Sermon from June 20, 2021
New Revised Standard Version
4 But he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)[a] 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 15 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[b] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,[c] the one who is speaking to you.”
Today, we are continuing our sermon series based off of the book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans. We have been going chapter by chapter through this book, talking about the different types of stories we find in the Bible. If you have missed a Sunday or two, you can find the text of my sermons on Origin Stories, Deliverance Stories, War Stories, and Resistance Stories on our church website.
This morning, we move from a study of stories in the Old Testament (also known as the Hebrew Bible) to the New Testament. Specifically, today we are talking about Gospel Stories. The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each tell the story of Jesus, in different ways, with different motivations, and through the eyes of different authors.
The word Gospel literally means “Good News.” But Rachel Held Evans wrote that the good news isn’t the same for everyone. She explains it this way:
“For the apostle John, the gospel is the good news that in Jesus, God ‘became flesh and dwelt among us’ or, more literally, God, ‘became flesh and tabernacled-pitched a tent- among us.’ After all those years without a temple, and amid all the disputes about how and where to worship, God had taken up residence among the people by becoming one of us, Jesus himself serving as priest and sacrifice, holy festival and divine presence.”
She continued by saying that for Matthew and Mark, “the good news is that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah sent to establish God’s reign on Earth, not through conquest, power, and revenge, but through faithfulness, sacrifice, and unconditional love. The kingdom of heaven is not some far-off, future dream: it is here, among us, made real by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is what it looks like when God is king, when God’s will is done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.”
For Luke, Rachel wrote, “…the gospel is especially good news for the poor, the oppressed, the disinherited, and the sick. Defying nearly every culture’s understanding of blessing. Jesus declared, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke, more than any other gospel writer, shows that these promises of liberation are meant to be taken literally, that this is a God who rescues and heals and sets things right.”
When I was doing my research on this chapter in Evan’s book, I was reminded of some of the artwork done by one of my favorite artists, Salvador Dali. In St. Pete, Fl there is a museum dedicated solely to his artwork. If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. The building is beautiful and weird, just as quirky as Dali was himself. And his artwork is even more incredible in person than it is on the pages of a book, or a print on someone’s wall.
One painting that has stuck out for me since I visited there is a mosaic portrait of Abraham Lincoln. They have it displayed prominently on a wall at the end of a gallery of paintings, and when you enter the room, you see a mosaic of the profile of Abraham Lincoln as he looks on the $5 bill.
But as you walk through the gallery taking in the other paintings, you start to notice that as you get closer and closer to Abraham Lincoln, he starts shift and change. The image begins to blur, and about halfway into the room you can’t make any sense out of the mosaic of smaller squares. By the time you have reached the side of the room that the painting is on, it no longer shows the image of Lincoln, but is instead a completely different picture. It now shows an image of Dali’s wife, Gala, looking out a window at the Mediterranean sea.
This painting is literally called Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at a distance of 20 meters is transformed into the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. It is two things at once, and many things in between. I think this is a very good representation of the Gospel as well. When we look at the big picture, the Gospel is good news for all of creation, but when we look closer we can see that it is also good news for each individual person on Earth…at the same time.
The Bible tells a story of a God who became flesh and dwelt among us, but it also tells the story of a God who reached out and healed a woman who had been bleeding for most of her life, even though she was considered unclean. It tells the story of a God who welcomed little children in a time where children’s lives were not valued. It tells the story of a God who ate with the people that the religious elite despised.
For the Samaritan woman at the well in this morning’s scripture, the good news was that the gospel was for her too. She wasn’t Jewish, but the gospel was for her too. She was looked down on because she had had five husbands and was living with a man that she wasn’t married to, but the gospel was for her too. She was most likely shunned and ridiculed by her people which was why she was drawing water in the overwhelmingly hot noon sun instead of in the early morning with everyone else, but the gospel was for her too.
And the gospel is for us too. Jesus is no longer living among humanity in a body made of flesh, but his presence on Earth was and is good news for each one of us. Jesus showed us a God who loves us, no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey. Jesus taught us that when people are pushed into the margins of society, we shouldn’t build a wall around ourselves but instead we should build a table that is big enough to include everyone.
Rachel ends this chapter about Gospel stories this way:
“Jesus invites us into a story that is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our culture, bigger even than our imaginations, end yet we get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of our particular moment and place in time. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God. May we never neglect the gift of that. May we never lose our love for telling the tale.”
This morning, may it be so for each of us as well. Amen.