Texts: Exodus 17:2-6; Psalm 133; Romans 5:1-5; John 4:3-15
Sermon: "Coming To Meet Us"
The best news I can give you this morning is this: God loves you so much that he sent his son into the world to give you freedom; to free you from your sin and to claim you forever as his child. Take those as comforting words. That's what they are meant to be.
We are in the midst of a troubled time in the world, unsure about what tomorrow will bring, concerned about loved ones and about whether the dreaded COVID-19 virus that we cannot avoid hearing and thinking about will strike hard in our community.
Where is God's grace in all of this? I'll tell you where -- right in the middle of it where there is the most fear, the most suffering, and the most arduous work by the health care teams who are fighting with all their hearts and minds to win the battle against the virus.
Grace not only redeems us from our sin. Grace sets us free to embrace joy, even in a time of trouble -- especially in a time of trouble. Jesus Son of God is the dispenser of grace. Grace is that word that is so hard to define, the word that sends shivers down our spine. Grace is the word that may be above all words in telling just what it means to know and love and trust the One we call Savior.
The woman Jesus met at the well that day did not have any idea about grace. She had received very little of it in her life until she met Jesus. Instead, she probably endured more than her share of bigotry and bullying. She perhaps was shunned because of her lifestyle.
Jesus does not judge the woman at the well. Jesus teaches her as he reveals himself to her. He teaches what he had tried to teach Nicodemus just days before:
"God so loves the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him will never die but will have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through him."
Yes, Jesus is coming to meet you. Be ready.
And as one great theologian has said, "…when all is said and done, the resurrection is the claim -- that you can never tell just where Jesus is going to show up. And that is the best news our voices are privileged to speak." (Thomas Long: The Senses of Preaching)
Jesus is coming to meet you today. Jesus is coming to meet us today. Jesus has come to shower and sprinkle that thing called grace on us just as he did on the woman at the well that day. Praise be to God, I will say.
In a time when we feel edgy, fearful, wondering just what is going to happen later today or tomorrow or next week, we need to remember the One who gives grace. We need to know that we are forgiven people and that God loves us as we are.
Grace -- the word shares its root with words meaning free. Grace gives us the freedom to believe that God has chosen us and God accepts us. Jesus revealed that to the woman at the well. And he has revealed that to us as he does again today as we gather in this place as church family.
Jesus taught the woman at the well that day, that one day all people would gather under one big tent to worship, that no matter what language was spoken or what creeds were recited, the One God, Father of Jesus Christ, would be there at the center of worship.
The most noted enemies of the era -- the Samaritan and the Jew would not worship in separate places but in the same place. All would be forgiven -- person would forgive person; God would forgive all in the name of the One who came to offer his life as a sacrifice for all.
You do not have to find God. God will find you. But as we heard Jesus tell Satan in the wilderness a couple of weeks ago: Don't put the Lord your God to the test. No -- be wise in God's wisdom and watchful for signs of that grace that will be in abundance everywhere. Look, find it, and accept it. Yes, Jesus comes to us. Jesus meets us. But we must be ready to meet him, aware of his presence and grateful for his love and grace.
The Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer cautions us that:
"…if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path; for he is the way. He and he alone is our journey's end. When we know that, we are able to proceed along the narrow way and through the straight gate of the cross, and on to eternal life, and the very narrowness of the road will increase our certainty." (The Cost of Discipleship)
Last Sunday we read the story of Nicodemus in the third chapter of John's Gospel. Nicodemus came in the dark of night to seek answers from Jesus -- who are you, why are you here, and what are you teaching?
Nicodemus was confused by his conversation with Jesus. But maybe he heard these words that Jesus said as their meeting ended, that God loves the world and God will save the world by defeating the power of sin and death.
At the well that day, not in the dark but in the brilliant sunshine of noontime, Jesus reveals the message of love and grace in his own person as he showers her with grace and mercy. He reveals his Messiah-ship to her. He shows to her why God sent the Son into the world. He explains the purpose of the Son who came to reconcile the world once again to the God who created it. He tells her that God wants the world to know and worship him.
The woman who came to the well alone at noon did not expect to meet anyone. She did not expect Jesus. But then who does expect to meet him face to face when going about daily routines. Who does think -- really and truly -- that he cares enough to simply put himself right there in front of us and engage us in questions about what we're doing, what we believe about God, where life is taking us, and, yes, maybe even what we think we know about why Jesus matters. The woman at the well did not expect Jesus to enter her life. But it certainly seems that Jesus expected to enter hers.
So I ask you to think about this encounter. What must it have been like for her? How did it change her life? Are we missing this kind of encounter because we are too busy looking at the road and not who might be coming down the road toward us? Jesus shows the woman who she is and who he is at the same time. In the presence of the Savior, you do not hide a thing. You are who you are, all the good and all the bad. There is no hiding it. Jesus, the Messiah, helps you to see who you are by revealing who he is.
Jesus shows to us the world in all its brokenness by showing what it looks like when it is instead whole and healed in the redemption of God's powerful love.
The woman gazes for a moment at Jesus, drops her bucket, and runs to tell others what she has seen and heard. "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done. He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" She could not resist shareing the good news.
Jesus had shown her that there is always a way for us to learn about one another. Jesus had shown her that barriers can be broken. And Jesus had shown her that the Messiah does not shun anyone. You have learned that about him, also!
Who needs you today to show God's dear and tender love to them? Can you make a few encouraging phone calls? Can you pick up groceries for someone and drop them at their doorstep? Can you write a card or letter to someone who needs to hear from you? Can you pray? I ask you, my brothers and sisters, can you pray?
Come and see, the woman at the well tells the towns people. This Messiah knows everything we have ever done. He forgives us. He offers grace and peace. He will not desert us, especially in a time of fear, a time when we wonder about the future.
He knows what we need. Today, let us together strengthen our resolve to love one another, and to serve God in the name of Jesus Christ.
Life is not easy, especially when problems arise that seem way too big for us to solve. This is a hard journey we are making. We may have some rocky days and weeks ahead. But one thing I can assure you is that God will be in the midst of each of those days and weeks.
And I can remind you: We are the Body of Christ. That is who we are. Just think about the power we have as God's children, brothers and sisters of the risen Christ, who loves you.
Love casts out fear. Love one another as He loves you. Don't miss him as he comes to meet you. He will give you comfort and show you what to do. Pray for the world. And every day show in your love deeds that without a doubt you have encountered the living Christ who comes to meet you again and again.
And now to our great and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be all praise, glory, and honor. Amen.