This autumn, our worship follows our Church School curriculum, Seeking Peace Together. We are learning in worship alongside the youngest members of our community.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Kent shared a message about Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus, as told in the book of John, chapter 3. This week, I will be teaching and preaching about a companion story that follows in John, chapter 4, when the Samaritan woman encounters Jesus at the well of Jacob. The author of the book of John, who opens this gospel with images of light and darkness, contrasts Nicodemus’ midnight meeting, with all the darkness and secrecy connoted by such an hour, to the Samaritan woman’s noon time meeting with Jesus. Whether literary symbolism engineered by the writer of John, or true symbolism divinely engineered, the noon time meeting may be more than coincidence. Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, in the full light of day, seeing her for who she truly is and also who she can be.
Just as in the 23rd Psalm when our cup overflows with anointing oil as a symbol of God’s love, the woman at the well overflows with the promise of the Spirit’s living water. (John 4:28) After Jesus made himself known to the woman at the well, the acceptance and hopefulness she experiences fills her with new purpose and she runs to share this good news with her neighbors, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4: 29) The story of the woman at the well teaches us, in part, that encounters with Jesus are not reserved for learned scholars and priests, like the Pharisee Nicodemus who fails to comprehend Jesus’ message of rebirth, nor are they exclusive to disciples who have spent days, weeks, months learning at the feet of Jesus. The gifts of God’s love and living water can be transformative to anyone who hears Jesus’ words with a faithful heart and seeking mind. The woman at the well departs from her meeting with Jesus, leaving behind the jar she had intended to use to draw water, because she herself has become a living vessel from which living water overflows. As we prepare for the coming week, let’s ponder together what we might desire to leave behind to make more room for joy, for hope, for a purpose larger than ourselves.