Grace, peace, and love to you all from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who desires nothing more than to be in relationship with you all and for all of you to be in relationship with each other. Amen
Relationships are the materials from which we construct our world. Relationships are hard… Few things are more rewarding and fulfilling than a properly functioning relationship and few things are sadder than watching a relationship crumble and come to an end. But… Plain and simple… I repeat, relationships are hard. What makes relationships so hard?… Well… We are human. We screw up.
Just like a beautiful piece of music can make us happy or sad, even adjust our stride and change the way we view things for a time… just like the plucking of a guitar string or the hammer striking the strings of a piano, our words and actions generate vibrations that flow outward affecting all those around us. The effects that those vibrations have upon our world can be long lasting.
When a relationship comes to an end, those vibrations can be so strong and so destructive they can act like the epicenter of an earthquake and shake the very foundations and relationships upon which our world is constructed. And like an earthquake, often the tensions build for a long time just under the surface and you may not even realize the damage our words and actions are causing until the point at which our world begins to quake.
Relationships are right in the forefront of our Gospel reading this morning. One theologian at Luther Seminary describes this text as the Rosetta Stone of John’s theology. For John, salvation is about relationships. In fact, this is the only passage in John’s Gospel where the word “Savior” appears.
As I’m sure you noticed, we read the Gospel differently this morning. I did not stand up here and merely read a monologue to you, but we read this as a dialogue between people; primarily between Jesus and the nameless Samaritan Woman.
We did this for 2 reasons:
- The text is was extremely long this morning and we though you might find it more interesting.
- The text is about relationships and relationships exist in dialogue, with a give and take of ourselves from which the trust (or lack thereof) needed for a relationship forms.
Another sign that this story relates to relationships is the location… As in a great many things, it’s location…location…location. Jesus finds himself alone at Jacob’s well when he meets this nameless Samaritan woman.
Jacob’s well is like a type setting. This is a place where relationships begin. This is where Jacob met Rachel… When Jacob Met Rachel… It’s like the Biblical movie version of When Harry Met Sally… Or we could call this episode, When Jesus Met A Samaritan Woman with no name whom we could call Sally???
In the movie When Harry Met Sally, right at the beginning of the story Billy Crystal finds himself trapped in a car with Meg Ryan on a long drive in which they are forced to talk to each other. Just from the setting of the scene, you know that this is going to be the beginning of a relationship of some kind, good or bad, you may not know, but you know it is the beginning of a relationship.
My wife once used this exact same scenario to initiate a relationship between me and her father. When I met Meg’s parents for the first time, they were in the process of moving us in together in another state 15 hours away and even though Meg and I were engaged at this point, they had never met me. You could say that the weekend was going to be tense at least.
Meg, who for the record is a huge fan of romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, decides that the best way for her father and I to get to know each other would be to trap us in a car alone together and force us to talk.
So she suggests that with all the packing we should pick up some beer and suggests that her father and I go get some. Sounds simple, yes? Uh…. try no… We were in the middle of a dry county and the closest place to buy beer was over an hour drive away. Let me tell you, that was probably the most uncomfortable time I have ever spent in the car with anyone.
The scene was set… My relationship with her father would begin in that car… But as I mentioned earlier. Relationships are hard… We screw things up… Or in this particular case, I screwed things up and it was a long time before the relationship that began with Meg’s father and I in that car transitioned from tense and anxiety ridden to rewarding and fulfilling.
But had you been watching our lives play out in a movie, from that very beginning scene of us trapped in car together, you would have known that this would be the beginning of a relationship.
It’s the same thing that takes place at this well. From this opening scene you know that this is going to be the beginning of a relationship. You suspect how it will end, but it is the exchange of dialogue between the two that begins a spiritual relationship between them that is much more fulfilling than any other relationship this woman could imagine.
