The Word, Sunday March 14, 2020


Water. It tastes so good. It tastes so good especially when your throat is parched and dry. Water…I cannot live without it. Without water, my body would die. As we all know, water is part of our everyday living. For example: just think of your bathroom, not that it needs cleaned or anything, but we wash our hands. We take a bath with water. We take a shower with water. We wash our hair with water, (if we have hair). We brush our teeth with water. We flush our toilets with water. Now think of your kitchen. In our kitchens, we wash our hand with water before meals. We cook our meals with water. We wash our dishes after our meals with water. The dishwasher uses water. We get a glass of water. We fill the ice-cube tray with water. The icemaker uses water. We wash the kitchen floor with water. Now think of your garage. Outside, we have water in our carports or garages. We wash our cars with water and hose our driveways. We water our gardens; we water our flowers; and we water our lawns. In the summertime, the kids run through the water sprinklers and fill the pool with water.. To us, water is the common and ordinary stuff of life. It is part of our everyday living. It is a daily part of your life and mine. Some people say that America is the breadbasket of the world. I think American is the waterbuck of the world. We Americans are spoiled by the amount of good water we have available to us. Think of our bodies. We are made up of about 70% water! Some people may think that I am a bag of wind. Others say that I am a bag of hot air. But I am really a bag of water. I am a great big bag of water.  It amazes me that we cannot live without water, that water is more important to us than food. It amazes me that we can exist for thirty days without food but we can exist only one to four days without water. We cannot live without water. It amazes me how absolutely necessary water is for us to exist.

It is with these images that we hear the great words of Jesus when he says, “The water I give is living water. Whoever drinks of the water I give will never thirst. He who believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. The rivers of living water I give will become a spring of living water, welling up into eternal life.”

The Gospel for today is a great story.. We can easily visualize that she was a Samaritan and he was a Jew and Samaritans and Jews didn’t talk with each other. We can easily visualize how Jesus got personal with her and said, “Woman, where is your husband?” The woman said, “I don’t have a husband.”  Jesus said, “I know. You have had five husbands and you are now shacking up with a sixth guy.” We can easily visualize this conversation and her embarrassment.  We can easily visualize how uncomfortable she was when Jesus brought it up that she was married five times. We can easily visualize how she artfully changes the subject. And to this woman, this five time loser, to this woman who must have suffered so much personal tragedy, Jesus offered her what she needed the most, what she really needed. The woman at the well needed living water. She could get physical water from the well but what she really needed was the living water that Jesus told her about. That story is the basis of the sermon for today.

First, Jesus loved this woman at the well, and Jesus wants us to love her as well. Jesus had compassion for her and Jesus wants us to have compassion for her as well. Jesus did not condemn her and Jesus doesn’t want us to condemn her either. Jesus wasn’t harsh with her. He didn’t put her down.

 He didn’t judge her. She would have been an easy mark. You could have made this woman squirm easily It would have been easy for him to do that…with five divorces and all and now shacking up with a guy. It would have been so easy for Jesus to condemn her, to reprimand her, to say “naughty, naughty, naughty, mustn’t do that, woman.” But not Jesus. From the first moment Jesus was with her, you sense a tenderness towards her. He didn’t seem upset by her behavior. Closely examine the story for today and you will not find one hint of condemnation of her, not one single word of criticism of her. Instead, you sense his tenderness, knowing her personal tragedies. Jesus did not have that judgmental spirit to his personality. That is the way that Jesus was with so many people.  Zacchaeus for example. Zacchaeus was a crook, a cocky little crook, who ripped off his fellow Jews by stealing their taxes. And Jesus looked up into the sycamore tree and said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I am coming to your house this day. I am coming to have dinner at your house today.” I mean, Jesus could have said, “Come on down here, Zacchaeus. I want to talk with you about what you have been doing lately. I want to tell you how you have been stealing these people by overtaxing them. You are a crook, plain and simple. You have been robbing the people, even if it is lawful.” That is what Jesus could have done. Jesus could have called a spade a spade and condemned Zacchaeus on the spot. “Zacchaeus, you are a crook, a thief, a moral creep.” But not Jesus. Jesus does not condemn Zacchaeus. No, it is just the opposite. Jesus loved Zacchaeus. Jesus’ heart was not judgmental towards the obvious failings of another person.

