I’m grateful to Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes for permission to reprint his work here. You’ll find it’s goodness in many posts throughout my blog. His faith-full work is a steadfast source of inspiration, challenge, and devotion for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You’ll find it at www.unfoldinglight.net. Consider subscribing. – Lisa <><
Olive Wood carving of the Woman at the Well from Jerusalem. We brought this treasure back with us from our recent trip.
Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 2 of 5: Woman of Samaria (Woman at the Well)
Scripture: John 4:3-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/31/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
Rebekah Lyons testimony of God’s unconditional love. Rebekah is the mother of a child with Down syndrome.
The Woman at the Well
In the ancient world, your place as a woman was defined by your connection to a man:
Father, Brother, Husband, Son. We’re not just talking about social status- we’re talking access to what’s needed to survive.
Shelter from the extreme heat and cold of the desert
Food in your belly and clothes on your back
Loving relationships to weather you through the cruelties of life
Access to water on a regular basis
Where is her father? Most likely deceased.
Where is her brother, her sons, her children? Maybe she had none.
Where is the husband? Scripture tells us she’s had five husbands. Could it be in this harsh and cruel environment she’s lost five husbands to death? Maybe.
Could it be that because men in this time and culture controlled marriage and controlled divorce, could it be that she’s been thrown away five times? Told to go, you are not wanted.
The man she’s with now will not claim her legally. She has been shared and shamed, a survivor of cruelty and abuse.
She is an outcast in her community. We know this because in the ancient world went to the well based on their status. The most respected admired women would visit the well first, and she’s drawing her morning water at noon.
She is alone. Not in the company of the other women. Not enjoying their camaraderie and community.
This unnamed woman is barren of security. She’s been thrown away, driven away, shared and shamed, outcast, isolated.
She finds herself at Jacob’s well and today there’s a man there. He is Jewish. She is Samaritan. I imagine what is going through her mind and heart: How much more shame and disgrace am I going to get today? Jews and Samaritans don’t hang out. Am I going to hear from this man’s lips, “Half-breed! Heretic!”?
No. She hears from the lips of our Jesus respect. Good News.
They’re at a well, so Jesus uses the metaphor of water to share the Good News of Living Water, cleansing, refreshing, restoring, new birth. It is available to her.
He gives her a chance to reveal herself and she does. She’s honest and truthful. He recognizes it. The conversation could have gone any direction, at that point and she dives in deep theologically.
Jesus sees her, not what people label her. He sees how she’s been abused, her great need, her wounds, and yet he sees her giftedness. He sees her keen mind.
They begin a discussion like rabbi and to rabbi. Where do we worship and how do we worship and is there a place for me in worshiping God?
This is the longest theological discussion in the four Gospels. This unnamed woman of Samaria.
Deep down, deep down, deep down the question she is asking and the question each and every one of asks is: Does God want me and does God love me?
That is the core question. My community threw me out. They’ve shamed me and abused me. The Jews say I’m not worshiping in the right place in the right way. The Messiah is coming …
The core question: Does God want me and does God love me. The answer is always Yes! Always!
It is yes to the woman of Samaria and it is yes to us.
No matter what the world names us. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. No matter what we’ve done to survive. The answer is always Yes!
The love of God is unconditional love. The love of God comes without judgment. “God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17)
This emptiness, this dryness, this wilderness, can only be quench by Jesus’s living water, Jesus’s saving love.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God – Chorus of Reckless Love by Cory Asbury
This week the Towery boys found it and claimed it for themselves. Rebekah Lyons saw it in the unconditional love of her son with Down syndrome. A great gift that he’s sharing. The woman at the well finds it in Jesus and shares it as well. She becomes one of the first evangelists. She runs back to the people who’ve been awful to her and says, “I think the Messiah is at the well.” They come, Jesus stays with them for days and many are saved.
Closing Prayer from Ephesians 3
Repetition of the word love
17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Insert your name or someone else’s name as a prayer of blessing that you/they would know the unconditional love of God and place their trust in Jesus as their Leader and Forgiver (Lord and Savior).
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.