This Samaritan Woman, who I will call Sally here… I give her a name because it is too easy for us to ignore those who live on the margins of our world if we don’t know their names. Often we don’t want to know their names. That might create some kind of relationship with them and we might bear some kind of responsibility for how their life plays out.
I call name her Sally, first of all to be cute because it fits with When Harry Met Sally bit, but mostly because there is no such thing as a person with no name. Everyone has a name. We can walk around with blinders on and ear plugs in as a way of reducing the risk learning their name, but the fact of the matter is, everyone has a name and God calls us to be in relationship with our neighbor and love them as ourselves whether we ignore those names or not.
You see, Sally the Samaritan knows the dark side of human relationships all too well. Jesus tells her that she has had five husbands and the one she is with now is not her husband. She is an outcast of outcasts that are outcast. She is pushed onto the margins three fold.
- She is a woman. As a woman in this time period, she automatically takes a seat on the margins of society.
- She is a Samaritan. The Jews considered Samaritans outcasts. The story of the Good Samaritan is so potent because to the Jewish mind there could be no such thing as a “Good” Samaritan.
- She had been married five times. The fact that she had been able to remarry indicates that she was not guilty of any impropriety, otherwise she would not have been allowed to get remarried, would have been stoned to death. No; the fact that she was able to remarry indicates that she was either issued a bill of divorce, or had been widowed.
Sally the Samaritan was not model of the most sinful person you could imagine being brought into the Kingdom of God as I’ve heard it portrayed before. No; Sally the Samaritan was the model of someone who knew the reality of bad relationships and someone who truly thirsts to be in a fulfilling relationship.
You can guarantee Sally was blamed for a great many things. You can guarantee that Sally existed in a state of shame that few of us today can even imagine. Sally the Samaritan would learn what a truly fulfilling relationship with God and Jesus could be and proclaim it to others. She would even use the same words that are iconic to Christ’s call to all of us… “Come and see…”
Come and see… Come and see the type of relationship you can have with someone who knows you more truly and fully than you can ever imagine. A relationship with someone with whom you will never have any secrets and no matter how bad you screw up or how bad the world treats you, Christ will truly know what your pain feels like and will love you and you will always be welcome. A relationship where even in death the relationship does not end. A relationship based on love so strong that it will raise you from that very death.
Last week we heard John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
That world is made up of people like Sally the Samaritan here. The world is made up of outcasts. We are all outcasts in some way. We all have a need and a thirst for the fulfillment that only relationship with God can bring. It is to an outcast on the margins of society that Jesus first and all importantly says “I Am.” It is to one such as she that Jesus reveals himself to first; not his disciples.
As outcasts, we all thirst for fulfilling relationships…
Psalm 143:6: I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
John 7:37: On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,
Revelation 21:6 …To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
We all thirst for fulfilling relationships because many of our relationships are as strained as an earthquake about to shake our very foundations to the core. We live in a society where our opinions, political and otherwise make us question on a daily basis sometimes if we can even remain in relationship with someone who views the world so differently.
When we feel like there is no place or ground upon which our relationship with someone can stand, we have a model to fall back on. We have Christ. Jesus never ceased to have dialogue with anyone; no matter how different their views were and Jesus knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that his view was the correct one. Even then he was still willing to remain in dialogue.
As long as you are in dialogue… you are still in relationship. So I would encourage you all, no matter how different your opinions on a matter might be, remain in dialogue. Maintain the relationship.
When it feels as though there is nothing left on which your relationship can stand, remember we are all in relationship with God and let that be the foundations upon which we continue to stand together in relationship as the body of Christ.
Like Sally the Samaritan, we may find ourselves blamed for a great many things; we may find ourselves experiencing shame. But regardless of blame or shame, we called by God to proclaim… “Come and see…”
Come and see that God wants to be in relationship with us and us with each other even more so than we want it ourselves. And it is God’s desire to be in relationship with us all that we can always fall back on.
And for that I say… Thanks be to God…and