Today's Service was conducted on the live-streaming platform Zoom. This was necessary due to the social distancing recommendations the government is encouraging. As the pandemic continues, we will make the week to week call about when we can return to our beautiful church building. Until then we remain church, but just not in the church-building.
I only started to work on the Zoom platform yesterday. I have not yet figured out how to share the recorded virtual Service. If I do, I will post it here on our website. In the meanwhile, I will post this morning's sermon.
Also, I borrow cameras from FCAT and the Service is then uploaded to the FCAT page on YouTube, and from there to this page. Due to the pandemic, FCAT will not be loaning out cameras until further notice, which means we will not have a taped Service available on this site for some time.
Please check this page frequently for updates.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
I was at one of our Lenten Discussions a number of years ago. A female pastor from one of our local churches was offering her presentation. She started talking about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman by the well. I thought I knew all of the pertinent details of the story. Then she surprised me.
There really is something to the notion that we look at the world through who we are.
My daughter flew to Florida yesterday for a few days of sun and fun. Her perspective on the Corona Virus is that of a young, healthy person living in Boston surrounded by the virus. As I close in on 60, my perspective is not at all the same. We look at the current situation differently.
This experience we all share in right now will change the ways we look at the world. Maybe the story of the Samaritan woman can help us see.
I thought I had a good grasp of this story. I had read it and read about it, and I would have been surprised to be surprised. Then the woman Minister surprised me.
In Jesus’ world, villages were built where wells were available. If there was no water, there were no towns. It wasn’t like you create a Quabbin Reservoir then pipe water all the way out to Boston.
The well was a nearby gathering place for any village. All of the women would meet there to collect the water they needed for cooking and cleaning, and in that day, this definitely was women’s work.
And it was hard work. Lugging pails of water from well to home was physical labour. Because water was needed as soon as the family awoke, and because it would be more comfortable to draw the water in the coolness of early morning, the women of the village would all meet at the well at the same time. In an age when women were severely isolated, this must have been a special time of friendship and conversation.
But then the woman Minister surprised me with her question. Why was this Samaritan woman going out to the well at noon, just about the hottest part of the day, instead of dawn? Why were there no others who Jesus could ask for a drink? Why was this woman at the well at this hour and by herself?
The question is never answered directly in the text, and it never crossed my male mind to ask this question. I didn’t even see it as a question.
For whatever reason, she shows up, and then all the really important stuff takes place with her as Jesus’ sounding-board. But the text is richer than I saw.
The woman presenting the talk saw it, but I looked right past it. From her perspective as a woman, she wondered why this woman was alone. Why wasn’t she sharing the friendship of the other women? Why was she isolated?
Because she was intentionally excluded. Her lifestyle led the others to push her aside. She had been abused so regularly by her neighbours that not only did they avoid her, she avoided them.
She went to the well when no one else would be there on purpose. In the story, her being alone meant much more than one particular day at one particular time. She was always isolated.
Jesus knows this woman’s story. He knows about the several marriages and the man who is not her husband who she lives with. Jesus wouldn’t have died of thirst by that well. He could have waited for someone else to wander by. Plus, He knew the disciples would be returning soon with supplies. But Jesus talks with her. When everyone else isolated her, Jesus talked with her.
He not only talks with her, Jesus takes her seriously. He talks to her about “living water.” Jesus talks faith with her.
If you remember, last Sunday we spoke about Nicodemus, a religious teacher, and one who had so much difficulty figuring out Jesus. We can’t be sure if Nicodemus ever came to believe in Jesus.
Now, in the very next chapter of John’s Gospel, we meet this isolated woman. She also has difficulty trying to understand what Jesus is talking about, but then their two stories separate and go in opposite directions.
Nicodemus came to Jesus by cover of night because he was afraid to admit that Jesus may be the Messiah. Jesus’ encounter with this woman is under the high-noon-sun. She is so excited about her encounter with Jesus that she runs back into the village and tells everyone He is the Messiah.
In John’s Gospel, no one is a more successful apostle than this woman. She brings more people to Jesus than anyone else.
The contrast with the respected religious teacher Nicodemus is intentional. We have to be open to Jesus. We have to allow ourselves to be surprised by Him. He’ll break through any barrier, any isolation there is to get to us, but we have to let Him.
Jesus broke through the enforced isolation of this poor woman. She had a miserable life. Her husbands either used and abandoned her, or they died and left her with nothing. At a time when there were real consequences to living with a man outside of marriage, she had to. She had nothing and no one, and then Jesus spoke with her. Jesus saw her differently.
It’s a true blessing to believe in such a Saviour, but Jesus is also an example for us to try and follow. We’re living in uncertain times right now.
We’re supposed to be in a church building right now, but we cancelled because of concerns about the Corona Virus. Colleges are closing down. Businesses are limiting travel and even in-house meetings. Stores are empty of needed supplies. The worldwide economy is in decline. People are worried. Governments are declaring states of emergency. Thousands are sick. Many are dying. We don’t know what direction this will take.
But in the meantime, we can care about each other. We’re all in this together.
If we hoard, for instance, someone else has nothing.
We may have to become more physically isolated, but people don’t have to be alone. We know who needs to be called and checked-on so let’s stay in touch.
And lastly, let the Samaritan woman teach us empathy. Maybe we will be better able to see the suffering of others. There are generations in places all around the globe and even in our country who face uncertainty everyday for themselves and their families whether from poverty, crime, war, whatever.
The uncertainty and fear we feel now for a time, they feel constantly. Let us try to be more understanding of what they endure. Let us be like Jesus and not isolate them further, but let us see them as valued by God, and therefore, they should be valued by us.
We worship a compassionate Saviour. Let us pray that this pandemic may come to end as soon as possible, that people be healed, that isolation may end, that it may renew our appreciation of community, that the blessing of ordinary times may return quickly, and that in the meantime we may be here for each other.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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