Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tuned to God's Praise

Lent 3/Year A/March 27, 2011
Faith Lutheran Church, Evansville
John 4:5-42

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

He wanted her.

And he intended to have her, no matter what.

So he left his path and went to her.

He crossed over into the no-man’s-land of Samaria...traveled to a place where he knew he’d find her.

He headed for the well, Jacob’s well.

It wasn’t his space–or any man’s space, for that matter. It was where the women-folk gathered, mornings and evenings, to trade gossip and fetch water for their homes.

He knew she’d come there, but only in her good time.

She’d come to the well only when the other women were far away.

She’d come at noon, lugging her heavy stone water jar.

She’d come when the sun was high overhead because then she’d avoid the sneering stares and piercing glares that always dogged her.

Jesus wanted her, and he intended to have her, so he–a man and a Jew at that–freely entered her Samaritan territory, sought her out in space and time, went after her.

This same Jesus wants you, and he intends to have you no matter what.

And so he has abandoned his own space and entered your space.

He seeks you out on your turf, in your time, in this moment.

Even when you imagine that you’re all alone, that no one else is around, Jesus is there–searching you out, tracking you down.

He wants you and he means to have you–and there is no stopping him! Jesus never likes to take “no” for an answer.

Jesus wanted her–this woman by Jacob’s well. He wanted her, and he intended to have her, whatever it might take.

When the woman wondered out loud why he, a Jew, was even speaking to her, a woman–and a Samaritan to boot!–when she wondered aloud what he was up to, he just came after her.

This woman had heard plenty of pickup lines before, no doubt.

Other men had sweet-talked her, offered her the moon, told her what she wanted to hear, flattered her in order to possess her for themselves.

But this man, this Jesus, was different.

He wanted her and he would have her, but in a way she’d never been “had” before.

Jesus wanted her for who she was and for who she would yet become. He wanted her for the possibility, for the promise, that was brimming in her—he could see it, even if no one else could!

And–miracle of miracles!–Jesus wanted her, even though he knew her better than she knew herself.

He wanted her, even though he knew and could name all the tough luck and tawdry truth about her.

She’d been unlucky in love. Five trips to the altar–all of them ended in death or divorce. And that man with whom she currently shared her life–he didn’t put much stock in marriage licenses.

Jesus just came out and named that...because he was familiar, intimately familiar, with the whole sorry business.

But he still wanted her, went after her, wooing her with his own winsome words.

This same Jesus wants you.

Astonishing, isn’t?

Jesus has read you like a book. Probed all the parts of your story you keep a lid on. Delved into all your dark secrets.

Jesus has been to all those places you thought no one else knew about.

Jesus knows about every last thing that shames you…

…and still he wants you and means to have you.

This same Jesus is on your trail. He has designs on you--warts and all. He’s after you, dogging you, tracking you down. Nothing you have thought or said or done can scare him away.

In fact, the more this Jesus knows about you–the beautiful, the ugly and everything in between!–the more he knows about you, the more he wants you.

And make no mistake about it: Jesus will have you, of that you can be sure!

Jesus had her in his sights: this Samaritan woman with her five times to the altar.

And he intended to have her….but only in his own way and on his own terms.

Others had flattered her and offered her the moon just to use her.

Still others had condemned her and thrown endless demands at her.

But this Jesus was different.

He wooed her as no other Lover ever had wooed her.

Rather than dumping condemnations and demands on her, he spoke to her with fearless truth and passionate promises.

Jesus just kept coming after her with promise upon promise–living water, an end to thirst, total intimacy with God, free and overflowing forgiveness, a future without end.

Every time the Samaritan woman tried to shift gears, divert his attention, change the subject....every time she tried to elude his grasp....Jesus just kept coming after her, filling her ears with hope, winning her with love the likes of which she had never known.

This same Jesus wants you….but only in his way and on his terms.

He’s not into deal-making or “trading up” or any other version of “you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours.”

He means to have you, but only on the basis of his own life--freely given for you and me and all people. Jesus doesn’t want you “beholding” to him; he prefers capturing your heart with unconditional promises. Only on the uncanny foundation of Jesus’ no-strings-attached love, forgiveness and freedom.

This Jesus comes to you with no fawning flattery, no my-way-or-the-highway deals.

This Jesus comes to you, grabbing you by the ears with the kind of Promise that can be uttered only by someone who has gone to death for you, risen again from the grave for you.

Jesus wanted her–this woman who’d known six men under her roof.

And he intended to have her–this woman by Jacob’s well.

But, when all was said and done, what he wanted from her most was her voice, her vocal chords. That was the end-product, the goal of all Jesus’ “courting” of her there by Jacob’s well.

To be sure, Jesus wanted to hear her speak words of love and trust to him.

But even more than that, Jesus wanted to shape on her lips words of love and grace she could speak to others.

And so, forgetting why she even had come to that well, the woman left her heavy stone water jar and hightailed it back to her town.

Having avoided the curious and condemning crowds for so long, having lived like a recluse, now all of a sudden she became a social butterfly.

This woman, who used to steer clear of all those nosy town-folk—now she could not wait to tell them, breathlessly: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be–could he really be the one we’ve been waiting for–the Messiah?”

Jesus wanted her for that–for that astonishing word of winsome witness.

In order to draw out from her that breath-taking proclamation, Jesus had burned away all her shame and restored her voice in her community.

And the whole town believed because of her!

The whole blooming village declared: “We have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

This same Jesus wants you, and he will have you–so that he can “own” your hands, feet, and voice—all devoted to Jesus and his promises, all tuned to his praise.

This same Jesus, as much as he wants you to believe in him, is after something even greater.

Jesus is working in you to go after others through you. As we like to say in our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: “God’s work. Our hands.”

Jesus’ good news, his gospel reaches its final destination only when it springs from your lips as naturally, as automatically as fruit grows on a tree.

He wants you, wants the work of your hands and your word of witness to fly into all those places where he has called you to live and move and have your being.

Jesus’ word for you, Jesus word to you, reaches its goal when it becomes Jesus' word through you, to others, to all the people he places in your path.

And, mark me well, Jesus will bring it to pass.

Somewhere, somehow there is another Sychar, a town, a community, a collection of human beings who will shout Hallelujah because of your witness.

Jesus wants you–and he will have his way with you and through you, until strangers become believers, until you and I become instruments tuned to his praise!

In the name of Jesus.


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