John 4: 5-42
As we continue to learn more about “Living Our Baptismal Calling”…today our focus will be on the word, confess. And we’re not talking about the confessional box.
Instead we will focus on this baptismal vow:
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as Lord, in union with the church Christ opens to people of all ages, nations, and races? Will you commit yourself, according to the grace given in you, to be a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world?
Along with that vow we might ponder the following questions:
- Why are you here today?
- Why are you a Christian?
- Why do you follow Jesus?
- Why have you committed yourself to be a member of the church?
- How are you living out this vow made at your baptism?
Hmmm…those are tough questions. I don’t know about you but when I was writing this list, I realized that it’s just too many questions to think about, let alone answer. But that’s okay…..because this is a lifetime of answers unfolding. And the answers aren’t necessarily ones that we can concretely or briefly answer. Instead these answers come from how we have lived and what we have experienced. Much like that Wesleyan example of a windchime earlier this year- the spirit is blowing among us and our experiences are part of where we notice and acknowledge the divine presence.
Nevertheless, it is important to put the questions before us, especially as we consider the story of the Samaritan woman.
Jesus and the disciples are traveling to a Samaritan city- Sychar. It was noon and Jesus came upon a well where he rested. A Samaritan woman came to the well and Jesus said, “Give me a drink.” At this point the disciples had left to buy food and no one was there with him.
The woman response- how can I get you a drink? Jews and Samaritans didn’t share things or help one another.
But Jesus answers, “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.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.”
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.”
Jesus and the woman continue to talk and Jesus points out that she has been married five times and that she is currently in another relationship. He seems to know her- to really know her story.
As they talk, she recognizes him as a prophet and eventually the Messiah. Just as this is happening, the disciples return and are put out that Jesus is talking to a woman and also a Samaritan. They know the cultural rules and Jesus is breaking them.
But in the meantime, the woman leaves and starts spreading the word of the Messiah that she has met. She invites people to come and see for themselves. And folks do, and when they do, they do not need her faith because they have their own. (Paraphrase Rev. Heather L. Stierheim)
This story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman is amazing!
Scholars have portrayed this woman as not just uneducated, but the worst kind of sinner—divorced multiple times, of loose morals, and a follower of the wrong religion. It’s important though to notice how intelligent she comes across in this conversation with Jesus. She really holds her own!
As Bonnie Thurston notes in Women in the New Testament: Questions and Commentary (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1998):
The Samaritan woman is, in fact, one of the most theologically informed persons in the Fourth Gospel. She knows the regulations about ritual purity (verse 9), ancestral traditions of Israel (verse 12), the necessity to worship at a valid temple (verses 19-20), and the expectation of a Messiah (verse 25). She is, in short, conversant in Samaritan theology [which is not surprising since, unlike Jews, Samaritans educated religiously both male and female children], and Jesus takes her as seriously as a discussion partner as he did Nicodemus in the preceding chapter (Thurston, pp. 83-84).
The Samaritan woman serves as the climax of Gospel encounters where individuals are living into their understanding of who Jesus is. She is the fullest and most confident example of a true believer. Not only does she hold her own in a difficult and complex conversation, but in contrast to Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness, she comes to Jesus at noontime, out in the open, at a public well, and in the full light of day! Not only that, but unlike Nicodemus she doesn’t come skeptical about her belief and faith she comes boldly and wants to make her faith known immediately.
In doing so, she becomes the world’s very first Christian missionary. By the end of the story, we learn that because of her testimony about what has happened to her and “because of her word,” others have come to believe in the good news of Jesus Christ!
So what convinced her? What convinces any of us to confess Jesus as our Savior- to trust him-to fully serve him?
Part of what convinced her is that Jesus knew not just her life story, but what was in her heart- and Jesus unlike other people did not cause him to reject her or turn away from her. And not only does he not turn away from here….he leans in! Jesus leans in and not only accepts her and continues to talk with her but he offers her living water. Not a temporary drink but a life altering, life giving eternal- forever kind of water.
Living water. What is this living water that changed the Samaritan woman’s life forever?
What is the living water that Jesus provides? It is that which saves us. It is that which saves, especially, the least and the lost, the rejected and disenfranchised, the oppressed and suffering, who live among us.
Once we drink the living water Jesus offers, we can no longer be satisfied by what physical water alone provides.
Physical water can only satisfy our physical thirsts.
The living water Jesus Christ provides satisfies our eternal thirst: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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” (John 4:13b-14, NRSV).
As those who have, in our baptismal vows, confessed “Jesus Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in his grace, and promised to serve him as Lord, in union with the church Christ opens to people of all ages, nations and races,” our experience of drinking the living water offered in Christ is the same as that of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at a well under the noonday sun all those generations ago. It is life changing. It is deeply satisfying in a way nothing else is.
Not only is our experience the same; our mission is the same as well. Once we have tasted the living water that has become in us a spring of water gushing up to eternal life, we become compelled to offer that water to others. How do we do that? By our testimony, both with our words and through our self-giving actions.
The good news is that the living water offered by Jesus Christ is available to all. God’s grace is offered to all who will drink of it.
We who have drunk of this living water, we who have come to faith and who confess Jesus Christ as our Savior, testify to what drinking of the living water of Jesus Christ has done for us. We cannot give the living water of faith to others. But we can become part of God’s blessing in the world by joining in God’s mission…..we do so by giving ourselves in love. Let’s commit ourselves anew to celebrating and sharing Jesus with others just as the woman of Samaria did. Amen.
NRSV, NIV and CEB Bible Translations
Dawn Chesser, UMC Discipleship Worship and Lectionary Planning. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2017.
Bonnie Thurston, Women in the New Testament: Questions and Commentary (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1998).