Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, March 19, 2017, Lent 3, Year A, John 4:5-42
“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.” In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I’ve been thinking a lot the last few weeks about a few things I have heard spoken as to why some people have found their way to St. Philip’s, specifically, but The Episcopal Church, in general. I want to share a few of them because I think they point to the essence of this place: who we are, who we want to be, and who others see us as.
“I was on my way out [of organized religion] when I found The Episcopal Church.”
“This place has been a balm to my hurting soul.”
“I needed a place to bury my little child. I found God here.”
“I couldn’t get past that some weren’t welcome at God’s table.”
“I couldn’t get past that some weren’t welcome to discern a call to ordained ministry solely based on their gender or sexual identity.”
“The sacraments have met me right where I am at. Some days, broken and tattered, other days filled with hope and joy.”
“The people at St. Philip’s have welcomed me, with all of my ‘church’ baggage, with open arms and loved me back to wholeness.”
The Church is a gift from God.
A good and holy gift from God.
The Church was given to continue Christ’s good work in the world, to heal the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the lonely and marginalized.
The Church was given to speak truth to oppressive powers like Jesus did.
The church was given to be Christ to the world, to be HIS hands & feet.
There are people in our communities who, like the stories from this morning, are the marginalized. The ones pushed to the edges of society and told they aren’t worth it, don’t belong here, can’t serve there.
To be marginalized is to be someone who the mainstream has pushed to the edges of society with the accompanying message of “You are different. You don’t belong here. You don’t deserve this or that benefit. You are ‘other’.”
The Gospel lessons, from today, had a marginalized person as the main character…
The samaritan woman was “other” in a multiplicity of ways: She was a woman. She was a Samaritan Woman. She was a Samaritan Woman who had multiple husbands and is now living with a man she is not married to.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience in your life, at one time or another? I know I have: where I am chuggin’ along, trying so hard to do things “right” and falling over, and over, and over again, flat on my face in the dirt only to look up and see God standing there…asking me for a drink.
And by asking me for a drink, he is telling me “it’s ok. You’re not too late. My love is still here and there’s plenty to go around. And, if you can’t come to me…hold on. I’ll be right over.”
This Samaritan Woman is, arriving, some speculate, on purpose after the other women have left so as to avoid the ridicule, cold shoulders, judgment and shame that she experiences when in their company.
She is, in no uncertain terms, completely “other”.
She is marginalized.
To be marginalized is to internalize shame from others.
Some social scientists define shame as “the intensely painful experience when or of when we believe that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
This is what is going on with the woman who shows up after the others have left.
She is keenly aware of when the women with power will be there. She arrives after they have gone.
The woman at the well is intensely present with her “otherness” and the pain of isolation is palpable.
Her posture is defensive…she is showing all of the signs of being an “outsider.”
Brene Brown says that “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.”
That excerpt is from her book called, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
I am hereby declaring this an assigned read for everybody.
Get it from a library, download it on your kindle or audio book, order it on amazon, borrow it from your Co-Rectors.
Everyone needs a copy of this book right next to their bible and book of common prayer.
You see, because, this woman of Samaria being someone familiar with the workings of how to be marginalized, moves through her day in calculated, intentional ways.
She believes she has safely navigated the margins of this society, one more time, and thereby avoided the perpetual narrative of her unworthiness, her radically “otherness”.
Because that’s what marginalized folk do.
That’s what I do when I am feeling radically “other”…until someone reminds me that salvation came for me, too. That God will meet me right where I am at, with all of my gunk, my baggage, my hurts, my foolish hopes, and joy.
Jesus saw the Samaritan Woman and was brilliantly able to further his mission by simply identifying his human need to quench his thirst.
He could have found another way to draw water, but he chose to go to the well where this woman was, a woman who didn’t fit in, wasn’t welcome, was deeply hurt and still surviving.
He invites her into this program of “upside down kingdom justice” where gender is neutralized, mountains are leveled, divides are scaffolded… Calls her to join up, where God’s grace and goodness gush from the Rock… where healing is experienced through the everyday normal mundane elements of human existence.
Bread, Water, Shelter…Connection.
She pauses and looks him up and down. Noticing he has nothing, she calls his bluff, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?”
“I’m so glad you asked,” he tells her.
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,” he says. “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.”
Relieved, hopeful, resourceful, 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.”
“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?”
That’s it. The witness of the first evangelist. A woman from Samaria who encountered the Living God at the Well and decided to share it with her friends.
To be helpful in bringing about the mission of Christ’s church.
And, what is the mission of the church?
The church teaches that the mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
That is God’s dream for humanity.
That is good news.
And when we share God’s dream for humanity with others in our personal circles of influence then we are ushering in God’s dream for us. We are to be co-creators of a new heaven on earth.
That’s different than proselytizing. Isn’t it?
We are not trying to push our religion down anyone’s throats!
We are trying to make the circles bigger, include more people into this love affair with the Creator, make more room & space at the table for the “other” in our midst.
Jesus has living water to quench our spiritual thirst for connection, love, and belonging…the antidotes to shame and disconnection.
Our community desires to Embrace the presence of God in our lives and share the riches of His grace.
Be bold St. Philipites.
The world needs to hear this message of Love that seeks what is best for the “other”…
Because when we stay “other-focussed”… then we are fulfilling the mission of the church.
Let our love of Christ urge us on to be his disciples and to be his church.
“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.” Amen.