Sunday, March 15, 2020

Lent 3A,2020: Our Lord, our love, and our life

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

(Note: if the above player doesn't work on your device, click HERE for an mp3 audio format).

En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.

I’m not sure I could have chosen a better Collect to begin our worship today. As we and the whole church seek to respond to coronavirus pandemic, the Spirit has offered us this prayer to remind us that faith is a partner with science for us; both of them being gifts to us from God who is, in the end, the only one who can protect us and make us whole.

When we are rattled by something over which we have little to no control, we believers have the gift of faith to help us wait for redemption. In the meantime, we are called to notice, give thanks for, and respond to the blessings surfacing for us like flowers shooting out from cracks in the sidewalk. For example, I’ve listened to rectors and interims talk for years about the resistance to letting go the practice of intinction, despite credible and consistent information from medical experts about how unhealthy and risky a practice it is. Yet, in this coronavirus moment, the information we’ve had and preached for years about intinction is finally being heard and accepted, and intinction is, hopefully, gone for good.

As a pastor, I’ve noticed that the challenging moments of our lives, whether physical or spiritual, can strengthen our faith even when it weakens it first. I think of our beloved mystic Julian of Norwich who suffered terrible physical ailments, but didn’t judge or fear or disconnect from them. Instead, she faithfully awaited the revelation of the blessing in them, and as a result, experienced Christ in ways that completely transformed her, leading her to her famous description of Christ the Mother of Mercy: “And even though some earthly mother might allow a child of hers to perish, our heavenly mother, Jesus, may never suffer us to be lost, for we are his children. And he is almighty, all wisdom, all love… For now, he wants us to behave just like a child; for when a child is upset or afraid, it runs straight to its mother with all its might.”

What a lovely description of our relationship to God. When we are hurt or afraid, our Creator wants us to run, as a toddler runs, with all its might, into the divine embrace.

In her description of her vision of the hazelnut, Julian speaks to what we prayed in the Collect in which we ask God to keep us in body and soul. She says, “I saw three properties about this tiny object. First, God had made it; second, God loves it; and third, that God keeps it…he is the Maker, the Keeper, the Lover… I understood this revelation to teach our soul to cling fast to the goodness of God…what delights him most, is when we pray simply trusting his goodness, holding on to him, relying upon his grace.”

In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus demonstrates the way earth and heaven relate for those who believe. Choosing to stop at the well of Jacob to rest the Word Incarnate, engages a Samaritan woman in a redemptive conversation.

Both Jesus and the Samaritan woman would know of the legend that when the water first rose up in Jacob’s well, it bubbled over the top, spilling out as a bold demonstration of the abundance of God. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that he offers water that will gush up to eternal life!.

Then he demonstrates his divine-human nature by asking the woman to go home and return with her husband. She replies that she has no husband, and Jesus affirms that saying, you’ve had five, and the one you’re with now is not your husband. Even by today’s standards, that would turn religious heads, but what’s remarkable here is that Jesus knows this about her - and doesn’t judge her!

I think it’s important to look at a few other things Jesus doesn’t do in this story. Jesus doesn’t exclude the woman according to her categories: Samaritan, woman, married 5 times, living “in sin”… He doesn’t ask her to repent or change the situation of her life; and he doesn’t forbid her from proclaiming the huge news he hasn’t even told his disciples yet – that he is the Messiah of God.

This woman, who has no name, no fame, and no legacy except this story, is the first person to whom the Christ reveals himself. She rushes home, leaving her water jar behind in her haste, and proclaims this good news to her people, and, as our gospel writer tells us, “many Samaritans came to believe in him because of her testimony.” (39)

The Samaritan woman was transformed by her encounter with the grace of God in Christ and through her, her community was too. What she did is what all of us, all churches and members of them, are called to do: to share our story of how our lives have been transformed by our encounter with the grace of God in Jesus Christ. When we share our good news with others, the redemptive love of God gushes forth from us reaching farther and farther beyond us in the overflow.

Despite what we may see and hear to the contrary in the world today, it is not our job to save the world or even to save ourselves. Only God can save and Jesus has already done that. We have been asked to partner with Christ in the continuing work of redemption by telling our good news, by living as if we truly believe our good news, by clinging fast to the goodness of God, and by trusting God to “keep us outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls.”

We’re all aware that few things give Episcopalians the hee-bee gee-bees more than evangelism. Part of that is our sensitivity to how it’s been done wrong, but evangelism is vital to the continuing life of any church. Churches don’t grow because they possess the right doctrine or because they have well-done liturgies or even because of their budgets or programs. Churches grow because one person connects with another person and another person and the divine in each of them unites them into one body, one spirit.

It is in this divine union that we work together as partners with God in redemption.

The world needs the good news we have to share in a big way right now. When we and our churches we cling fast to the goodness of God, when we trust the source of the eternal spring of water that gives us life, it gushes up in us, bonding us in divine union in the eternal, redeeming presence of God, and spills out from us to the thirsty world we are called to serve.

Let us pray:

“Create in each one of us [ O God] a pool of peace, a deep well of healing that can transform [fear to faith,] bitterness to love,… irritation to tolerance, rejection to acceptance, and inadequacy to confidence…” Then empower us to share this good news of ours that your redeeming love may reach to the ends of the earth quenching all those who thirst and nourishing all creation from the spring of eternal life that is you, Jesus Christ our Lord, our love, and our life. Amen.

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