3 Lent A; John 4:5-42
Zion CC; 3/18 & 19/17
The famous baseball player, Yogi Berra, was giving directions on how to get to his house once. He said, “When you come a fork in the road, take it.”
Now I don’t know about you, but that direction makes me lose my mind. What do you mean, take it? Which way, left or right? I don’t know which way to go! GAH!
How many of us have felt this way at least once when having to make a decision??
Choices in life can be hard. Sometimes decisions are cut-and-dried. But other times, when the choice to be made isn’t as obvious, we can feel like we are standing at a fork in the road, with Yogi Berra’s words in our heads: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Which way?? What do I do??
And a lot of times, these choices directly affect how we live out our Christian faith. We live in a world where being a Christian can mean maybe going against the grain, or doing something different—and that means having to make some choices that aren’t so cut-and-dried all the time.
Well, we’re not alone! There are many people in the Bible that had similar situations. They had choices to make in their lives, too. We’re going to look at one person in our Gospel reading from John today—the Samaritan woman at the well.
The scene begins--Jesus is by the well, and a Samaritan woman comes to get water. It’s a bit weird that she comes by herself, and at noon, the hottest part of the day—most women back then would go to the well and draw water, together, in the cooler morning time, and catch up. So since she’s by herself at the well at noon, it’s clear she’s unpopular. And Jesus asks her for a drink.
This is a big deal, because Jesus was a Jew and this woman was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans hated each other, with a fire-y passion. They were not allowed to talk to each other, let alone share water with one another. So she makes her first choice—to talk to this guy even though she’s not supposed to. Good choice, or bad choice…?
So then the woman asks him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” And Jesus takes this opportunity to tell the woman about his gift of living water that he offers, that will never run out. They have a conversation about this for a while, and then Jesus says to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
Her response? “I have no husband.” And Jesus says, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
Woah. This woman seems to have made some… interesting choices in life. We don’t know why she had so many husbands/significant others, but we do know that because of this, she’s less than popular. She is a woman of the Samaritan faith, who worships God, but she has very few friends because of her personal choices. Her life was probably very difficult. Her choices did not have the best consequences.
A new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn't understand a whole lot of what was going on. Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost, but eventually got back on track and found the place.
Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row.
So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too.
When the man stood up to pray, the missionary recruit stood up too. When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord's Supper, he held the cup and bread.
During the preaching, the recruit didn't understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew.
Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the recruit clapped too.
Then the preacher said some words that he didn't understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.
After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: "I take it you don't speak Spanish."
The missionary recruit replied: "No I don't. It's that obvious?"
"Well yes," said the preacher, "I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and would the proud father please stand up."
Clearly, not all choices are the best ones! The woman at the well made some not-so-great decisions, as did that poor missionary in Venezuela!
So back to the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well. The woman and Jesus talk a bit more, and—this is BIG—Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah, the one who she and everyone have been waiting for. She goes back into the city after drawing her water and says to the people: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” So then the people who hear this go to see Jesus for themselves.
This is where the story gets even more interesting. It says at the end of chapter 4 in John: “39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in [Jesus] 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.”
So this is really great. Even though this woman had made some bad life choices, after meeting Jesus she made a really good choice—she told people about Jesus. These peoples’ lives were changed forever, because she chose to tell everyone about him. She could have just gone home and said nothing. But she chose to tell people—and then they, too, wanted to meet Jesus. And when they met Jesus, they became believers and knew that he was the Savior of the world. Pretty big stuff!
So what can we take home from this story? Why do we still read this story today??
It’s because we are that woman at the well. We’ve all been there. We’ve made bad decisions and had to suffer the consequences. We may not have ever been a social outcast because of our choices (or maybe you have?), but either way, we can definitely relate to having some less than great results of some decisions we’ve made.
But here’s the thing—even though that woman had made some bad life choices, her encounter with Jesus changed her life. Her new decisions changed based on their experience of Jesus. She had made less than stellar choices in her life, but her encounter with Jesus helped her to make decisions and live out their faith in new ways. She started the ball rolling for a TON of people to become followers of Jesus! How cool is that??
Jesus does the same for us. Like we said, we all have made not-so-great decisions in our lives. It’s something that happens to all of us at one time or another.
But the good news is that-- like the woman at the well— Jesus invites us to experience his presence so that he can help us make decisions and live out our Christian faith in new ways. Jesus wants to change YOUR life, help you to make good choices and to live the life God is calling you to live.
This week, I encourage you to listen for how Jesus is doing this in your own life. How is Jesus showing you new ways you can live as a Christian? How is he helping you to make decisions that will honor him and benefit Christ? How is Jesus showing you his presence and love and helping you do these things, like that woman at the well?
Pray about it. Talk about it with someone you trust. And stay open to what new things Jesus may be doing in YOUR life, helping you to make decisions that honor him and benefit God’s kingdom here on earth. Amen?