Third Sunday in Lent John 4:5-42

Jesus knew there was something wrong that the woman came for water alone in the middle of the day. Did other women in the community not welcome her company? Jesus began to tell her about living water, referring to himself.

In his holy presence, she realized she should mend her ways. She was not a Jew who believed Jerusalem was the only place to make a sacrifice, so where should she go?  If she prays in the right place and makes a sacrifice, can she continue as before?

She would not let Jesus rearrange her life. She wanted to worship God with a sacrifice without disturbing her way of life.  Jesus tells her God does not require a particular place for worship, because God requires worship in spirit and in truth.

To worship in spirit is to say that our dealing with God must come from the inside, the spirit of a person. Then our worship will reflect reality.

Our mouth can sound the right words, but God is interested in the inner person, the heart. Worship must reflect who we are, the redeemed family of God.

Worship is not worship if it is only a holy pretense, a mere saying of right words with the right ceremony while the inner person is out to lunch

When she got the full message from Jesus, she went home and mended her ways. Now we must ask: “Do I – do you – ever act like that toward God and his kingdom?”

This story is our story. In every life there are defining moments of challenge and change.  The woman had gone seriously astray, either willfully or gradually, she slipped off her pinnacle of good intentions into moral disaster.

Moments of challenge and change are our life story.

The woman had not fulfilled what might have been nobler hopes and lofty aspirations years ago. By then time Jesus came along, those dreams had been buried.

No doubt she had lost count of her live-in companions, which Jesus estimated as nearly half a dozen. Then she met Jesus.   Is there anyone who does not have a burning thirst in the desert of life?

Jesus did not consider her an outcast, a throw-away, a reject. Contrary to what we expect, God in Christ judges us not on how we at our worst may act, but on what we at our best may become.

Like many stories in John’s Gospel, this one shows humanity’s reaction to God.

Now we must ask, “Do I act like that toward God? Is this our story?  She came away different.  It can happen over and over as we meet God, the living, dynamic God who keeps meeting us head-on in daily living.

She had a story, a life-story. Each of us has an accumulation of events and feelings and reactions to life which all added together make us who we are, telling what we have done with life.

We have one defining moment after another, encounters from which we emerge slightly different. Moments of challenge and change become our story.

The woman at the well had gone seriously astray, either willfully or gradually as she slipped off her pinnacle of good intentions into moral disaster.

In either case, she had not fulfilled what might have been noble hopes and lofty aspirations some years ago.

By the time Jesus came along, those dreams and plans had been long buried.

She had lost count of her live-in companions, which Jesus estimated as nearly half a dozen

But she still had a thirst for change. “Sir, give me this water.”  Is there anyone who does not have a story of lost hopes, faded dreams, goals not reached?  Is there anyone who does not have a burning thirst in the desert of life?

“Give me this water.” Jesus does not render final judgment on her case. He does not consider her an outcast, a throw-away, a reject.

Contrary to what we expect, God in Christ judges us not on how we at our worst may act, but on what we at our best may become.

What if Jesus had landed on her with law, judgment, or punishment?  If that had been his style of relating to a sinner, who of us would be safe from the wrath of God?

The Gospel comes to us most effectively when we realize that our best efforts still fall short of being responsible, obedient, good, God-fearing people useful to our Creator and to our fellow human beings.

The love of God shines through most brilliantly not when we suffer the natural consequences of our evil intentions and ungodly actions, but when we mean good and discover to our horror that we were wrong.

Judas’s worst fault was that he took advice from lthe spirit ual leaders of his day, and, for services rendered, received an honorarium of thirty pieces of silver.

He meant well and was horrified into suicide when he discovered what he had really done, betraying Jesus.  We don’t like Judas.  We become angry with those who crucified our Lord.

“Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?” Then we realize the truth.

“Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus.  It was I denied thee. I crucified Thee.”

If Jesus had been unkind to the woman at the well who inquired about the water of life, what hope is there for us?

If we align ourselves with her, and see how the Son of Man has stooped to give himself in humility, we can be confident that we receive the love of God in spirit and in truth.

There is no evil beyond the power of God to redeem.

There is no life too distant for the reach of God.

There is no thirsty one who must perish.

God gave Jesus Christ as the Water of Life.

Drink freely, people of God.

Drink deeply.

God’s love flows freely even unto us.