never turns away from this woman or from us.  We might feel dry and empty, yet the hope that does not disappoint is already waiting for us.

As the woman who has now been cared for runs to tell others of her transformation,

so we, too can offer that to another.  As she gave that cup of well water to Jesus we give to another that for which they thirst.  We no longer have to only dream of God’s healing grace, we experience it every day of our lives.  And we pursue such a dream

only to give it away as Jesus gave away his life-giving water which will soon be poured out on a hill called Calvary.  Amen.

Abandonment to Hope