Texts for this Sunday, Romans 5;1-11, Psalm 95;1-3 refrain “If today you hear God’s voice” John 5;5-29
Two women, strangers, find themselves next to one another at an outdoor music event. “Lousy microphones” says Amy. “They’re OK, better than none.” Say Viv “It’s all blurry.” says Amy “You’ve been standing too close to the speakers.” says Viv with a smile “I’ve been here since last night’s show,” says Amy, “slept on the ground!” “You’ve got grass in your ears then!” laughs Amy “That’s rude!” says Viv, “And I’ll bet you slept in a bed.” “No! But I had a tent. I just had a lump in the ground.” “I’ll buy your lump a coffee if you’ll buy my ears a coffee.” laughs Amy “OK, and this band is blurry.” Viv smiles back.
A silly story of how two people can move from strangers towards friendship. It’s like a little dance. Some tensions, some commonality, some different histories, personalities that don’t always fit hand-in-glove, moving to find points of contact, something shared, if only a sense of humour. We’ve all done this.
Jesus and the woman from Samaria meet. Israel used to be the kingdoms of Judea and Samaria. Then there was a split after the Temple in Jerusalem got built and the Judeans (shorten that word to Jews) said that this was the place everyone should worship. The tribes of the Samaria said you could worship God anywhere. There’s nothing like a family fight! (“he said”, “she said”)
So, there they are, sitting by a well. She has a bucket and Jesus is thirsty. But, naturally, the family fight has to come out. (You can’t just let these things go) The conversation begins about water. She has the power and won’t give it up without some little victory. Jesus offers her “living water” and she says, “Where’s your bucket buddy?” Jesus realises this is not a winning approach so he switches to living water. He is not really interested in the family fight, but he cannot shake her off script.
“Go and call your husband” begins Jesus’s next attempt to get past the bickering they’ve fallen into. She tells a partial truth about no husband, and Jesus makes a guess that she has had quite a few.
She changes script, realising that he’s smarter than he looks. She goes right back to the family feud Jacob and her ancestors and the Jew’s claim to a monopoly of worship space.
Suddenly Jesus gives space, stops the bantering and says “neither this mountain nor Jerusalem are to be the sole places of worship. It’s not about geography, or names or histories. It’s about Spirit! It’s about Truth! God is not territorial. God is not tied to historical moments. God is in the present moment, in your heart and in mine.”
Maybe she has an intuition about the man who is talking to her, or maybe it’s just her sharing her secret hope. “There is a Messiah coming. He’s going to sort this all out, and show us the way.” Jesus says, “That’s who I am.”
I doubt that my imagination is right, because I’m thinking as a 21st century Canadian, but I imagine them hugging for a moment, and she rushes off to tell her village that the world is about to change.
A not-so-silly story of how two people can move from strangers towards friendship. It’s like a little dance. Some tensions, some commonality, some different histories, personalities that don’t always fit hand-in-glove, moving to find points of contact, something shared, if only a sense of humour. We’ve all done this.
This, I think, is how God works with us. It is not with a blinding flash or mountain-top revelation. It is in reading a book, even a bit of the Gospel story, and allowing yourself to take part.
Look at the Romans reading for today (Rm 5;1-11) I usually react to a first reading of anything by Paul with the feeling that he needs to get over himself. “You’re so pushy! So convinced that you’re right” I always want to say. So I could walk off in a huff, or I could say, “What are you trying to say here Paul?” And I begin to translate it out of “Epistle English” into conversational English. Paul’s a bit of a stuffy-boots who got knocked out of them by grace. He can’t quite loosen up. But if you enter into a conversation with him, and imagine him deconstructing some of his sentences, he becomes quite human! As I read it in my imagining prayer time he says, “I used to think it was all about keeping laws and paying fines when I failed. I used to think that if I did it all right I’d get rewarded, be rich and safe. But I suddenly saw, when I looked at Jesus, his words, his death, his rising to life, that it’s different. It’s not about wrathful gods needing blood to be shed, it’s about our compassionate God who loves us even when we are useless and even when we are bad. For us, he will not kill, but he will risk, and even accept death. He will give himself for us when we are rotten to get the chance to bring us back to guilt-free peace with him. With God.
This sermon is all about conversation. Never take the Bible as a set thing. It’s an invitation into conversation. Try it. It may save your life!