Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sermon, "Summer Days: Water Break," John 4:5-42

Sermon 8/16/15
John 4:5-42

Summer Days: Water Break


Over the years, I’ve tried several times to stop drinking Diet Coke. In high school, my senior year, I had a bout of kidney stones. The doctor wasn’t sure what caused them, but they suggested I try backing off the caffeine, and I would have agreed to anything they recommended to ensure no repeats of the kidney stones. So I just switched to caffeine free Diet Coke. But eventually, I started drinking it again – I had a become a vegetarian in my first year of college, and vegetarians are at less risk for kidney stones, so I felt like I could make the trade. And I’ve been pretty addicted to Diet Coke ever since. And several times, I’ve tried to give it up. One year, I gave up soda for Lent. I did really well all through Lent. I passed through the headache phase, that painful process where your body doesn’t respond well to missing out on caffeine. I still wanted Diet Coke when I saw it, but I managed to survive without it.
            Of course, without having soda, I needed to replace my soda with something else to keep hydrated. Soda actually isn’t a good hydrating beverage. Between the sodium and the caffeine, soda can actually make you thirstier than otherwise. So I drank a lot of water. I actually got my recommended eight cups of water a day. I learned to really enjoy water. And I found that the more I drank of it, the thirstier I was for it. It quenched my thirst, yes, but it also created in me a need for it – it satisfied my thirst, and so I actually thirsted even more for it. And anyway, when I am the most thirsty, and the most in true need of something to quench my thirst, I would never or rarely reach for a soda. After a hard workout, or being active on a hot day, it is cold, thirst-quenching water that I would reach for.
So why am I so reluctant to give up the soda? Why am I so reluctant to make a change that can only be for my benefit? Good for my health? There’s nothing beneficial about Diet Coke, except the taste, and if I could go long enough without it, even the taste is not as compelling as it once was. I wish I could say I kept my Diet-Coke free lifestyle after Easter came last year. But you know better. Recently, I’ve been trying again to kick the habit. I did really well for a couple weeks, and then had just one – just one Diet Coke. But of course, that led to just one more, and you guess the rest.
I’m guessing we all have our Diet Cokes. Not, I mean, that you all drink Diet Coke. But we all have these things that we do, even though we mean, we plan, we commit, we resolve not to anymore. We promise and swear that we’ll do differently, we’ll be different. We’re in good company in this. The apostle Paul writes about it in his letter to the church in Rome. He says, “7:15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Paul gets it. We keep doing the very things that bring us at best, momentary satisfaction, but in the end, leave us more empty than when we started. We’ve talked about dreams and we’ll keep talking about dreams and you’ll probably get sick of hearing about dreams at some point. But the crazy thing is that so many of the things we dream about are entirely possible. We know how to accomplish the things we dream about. We know what it would take to do what we dream about doing with all our heart. And we still just don’t do it. Why is that? Why don’t we do what we want to do, and instead do things that take us farther away from our hopes and dreams? Why do we do things that undermine our heart’s desire? I’m not just talking about messing up on our diet plans. I’m talking about ways that over and over again we make choices and decisions that result in us feeling empty inside instead of filled up, things that make us feel far from God instead of close, things that make our dreams seem impossible instead of reachable. Why would we do the very opposite of what we mean to do if it is within our power to do otherwise?
One of my favorite verses from Isaiah asks these very questions. Isaiah writes, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Why? I think that we don’t believe we’re capable of meaningful transformation. Actually, that’s not quite right. I think, at the heart of it, we’re scared of meaningful transformation. We’re scared of new life, as much as we crave and long for it. I think that we don’t believe we’re worth the results of meaningful transformation. If we sought after deep and meaningful lives for ourselves, instead of the unsatisfying substitutes we let become our existence – I think it would mean that we care for ourselves enough, love ourselves enough to consider ourselves worth the struggle. Worth the hard work. Worth the time pursuing your dreams takes that quick, unsatisfying fixes do not. And so, scared of what change might bring, what change would mean, and not thinking we’re worth it, we choose the diet coke over the water again and again.
That’s the woman – a woman just like most of us in fact – that I think Jesus meets at the well in our text today. The gospel of John is the only gospel where we find this passage, and it marks the longest single conversation Jesus has with an individual in the scriptures. Jesus is travelling from place to place and his destination causes him to travel through a Samaritan city. The Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along. Remember, a couple of weeks ago I told you that in fact they were enemies, Jews and Samaritans. They had common religious ancestry, but over the centuries they had divided and come to have deeply different religious beliefs.
