Sermon, March 12

NOTE: Due to travel this week, my sermon is an outline rather than a full text. I know this makes it harder to read; sorry!

Read the Gospel text here. 

  1. INTRO
    1. Never really preached this
    2. Overwhelming text; lifetime of sermons
    3. Can only say one or two things today! 
  1. The Woman
    1. Foil for Nicodemus, prev chapter
    2. Man/woman
    3. Midnight/noon
    4. Insider (Jew)/outsider (Samaritan – worse than Gentile) 
      1. Dynamics of mutual dislike
    5. High status/low status
      1. What to make of her marital status. 
      2. Who divorced who? 
      3. Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe 
      4. How is she seen? How does she see herself? 
        1. “Come see this man who told me everything I’ve ever done!” 
    1. Final contrast with N: She asks questions! She pushes back! Where N shuts up/shuts down. 
      1. Commentator: Jesus kind/patient with her. 
        1. I think he likes this give and take. 
  1. LISTEN to the exchange. 
    1. DEFAULT “reading the Bible out loud in church” style. How we usually read Scripture. 
    1. Urgency. The woman is a seeker, looking for something she can’t find – big questions, deep yearnings. Jesus longs to connect with her, offer her wholeness and hope. 
    1. The third time, read it as a flirtation. Wells are places of romantic encounter.
      1. Richard Swanson names this as a possible reading, and it works. 
      2. He calls this scene part theological seminar and part flirtation. 
      3. This will be uncomfortable!  But it is NOT in fact heresy. Mystical traditions… if God is love then all forms of love are God’s.
  1. What’s the point of the exercise?… 
    1. Dialogues in John: Getting to know Jesus. 
      1. Breaking from usual church “Jesus voice” to explore. 
      2. None of these readings are outside the possibilities of the text we receive; others may well be possible as well.
  1. New idea for me: Significance of this story for the church at time when it was written down. 
    1. Specifically, for the Johannine Community. 
    2. Gospel of John – “Beloved Disciple” – John in other Gospels. 
    3. Big differences from other Gospels; diff understanding of Jesus’ teachings & mission 
    4. Community gathered around BD/John early on; shared and taught them; became a distinct group, recording a distinct witness. 
  1. So: what was the importance of this story for the Johannine Community? 
    1. BRIEF look at some big ideas; I have just scratched surface myself! 
    2. Raymond Brown: Story explains presence of Samaritan converts in Johannine community.
    3. JC might have had an earlier understanding/lived experience of Jesus’ mission to ALL people than the rest of the church – 
      1. which tied in with a higher Christology, universal/cosmic significance of Jesus – 
      2. Both early non-Jew members & early high Christology could have pushed JC away from mainstream early church understanding of Jesus and ecclesiology.
    1. LIKEWISE, story might have justified role of women as evangelists. Clues: 
      1. “Come and see!” – John 1, Jesus gathering disciples – invitation to discipleship. 
      1. “Many believed because of her testimony” – Sharing testimony that leads others to belief is a core mission for John’s Gospel. Repeated theme.  She lives it out! 
    1. SO: Perhaps JC had non-Jews & women evangelists; perhaps this story – whether recording a memory or tradition, or not – was important because it explained and justified those distinctivenesses. 
  1. Importance of story for OUR faith community?
    1. Big question!! Lots of possible directions. 
    2. Today, one thing: Jesus wants to be in conversation with us.
    3. Might sound weird and abstract. I mean it as literally as possible given that Jesus is not usually physically present in this world. 
      1. I’ve had a number of conversations with Jesus over the course of my life. (In some sense my whole life so far is one long, often very slow conversation with Jesus.)
      2. Through Scripture, prayer, often other people, sometimes signs or moments of insight, sometimes a voice within or just a deep knowing. 
      3. Not as direct as talking with another human; but not metaphorical. I’m talking about asking Jesus about the things that I struggle with and yearn for and wonder about, and getting… sometimes answers, sometimes reframing or redirection or reassurance. 
      4. Personal relationship with Jesus – one of many things we’re not going to let evangelical Xty steal from the rest of us.  
        1. Know it may be triggering idea for some, and just plain alien for others. 
        2. How can I help? … 
      1. One upshot of these intimate, personal conversations in John (Nic & the Woman, so far): Jesus cares about individual people. 
        1. Wants to hear their questions; name needs; push towards new understandings. 
        2. Not put off by challenges or questions. 
        3. Nothing about who we are or what we’ve done keeps him from wanting to talk about our big questions, daily struggles and joys. 
    1. Only one way this text might speak, but significant: Help us to imagine – to recognize – that Jesus sits down at the kitchen table in our hearts, asks us for a glass of water, and then waits to see what happens next.