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March 12, 2023

Third Sunday in Lent


Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm 95

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-42


Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

grace and peace to you from the one

who pours love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Amen


“So Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’”


I think anyone who has ever held a position of leadership

in any capacity but particularly in a religious community

has had times where they have related to Moses’ cry to the Lord.


Living in community is difficult

and it is what God calls us to do.

That’s the theme we’re exploring this week

in our Lenten journey through themes of the life of faith

with ancestors of the faith,

the difficulty of life in community with Moses

and the Samaritan Woman at the well.


We’re called to be in relationship with one another and with God,

we as humans have difficulty with both

but God doesn’t give up on us.


The Israelites are the poster children

for struggles with God and one another.

When we join them in Exodus

they are wandering in the desert post escape from Egypt.


There is a lack of water and they are thirsty,

so thirsty that the old life in Egypt is looking good,

and they turn on Moses,

accusing him of bringing them out of Egypt

to kill them with thirst.


It is at this point that Moses,

servant of God,

throws up his hands in exasperation to the Lord,


this is not the first time the people have needed something,

God has always provided

so why would they doubt that God would provide again?


These are people who have seen the power and glory of the Lord,

the plagues on the Egyptians,

the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea,

God travels in front of them as a cloud by day

and a pillar of fire by night,

God who has already once provided water for the people,

each morning they wake up to a dusting of Manna on the ground,

and each evening quails descend for them to eat.


So you’d think that if there were to be one group of people

who would trust God to provide for them what they need,

it would be the Israelites.


But no,

as soon as they experience thirst

and a lack of water

they start wondering

“Is the Lord among us or not?”

and quarreling with Moses.


It’s true the people needed water,

they were right to ask for what they needed,

indeed God encourages us to ask for what we need

but It maybe just got a little more heated than it needed to,

given God’s past actions,

and Moses turns to God for help.


And God provides,

out of the rocks of the land,

in front of the elders of the people,

Moses strikes the rock with his staff just as God commands,

and water comes out of it

so that the people may drink


and things calm down for awhile

until the next time there is a need

without an immediately obvious solution.


Life in community is difficult,

sometimes it’s about resources and trusting leaders

and other times it’s about interpersonal relationships.

The Samaritan Woman at the well

knows these difficulties all too well.


When she meets Jesus at the well

and he asks her for a drink of water

she is surprised

because Jews and Samaritans do not get along

even though they are closely related,

actually they share common ancestry

they were one nation of chosen people

until they split into two kingdoms, Israel in the north, Judah in the south,


because those in the north couldn’t get to Jerusalem

to worship at the temple anymore

a temple was built on Mt. Gerazim

which became the center of religious life for the Samaritans

and sparked the argument about the proper place to worship God


We often fight hardest

with those that are most like us,

that’s the case with Jews and Samaritans

such that they would travel out of their way to avoid one another.


Not Jesus though,

he intentionally crosses the boundary into Samaria

as part of his travels,


in the face of long standing division

Jesus confronts what others choose to avoid

so that there he is in Samaria,

by a well at noon

when this woman comes to draw water.


Now this time of day is our signal

that something else is not quite right in this woman’s life.

The most common time of day to get water

was early in the morning while it was still cool,

and it was a social activity for the women of the community,

they worked together to draw water and bring it back to the town.


But this woman is here alone,

in the heat of the day,

is she avoiding the other women?

Have they made it known that she’s not welcome to join them?


We don’t know,

but Jesus does

and asks her for a drink of water,


and she is surprised,

surprised by his presence in Samaria,

surprised that he would not only talk with her

but ask her for help,


as they converse she shows that she is well aware

of the historical and religious reasons

why they shouldn’t be talking.


And then Jesus who knows what this woman has gone through in her life,

Jesus who is fully aware of who he is and what he has come to do,

begins to reveal his identity to her,

offering her living water

so that she will never again be thirsty,


and she jumps at this,

she’d no longer have to come to the well!


But then Jesus pauses and reveals to her

that he knows her,

including her past and present,

five former husbands

and she’s not even married to the man

who she’s living with now.


And she’s astounded and calls him a prophet

and displays a solid theological understanding

of both her people and his people

including a belief in the Messiah

and “Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’”


the first person Jesus reveals his true identity to

is this Samaritan woman at the well,

an outcast among outcasts,

God know us,

And still God comes to us.


and what does she do?

She leaves her water jar and rushes back to the city,

to all those people she’d just moments ago been avoiding

and she exclaims “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”


and she is so compelling

that many of them believe in Jesus

they invite him to stay with them and teach them

and even more come to believe in Jesus.


Here Jesus shows that he will not be stopped

by the boundaries and barriers we have put in place

to deal with (or not deal with)

our struggles with living in community.


In fact Jesus intentionally crosses those boundaries

and uses divisions to proclaim his message,

that he has come so that we may have life and have it abundantly

and nothing we do will get in the way of that.


As Paul puts it in Romans “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”


God will not let our struggles living in community with one another

get in the way of our (individual and collective) relationship with God

and in fact gives us the courage

to continue to face the difficulties of life head on,


again Paul

writing to people who are ostracized

by their community for their faith

says “but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”


Life in community is worth living for,

For Jesus it was worth dying for.


No matter what difficulties we encounter,

no matter how many times we throw our hands up

exasperated like Moses,

or acutely feel the divisions between peoples,

like the Samaritan woman


God is present,

the Holy Spirit is loving us,

working in and through us,

encouraging us to endure,

causing us to hope,

hope in the Messiah,

who does not disappoint. Amen


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