The Third Sunday in Lent (2/24/2008)

Messengers with Good News

Lessons: Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 95 Romans 5:1-11 St. John 4:5-42

Prayer of the Day: Merciful God, the fountain of living water, you quench our thirst and wash away our sin. Give us this water always. Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

4.5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." 11 The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" 13 Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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." 15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."

16 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." 17 The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband'; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" 19 The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." 26 Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 33 So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" 34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.' 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."

St. John 4:5-42, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Someone asked me this question recently: "What does it mean to be evangelical?" It is a word that is thrown about indiscriminately these days. In the political arena we have heard considerable speculation about how much power the evangelical right has - or had. In the social arena, we hear that those who don't believe in Christ are often wary of anyone who is described as "evangelical" - assuming that they will attempt to proselytize them. In the religious arena, we most often associate the word evangelical with the desire to respond to the Great Commission (the last words of Jesus in St. Matthew 28:18-20), which calls us to "make disciples of all nations."

Here at Saint Peter, we are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and so I suppose it is fair game that someone should think to ask a Lutheran Pastor what it means to be evangelical. My answer to that question is always to try and tease out the meaning of the Greek word a bit. It is an interesting word, made up of the Greek roots for good (eu) and angel (angellos). If you take the meaning of angellos to be "a messenger" (the most common Greek meaning), an evangelical is a messenger with good news. I like that for a description of our calling as followers of Jesus Christ. We are messengers with good news - the Good News of Jesus Christ.

That, of course, raises a few questions. First of all, we might ask, What is good, about the news we've received about Jesus? How is it that our faith in Jesus makes a positive difference in our lives? Which brings up a related question: What is good about being members of a Christian church? How is it that being members of Saint Peter (or, for those of you who aren't members of Saint Peter, your own church) makes a positive difference in our lives? And then, the most important question: once we've answered these questions, how is it that we discover ways to communicate our answers to those who don't yet share our faith?

That's what the Samaritan woman in this weekend's Gospel lesson did. She had the extraordinary privilege of a long conversation with Jesus (the longest conversation Jesus has with anyone, in all of the four Gospels). She was touched very deeply by this conversation, and immediately left to tell the people of her town about him. John tells us that many people came to believe in Jesus because of her words. And once they came to him, and persuaded him to spend a couple days in their town, many more of them came to believe because of his words.

I'm quite sure that this Samaritan woman didn't make a theological case for believing Jesus was the Messiah. She didn't offer an iron-clad argument as to why someone should be drawn to Jesus instead of the local Samaritan gods, or the Buddha, or the power of positive thinking, or any other theological or philosophical framework for living. She simply described to them her experience with Jesus, and invited them to come and see for themselves. And they did.

That's evangelism! Simply describing how it is that Jesus has made a difference for us, and inviting others to experience it too. It may be that those others find something entirely different to appreciate about Jesus than we've found. Our job is not to control their experience - but simply to share ours, and pray that it inspires them. So... how is it that your faith has made a difference for you? That's the question this week.

David J. Risendal, Pastor  (February 19, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. What is good, about the news we've received about Jesus?
  2. How is it that our faith in Jesus makes a positive difference in our lives?
  3. What is good, about being members of a Christian church?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. Who has shared their faith with me in a way that has become a compelling witness?
  2. What am I willing to do to share my faith with others?
  3. Who do I know that does not share my faith? How might I encourage them towards Jesus?