Loved & Transformed |:| John 4: 5-42
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd; March 23, 2014 @ 11:30a & 6:00p
Audio from the 6pm service can be accessed here.
My story has been told by many over the years. Some have called me a harlot because the story you have your Bible today say I had 5 husbands and was not married to the man I lived with.
Some say Jesus focused on my sin and called me to repent. These are misreadings of my story. Missing the deeper beauty of my story. My story is one that transformed my life the day at the well in Samaria.
It was a normal afternoon day. I was at the well filling my jug to head home when a man approached me. I was startled for when I looked up I realized this man was a Jew. My heart raced and my blood boiled.
How dare a this man approach me? What would my community think? Men and women don’t speak in public – it starts rumors and concerns. What was this man – this Jewish man at that – doing asking me for water?
The gall this man had when he knows the history of our people. The pain and harm caused on both sides. Samaritans did not interact with Jews & vice versa. How dare he ask me so casually for water? I couldn’t help but wonder what this man really wanted from me?
My body froze with his words – Give me a drink.
I remember the words just flowing out of my mouth – How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? – I stood there before this man angered that he would ask me for water and I wanted him to explain himself.
His response was even more shocking than his request for water. He told me he had this water which gave you life. It was such a dramatic response that it caught me off guard.
It literally shifted my step and threw me off balance – so much so I forgot about my initial feelings of anger and fear. I was drawn to his response, I had to know what water he was speaking of.
Then it happened, when I knew he was not like any man I had ever known before. As he was explaining this water that would quench all thirst, he brought up my husbands.
It was in this moment I saw this man for a prophet and as he continued to speak I realized something even more startling. This man knew the pains of my life, what left me dependent on my community, what left me vulnerable in society and he did not blink twice. He knew me and did not judge me. … He knew me!
As we continued to speak I began to believe this man was the one they spoke of, the Messiah. The Messiah knew me! He did not shame me for being on the margins, one who was not deemed righteous.
To be known was all I had ever wanted. To have all I had experienced in life said to me by the Messiah and to be offered newness of life. He was freeing me from my place in society, my dependencies on the lot I had been given.
He was giving me reconciliation between two people groups. The Messiah was offering me the Spirit and Truth that I did not know was possible.
My life changed that day at the well of our ancestor Jacob. The Messiah invited me to drink from the well Spring of life and I could not contain my joy! I left Jesus to tell my community that this man brought forth the truth which transformed my life.
I shared it with all I could. I wanted all to know this man who knows you so deeply and welcomes you to be free from all worldly constraints that keep you from believing you can drink from the well that gives eternal life.
That allows you to believe that no part of you needs to be hid. That reconciliation can happen between people groups that have fought at great lengths.
… The Messiah knew me! I became his apostle. I became a believer. And for the first time in my life I was free to be fully me.
As I shared the beauty of Christ’s transformative truth I saw people freed from the fears of not being worthy! The transformation I experienced that day at the well rippled throughout my community and continued to transform those who were met with truth of eternal life.
He loved me not inspite of my vulnerable self but fully because of who I am. The water of eternal life gave me life for the first time. It was a life of living into my purpose – to tell all I could about the man who brought me to life and offered them the same.
This water he gave brought my soul to life and opened me up to be me … no longer hiding from my neighbors or coming to the well at midday to avoid the clamoring about my life as seen by those who did not know me. I was finally known and it allowed me to live life out of the shadows of shame.
With that meeting at the well I was no longer bound by my anger for a people group I was saw as the enemy. As a Samaritan woman I was no longer bound to view Jewish people as those who were wrong in their religious beliefs and owed my people. Our cultural wars which had defined my relationships had been met with reconciliation at the well. I began to heal that day and realize the unity brought through Christ.
It is an unbelievable, impossible thing to believe but I do. I believe the man I met that day at the well was and is the Messiah who brought me new life. Believing in a transformational Spirit and liberating truth was not what I thought possible to believe but I do.
I never freely spoke to my neighbors before and now I am an apostle of the Messiah to them – had you told me I would have been so bold I would have thought you were wrong in the head; but now I can’t imagine my life doing anything but.
My story is one I have told many times because it is my hope that it will give newness of life. Many of you also believe the man I met at the well that day is the Messiah so you will hear my story differently than my fellow Samaritans did the first time I told them.
I do hope my story brings you a breath of freshness, perhaps something new that you had never realized about my story before. My hopes for each of us is that we are continually transformed by the water of eternal life.
In this season of reflection and penitence I hope you allow grace to wash you over as you examine the areas of life which keep you from wholeness with others and God.
You may feel like I did when I first met Jesus – that there are aspects of your life that are too much for God’s reconciliation, but trust me there is no such thing. God knows you – All of you – and loves you because of who you are.
God knows you and implore you to live life with purpose using your gifts and talents to bring about peace and transformation.
From that day at the well I have been transformed and have learned through Christ’s healing to love myself as He does. It is a beautiful thing to move from shame to acceptance. It hasn’t been easy.
All those years believing my place in life was dependent upon the husband who chose me and that with each abandonment and death of my husbands I found myself more vulnerable.
I learned to live in the shadows, it became life to me. So when Christ came along and stirred up my life it took me time to learn to love myself the way Christ does. I hope you can come to love yourself the way Christ does.
May you see that Christ did not avoid someone from an enemy group. He came right up to me and spoke to me, then listened to me. Rather than avoiding those different than us, may we see them as people with a story worth hearing.
Allowing their story to be their’s and freeing both of you from the bonds of stereotypes. When you encounter someone who offers you their story don’t hurry on or wait only for them to finish so you can speak.
… You see, with each story you allow the person to be received with dignity. And who knows – you both may leave the conversation with new insights and possibly new relationships. Much like I did at the well that day.
Remember to share your joys with the world, inviting your neighbors and community to do the same. When the things that give you joy are shared with those around you it is a gift. It lifts spirits, it inspires, it is contagious.
My joy of meeting the Messiah that day was shared with all I could and the joy it brought to those who also encountered the Messiah was indescribable.
Believe the impossible and learn just how possible the work of the Spirit can be. May you live by the eternal water of the Messiah. It is strange how believing the unbelievable somehow makes the day to day impossibilities of life more feasible.
… I was a woman once seen by the vulnerable dependencies life had brought by my cultural standards. Now and forevermore I have been transformed to be the woman at the well, an apostle of Christ.
How shall you be known as God frees you to live by the waters which never leave you thirsty?