The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 4th Chapter
So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “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? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 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 said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “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!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. 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.”
She was a woman so she had no legal status. She was a Samaritan, so she and her water bucket were unclean. She had an issue with the men, but it’s most likely she had been thrown out by a series of men for being infertile rather than anything more scandalous.
You’re a worthless woman. An unclean, worthless woman. You’re a barren, unclean, worthless woman. That was the story she had inherited, been told and been taught. A story that had been beaten and ground into the deepest parts of her physical and spiritual being to the point where that was the only story she knew.
Then, there was Jesus, just sitting there at the well. Not repulsed, not offended, not on guard, not worked up, not holier than thou. Just… thirsty. This made no sense. Her story was generations in the making… told and retold, ground in and passed down until there was no room for any other story. It was a carved in stone, never to be changed, never to be challenged story of a barren, broken, unclean, worthless woman with a heavy, leaky, bucket-full-of-stagnant-water kind of life. And what did Jesus do? He sat there... He sat there and calmly and relentlessly insisted… THAT... STORY… IS... A... LIE.
He sat there, and it took him twice as long as most Gospel stories and THREE TIMES as long as some! But he sat there and insisted there was a different story for her. Back and forth and back and forth they went with Jesus always, calmly, quietly, patiently, persistently, insisting she hear her TRUE story.
That new story… the TRUE story was that she was worthy of LIFE and not just any old life, but an ABUNDANT life… a filled with meaning, self worth and purpose-filled life. Her TRUE story was a life of abundance... like living water overflowing with God’s love for her. Not “someday” when she changed, got right with God, or said better prayers, but RIGHT NOW, JUST AS SHE WAS right there at the well... broken, wounded, unclean and abandoned. Her TRUE story was that she was a Child of God, worthy of a life overflowing with the abundance of God’s love for her, simply because God said so! THAT was her TRUE story. THAT was the story Jesus insisted replace the horrible one she had inherited and been taught and had carried like an oppressive, heavy, leaking, bucket-of-stagnant-water for her entire life. It wasn’t an easy story to un-learn, but Jesus stuck with her and when she finally got it, she REALLY got it! So much so that she went and told the world.
We’ve all been told, taught or inherited terrible and untrue stories… as individuals, as families and as a congregation. We all have that voice that tells us that terrible, untrue story in the middle of those quiet, sleepless nights or pipes up and says “you can’t,” right when we’re ready to step off into something new… It’s the voice that tells us we’re not worthy, we’re broken, we’re unclean and worthless. We all have that voice. It’s relentless and persistent and we all know the story it tells. It tells a heavy, leaky bucket-of-stagnant-water story that erodes away our lives.
In OUR family, we learned something powerful from a Drag Queen named Katya. The voice that tells those toxic stories? Her name is Brenda. It’s brilliant to name that voice, because then you know who to argue back with! Because here’s the thing about Brenda and every voice like her’s… BRENDA’s a @#$%&…and BRENDA LIES! That toxic story Brenda tells? THAT... STORY... IS... A... LIE!
The TRUTH for you and the TRUTH for me and the TRUTH for this congregation is the same TRUTH that Jesus told the woman at the well… YOUR life, your family’s life, this congregation’s life is WORTHY of God’s ABUNDANCE... is WORTHY of the living water... of God’s overflowing fountain of love and compassion and grace! Not just BACK THEN in some idealized, Father knows best past, where Brenda conveniently forgets the scandals and imperfections… and not in some unrealistic future either, where Brenda somehow convinces us that God will allow us to have an abundant church life ONLY if we recreate that plastic, phony, conveniently incomplete, idealized past.
But remember… Brenda LIES! This congregation is worthy of God’s gift of abundant life RIGHT NOW, JUST AS WE ARE… right HERE, right NOW… and to remind you of that truth, there’s a FONT of living water right there, where, in Baptism, each of us began to live in God's TRUE story!
You know what I love about that particular font? It’s like Jesus at the well. Immovable. It just sits there week after week, year after year, calmly, quietly, patiently, persistently, INSISTING that we quit listening to Brenda and her lies and instead HEAR Jesus tell us our TRUE story… that we are loved by God… that we are treasures to one another and to our city… that we make an ENORMOUS difference in the lives of scores of people every single week… that we don’t just RECEIVE the gift of Abundant LIFE… But this congregation BRINGS IT! We bring the LIFE we've been given with large, beautiful, deep and meaningful footprints out into the world around us!
Brenda is persistent, relentless and clever. But Brenda’s a LIAR! Brenda lies! Jesus, though, is MORE persistent, MORE relentless and MORE clever and Jesus tells the TRUTH and that Font is going to sit there and continue being the place we hear Jesus’s TRUE story told over and over and over again… and it will sit there and remind you of God’s TRUTH for as long as it takes for you to un-learn Brenda’s lies and hear Jesus’ TRUTH.
Brenda’s story is not an easy story to un-learn. It’s devilishly clever, but Jesus will stick with you, and each time Jesus’s story gets into you, like it got into the woman at the well… even just a little bit, you, like her will be inspired to go out and show the world the TRUTH of God’s great gift of Abundant Life for you and for all of Creation! Amen.