Sometimes, the best evangelistic preaching comes from unexpected people. Many years ago, I baptized a child who was about 6 years old. He was really excited, especially because he wanted to receive Holy Communion. Just before I poured the water over his head, he looked at me and said loudly enough that the entire church heard him: This is The Best Day of My Life! How amazing. How wonderful.
Lent is an extended reflection on how baptism changes our life. This week, we continue in our Lenten preaching series, examining the scripture of the week through the lens of our Baptismal Covenant. The third question in the covenant is Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
A continuing theme in the scripture is that God is all-knowing and all powerful – and still needs people to do divine work in the world. God needs Moses, not just to lead these stubborn chosen people into the promised land, but also to remind them that God is always among them. Paul is a very conscious of God’s need for him to spread the gospel of Christ, though Paul is aware that his short stature, speech impediment, and infirmity render him an unexpected messenger. The Holy One chooses unanticipated assistants to accomplish the divine will.
Jesus relies on other people. All. The. Time. Jesus needs the apostles. (Oy). Jesus needs the Samaritan woman, and not just for a drink of water. He needs her for the spreading of the good news that Messiah is here. It is she who leads her town to knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.
What a contrast this woman is to Nicodemus of last week’s gospel! She is a woman, which means that she is of little importance. Her name is not even recorded. Yet it is she who has the longest conversation with Jesus recorded in any of the gospels. She is a Samaritan, whom the Jews identified as idolaters and half-breeds (in every offensive sense of that awful word). She is possibly an outsider in her own town because of her marital situation (if going to the well at mid-day, instead of early in the morning with the other women, is any indication of her standing in Sychar).
She is an evangelist. Unlike Nicodemus, she does not hesitate to share her discovery. She has experienced the Holy One, without being rejected for her religious confusion or her personal idiosyncrasies. She has encountered Messiah, who chooses to talk with her first. She announces his presence, which is a sign of her stature in the eyes of God. (Remember that Isaiah says How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news! Isaiah 52.7)
This is the best day of her life. She runs right back into Sychar and tells everyone she can that the Messiah is standing right out there at Jacob’s well.
In case you missed the shocking nature of this scene, imagine how surprising it would be if one of the more scandalous local personalities (just pick one) were to run up Front Street, telling us all that they have just encountered the Messiah. This is what she does. She must be persuasive, because they all go to check it out.
God needs this woman. Because if Jesus had walked into Sychar by himself, it is likely that no one in that Samaritan town would have listened to the Jewish guy from Galilee. It all starts when he looks up at her and asks her for a drink of water.
As we seek to rebuild our lives after pandemic, or after we lose someone we love, or after our children grow up and move away, it is natural for us to seek comfort and to seek what feels familiar. Jesus promises the comfort of restoration, yet his promise is larger than the narrow personal losses we bear. Jesus seeks to renew the world, to water the face of the earth, to feed every heart with himself as manna. He sat down and spoke with a Samaritan woman at a well. He spoke with fisherman and shepherds. He welcomed all who listened. He promised new life, not the continuation or repair of something already dead. Jesus promised something that would never give out.
Each of us is an evangelist – literally meaning a bearer of Good News. Each of us has abundant opportunities to bring blessing along with us in our daily life. This week, and every week, God needs us for the holy work of building relationship and bringing good news to our neighbors who are starved for relationship, friendship, loving-kindness. We need one another. That is the reason that coffee hour fellowship is so critical to our parish! (Have your signed up yet?) Our gift is God’s love. Have we heard this? Do we believe it? What more do we need, but to share what we know and let Gods love well up in us to overflow.
What does the Samaritan women get out of her encounter with Jesus? She gets to share the best news ever: Messiah has come. He knows everything. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth. The hour is coming and is now here.
What do we get out of it? Love shared is love multiplied.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?