There are many similar stories in the Bible, such as the woman caught in the act of adultery. It was the same scene, similar verse. Love for the sinner; no condemnation. There is not one sentence of condemnation in the story of the woman caught in adultery. Do you know the people Jesus did condemn? The religious people. The Pharisees who thought that their sins weren’t as bad as the woman at the well.  Those were the people that Jesus condemned. Not the woman at the well. Jesus loved that woman. And that is the way that Jesus feels about you and me as well. Jesus loves us in all of our sinfulness. So when we live our marriages in such a way that it is not good, healthy and appropriate. So when we commit adultery or when we get married five times or when we are shacking up with somebody else or when we have sex before marriage or outside of marriage or when we have abortions or when we get into conflict with our neighbors, does Jesus condemn us any more than the woman at the well? No. Jesus doesn’t need to condemn us because our hearts have already condemned us. When you sin in these ways, Jesus does not need to condemn you because your hearts already condemn yourself. … And so when we are too materialistic and sin with money and when we are to preoccupied with materials pleasures and when we become too busy for God, what is Jesus’ attitude towards us?  Does he condemn us? No. When you are a person who doesn’t pray very well and to into bed and fall asleep and rarely talk with God; when you are an average American Christian who spends four minutes a day in prayer with God; Jesus does not condemn you because your heart is already condemning you. You and I don’t need condemnation. What we need is living water. The point is: Jesus offered the woman what she really needed. She needed living water, not a condemnation.  Jesus wanted to free her, forgive her, shape her life in a new direction, and change her. Jesus wanted to offer this woman the living water. So when Jesus came into her private and personal life, he did not give her a little moral lecture about divorce, a recitation of the Ten Commandments with an emphasis on the sixth commandment and adultery. Jesus came into her private life and offered her not a lecture but the living water.

And that is the way God works with you and me. A sign that God is active in our lives is when he comes into our personal lives. Jesus wants to get personal with you and me. Jesus wants to get into your private life and mine.  The living water is the Holy Spirit. The living water is the Spirit of Jesus and his love. Jesus answers that question clearly in John, chapter seven, where we discover that the living water is the Spirit. The living water is the Holy Spirit. The living water is the Spirit of God himself. God is Spirit. And the person who believes in Christ, the Spirit of God and the Spirit of God’s love comes and lives in that person. The living water is the spirit of the living God. The very essence of God. God’s energy. God’s love. God’s forgiveness. God’s words. God’s wisdom. God’s feelings. God’s attitudes. God’s actions. It is the very presence of God. The very presence of Christ. What Jesus wants to give you in full measure is his Holy Spirit. We human beings are composed of four parts: mind, body, emotions and spirit. God’s spirit comes into us and that affects the way we live with all four parts of our humanity. God affects our thinking, our physical activity, our emotions, our spirit. We all have flesh and it grows over time. We all have minds and our minds grow. We all have emotions and our emotions grow and mature over time. And we all have spirits, and our spirits grow as well.  What Jesus wants to do is to take his Spirit and to pour his Spirit into our spirit. His Spirit is poured into our Spirit. We all know that the spirit in us is the most important part of our personality. We know that the spirit in us influences the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act. The spirit in us and enormously important and Christ’s spirit comes and fills our spirit. Jesus did not offer her a soft reprimand e.g. “naughty, naughty, naught.” Jesus did not offer her a parental reprimand: “Don’t you think you need to consider what you are doing with your life in this situation? What will your children think? What will the neighbors think? What you have done is a shame to our family, to your parents and grandparents.” Jesus did not offer this woman a religious reprimand   “If you were a better person and truly religious, you wouldn’t be doing what you are doing. How could you as a Christian woman do such a thing?”  No. None of that. Instead, he offered this woman living water. He offered her what she really needed. Jesus offered this woman the living water, the Spirit of God so she could become truly alive. What we need are not religious putdowns, family putdowns, moral putdowns. What we need is the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, rivers of living water that is poured into our hearts and flows from our hearts.

One more thought. The woman at the well wasn’t looking for Jesus. She wasn’t out searching for the Messiah like Nicodemus was. She was just out living life. She was just out getting her bucket of water from the well. She wasn’t especially looking for God or wanting to walk the godly life. And when she wasn’t even looking for it, Jesus said: “I would like to give you some living water.” She didn’t even ask for it, and Jesus offered her the very best gift in the whole world, at a time in life when she really needed it. And Jesus does the same to you and me. We may not be looking for God. We may be just living life, day by day.

So I ask you, where do you get this living water? Where do you get the rivers of living and loving water? From Jesus. Jesus is the source of the living water. And where do you find Jesus? In the Word. There are four river channels. The one channel is the Word. Through Bible study, like we do every Sunday morning at 9:00. Why don’t you come? You need to be, immersing yourself in the Word of God. The second channel to find Jesus and his gift of the living water is through WORSHIP, Baptism and Holy Communion. We worship on Sunday.  We find Jesus and in him the living water through prayer. It is through daily prayer and by daily prayer, God does not mean a trickle of four minutes per day. We pray daily personally and publicly in worship. Today’s Gospel story is one of the best stories in the whole Bible. Here was a woman who was a five times loser and was shacking up with another man. She was a five time loser who was not even looking for God.  Jesus offered this woman what she really needed: not a lecture but the living water. He offered her what she really needed, and she couldn’t live without. And Jesus does the same with us. Amen