But, Jesus travels through this Samaritan town, and stops at a well. A Samaritan woman, unnamed like so many women in the Bible, comes to the well, and Jesus asks her to draw him some water to drink. She’s surprised. She’s a woman and a Samaritan, two huge reasons for Jesus not to speak to her. But Jesus tells her, “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is [that is talking to you], you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman is naturally confused by Jesus’ strange talk. How can he get water without a bucket, she wonders? Jacob, their revered forefather got water from a well with the help of God. Can this man Jesus do that? Jesus answers, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman responds, even if not understanding fully, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus goes on to tell the woman all about herself, her history. She’s been reaching for Diet Coke over and over again. She’s had relationships with many men. The woman asks if Jesus is a prophet. They debate a bit, about their different religious views. But Jesus tells her, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the truth worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth, for God seeks such as these to worship. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman says she knows that the Messiah is coming. Jesus says he is the Messiah.
But that’s not the end of our passage. The disciples show up, surprised at Jesus’ conversation partner, but wise enough apparently to keep their thoughts to themselves. Jesus says something to them about food to eat, and they, like the woman, are confused by his talk. But Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to proclaim his work.” He talks about the Samaritans being ready for the harvest, ready to receive the good news. Indeed, the passage closes with the woman bringing others to meet Jesus, who believe that he is the savior because of her witness.
I want to share with you a poem, a monologue really, by Chris Kinsley and Drew Francis that gives us the voice of the woman at the well. Listen to her story:
I am a woman of no distinction
of little importance.
I am a women of no reputation
save that which is bad.
You whisper as I pass by and cast judgmental glances,
Though you don’t really take the time to look at me,
Or even get to know me.
For to be known is to be loved,
And to be loved is to be known.
Otherwise what’s the point in doing
either one of them in the first place?
I WANT TO BE KNOWN.
I want someone to look at my face
And not just see two eyes, a nose,
a mouth and two ears;
But to see all that I am, and could be
all my hopes, loves and fears.
But that’s too much to hope for,
to wish for,
or pray for
So I don’t, not anymore.
Now I keep to myself
And by that I mean the pain
that keeps me in my own private jail
The pain that’s brought me here
at midday to this well.
To ask for a drink is no big request
but to ask it of me?
A woman unclean, ashamed,
Used and abused
An outcast, a failure
a disappointment, a sinner.
No drink passing from these hands
to your lips could ever be refreshing
Only condemning, as I’m sure you condemn me now
But you don’t.
You’re a man of no distinction;
Though of the utmost importance.
A man with little reputation, at least so far.
You whisper and tell me to my face
what all those glances have been about, and
You take the time to really look at me.
But don’t need to get to know me.
For to be known is to be loved and
To be loved is to be known.
And you know me.
You actually know me;
all of me and everything about me.
Every thought inside and hair on top of my head;
Every hurt stored up, every hope, every dread.
My past and my future, all I am and could be.
You tell me everything,
you tell me about me!
And that which is spoken by another
would bring hate and condemnation.
Coming from you brings love, grace,
mercy, hope and salvation.
I’ve heard of one to come
who could save a wretch like me
And here in my presence, you say
I AM He.
To be known is to be loved;
And to be loved is to be known.
And I just met you.
But I love you.
I don’t know you,
but I want to get to.
Let me run back to town
this is way to much for just me.
There are others: brothers,
sisters, lovers, haters.
The good and the bad, sinners and saints
who should hear what you’ve told me;
who should see what you’ve shown me;
who should taste what you gave me;
who should feel how you forgave me.
For to be known is to be loved;
And to be loved is to be known.
And they all need this, too.
We all do
Need it for our own.

For to be known is to be loved and To be loved is to be known. And you know me. You actually know me; all of me and everything about me … And that which is spoken by another would bring hate and condemnation. Coming from you brings love, grace, mercy, hope and salvation. Friends, we’ve got Diet Coke. And we’ve got Living Water. The choice seems so simple. It is simple, when we remember that God knows us and loves us. Knows all about us and loves us. And still wants to give us Living Water. God knows us and loves us and think we’re worth a deeply satisfying life abundant. God knows us and loves us and says we’re worth it. May we come to know, to believe what God knows already, and may we drink deeply of the living water springing up from the heart of God. Amen.


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