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March 12, 2023 — Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 17: 1-7 Psalm 95 Romans 5: 1-11 John 4: 5-42
Rev. Paul Wilcox
The Old Testament and Gospel readings for this Sunday are all wet! That is, they are linked by the image of water and our very basic need for it. In Exodus, the Israelites grumble for their next meal, missing the extraordinary, faith-inspiring experience of feeding daily from the hand of God. What was the Lord up to with this one-day-at-a-time feeding/watering schedule? If physical thirst and hunger are concrete analogies to our spiritual needs, perhaps even today we still grumble at our need to drink daily from the wells of God’s presence and God’s Word. In like fashion, the Samaritan woman, anxious to skip the drudgery of her daily trek to the well, misses Jesus’ deeper invitation to the living water of eternal life. Psalm 95 hearkens back to the Israelites’ stubborn thick-headedness at Meribah—which would make a wonderful call to worship btw.
Maybe I’m a little hard on those Israelites. They were going through some very trying times. Maybe we can empathize a bit. For many of us, these last few years have been difficult times to keep our hopes up. The war in Ukraine, the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, climate related disasters here at home and around the world, senseless, random mass killings, divisions in our own churches, and the lingering after-effects of the Pandemic leave us thirsty for hope. Sometimes suffering is personal; sometimes our suffering is empathetic—as we bear others’ burdens through prayer and service and –let’s face it—worry. Paul’s rich message in Romans 5 points us to a progression of grace: from suffering to endurance, from endurance to character, from character to hope—a hope that does not disappoint. Our people need to hear that right now! Paul also shares the reason for that hope: God’s deep love for us that took the Lord of Creation from Heaven to Earth, from spirit to flesh, from throne to cross, long before we ever even knew God—what Wesley called Prevenient Grace: what Paul calls the “Righteousness of God.”
But Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well is…well, deep on so many levels. First, there is her status as a forbidden person: A woman, a hated Samaritan, and an outcast even among her own people (which is why she is drawing water at noon, when no one will be there). Yet divided by gender, nationality/religion, and personal morality, Jesus initiates a conversation with her that rivals anything shared with the learned men of Israel. Jesus even shares his Messianic secret with her: “I … am he.” Isn’t it crazy how two peoples who are so alike can be at each other’s throats? Jews and Samaritans share the same torah, same ethnic and religious background—even the same messianic hope, but small differences get magnified until they seem miles apart. Is this happening in the United Methodist Church? Just wondering. What Jesus says about where and when and how we worship points to a time coming when all of us will recognize what is most important: to worship in Spirit and Truth.
Second, what is this living water that Jesus is talking about? The Holy Spirit? The Word of God? The wine of Holy Communion? The cup of cool water offered to the least of these? This living water is remarkable because it is a drink that becomes a source of water itself: It becomes in us “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Can it be that discipleship in Christ is not complete until we have within us that self-sustaining source of living water which we may—no, we must—share with others?
Third, Look at the woman’s response to Jesus. The miracle of Jesus’ knowing her relational history (without the benefit of Facebook) is not wasted on her—unlike the Israelites at Meribah! “Sir, I perceive you are a prophet.” And when she returns to her home, she doesn’t keep it to herself: “Can this be the Christ?” she says. Was this a question or a suggestion? I love her openness to a stranger like Jesus and at the same time a little skepticism. Maybe our best Evangelists are those who don’t have all the answers, but who are willing to ask the deep questions and stick around for the discussion!
There is so much good stuff in these readings! Best not to try to touch on them all: focus! Pick one, dig in, and drink deeply!
Rev. Paul Wilcox is a retired elder in the Iowa Annual Conference now living in Burnsville, Minnesota, but he still drinks his coffee from an Iowa Hawkeye’s cup.
¿Le gustaría a Ud. escribir para el Memorándum?
Buscamos a nuevos escritores y nos encantaría si Ud. fuera parte del equipo. Favor de enviar un correo electrónico al Rvdo. Bob Dean e incluir un ejemplo de su obra.
12 marzo, 2023 — Tercer domingo de Cuaresma
Éxodo 17:1-7; Salmos 95; Romanos 5:1-11; Juan 4:5-42
Por el Rvdo. Paul Wilcox ?