Sunday’s sermon: God Moves … Past All Obstacles

obstacle

Texts used – Psalm 27; Luke 13:31-35

  • Lenten sermon series: God on the Move
    • Movement of God in our lives
    • Movement of Christ throughout his ministry
    • Movement of the Holy Spirit in and through us
    • Last week: way that God moved into the wilderness for 40 days when Jesus was tempted by the devil
      • Moved into a place of discomfort
      • Moved to embody the human experience (good and bad)
      • Moved with intention → important that God made the choice to take on human flesh and human experience an all that that entailed
  • Before we go any further, I want to read you a story this morning … [READ MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS[1]]
    • Story about obstacles and perspective → both Manyara and Nyasha face the exact same obstacles on their journey to the city
      • Small, hungry boy
      • Old woman sitting on the stone
      • Grove of laughing/bowing trees
      • King in the form of the snake
    • Manyara’s perspective on these obstacles
      • Things to be conquered
      • Things to be subdued
      • Objects to be scorned
      • Negative things that got in her way
    • Nyasha’s perspective on these obstacles
      • Things to be enjoyed
      • Things to be appreciated
      • Objects to be cared for
      • Positive things that enriched her day
    • Manyara’s pessimistic attitude and approach brought her nothing but difficulty and despair
    • Nyasha’s compassionate attitude and approach brought her gratitude and ultimately the honor and prestige of being chosen as the new queen – “the Most Worthy and Most beautiful daughter in the Land”
    • Exact same obstacles … radically different perspectives.
  • Lent = all about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem for the sole purpose of being arrested, crucified, and resurrected → certainly not a journey without some pretty significant obstacles
    • Obstacle: Pharisees and legal experts that keep questioning him and trying to trip him up before he even gets to Jerusalem
    • Obstacle: clueless disciples that keep trying to be helpful but just end up sticking their foot in it
    • Obstacle: King Herod – malicious and maniacal political leader who arrested and beheaded John the Baptist
      • Not the same Herod that Mary and Joseph fled just after Jesus’ birth (Mary & Joseph fled Herod the Great → this is one of his sons, Herod Antipas)
      • Scholar – a little clarity: Actually, there are six Herods in the Bible, and each one is pretty much the same guy: a petty tyrant with a touch of megalomania, paranoid, callous, in cahoots with the Romans, religious but in a conniving way, rich, and often cruel.[2]
        • Definitely gives some clarity to this character who is Jesus’ newest obstacle in his journey toward Jerusalem
    • Context – where is Jesus when today’s obstacles spring up?
      • Well into Jesus’ ministry in the gospel of Luke
        • Countless healings
        • Miracles (feeding the 5000, Jesus calming the sea)
        • Many parables (parable of the soils, parable of the lamp)
        • Clashes with the Pharisees (healing on the Sabbath, “who is my neighbor?”)
        • Even Jesus’ own warning to the disciples about what is to come (2 out of 3 such warnings in Luke’s gospel have already happened)
      • Just prior to today’s text: difficult question from the crowd following Jesus about who will be saved
        • References the narrow gate
        • Mini-parable about the owner of the house shutting the door and some late-comers being left outside in the night
        • Familiar passage (often used at the communion table): “People will come from east and west, north and south, and sit down to eat in God’s kingdom. Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last.”[3]
  • So on the heels of that pronouncement – a pronouncement that Jesus makes about there being room not just in the kingdom of heaven but at the very feast-table of God Almighty for those who are marginalized, scorned, and left out here in this world, we hear today’s passage.
    • Odd, enigmatic passage
      • Speaks first to the Pharisees who seem like they’re trying to warn him away to avoid Herod’s wrath → insults Herod
        • Scholar parses this section out for us: “Go and tell that fox for me …,” [Jesus] says, revealing that he knows these Pharisees are in cahoots with the conniving, calculating Herod. To use parlance of our day, Jesus “steps up” to Herod’s oblique, veiled challenge. He lets the Pharisees and Herod know he is not politically naïve. He is fully aware that the kingdom he proclaims – and enacts, by “casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow,” especially among the poor and the typically neglected – is an affront to the powers that be. More than that, he informs them that his challenge will go all the way to the top.[4] → “in your face” Jesus – no fear, pulling no punches, not holding anything back when interacting with those trying to derail his ministry, especially at this crucial point
      • Jesus moves into section where he addresses Jerusalem itself – text: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that.”[5] → single verse reveals one of Jesus’ greatest obstacles: US
        • All those things we do to try to exempt ourselves from God’s love and grace
          • Ways we try to convince ourselves we’re not good enough
          • Ways we try to convince ourselves God’s grace can’t possible extend as far as we’ve stretched it
          • Ways we try to throw up our own obstacles in God’s path → keeping that overwhelming, undeniable, ineffable love of God at arm’s length because sometimes being at a distance from that kind of love is easier than trying to see ourselves through the eyes of that kind of love
        • Jesus embodies God crying out to Jerusalem: “Let me love you! Let me cherish you! Let me protect you the way a mother hen protects her chicks!” → Jerusalem’s reply: NO
    • Rev. Jessica LaGrone poses question: Which is the bigger obstacle? Herod’s murderous plot to stop Jesus before he reaches Jerusalem or the cherished city itself, loved by the Messiah whom it will ultimately kill upon arrival? Jesus’ answer to both obstacles is that nothing – even his own death – can stop him from reaching the goal of loving his children. Jesus’ love is opposed from the outside, and he keeps moving toward the object of his love. Jesus’ love is rejected, and he still keeps on track to give that love away.[6] → Can you imagine what would have happened had Jesus looked at the obstacles in his path – all the obstacles – with the pessimism and negativity of Manyara? If Jesus had attempted to overcome those obstacles by force and sheer superiority? But instead, Jesus looked at all the obstacles in his path with grace and compassion, turning them from a reason to leave into a reason to love.
      • Attitude is why I chose our psalm for this morning: The Lord is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The Lord is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything? … Now my head is higher than the enemies surrounding me, and I will offer sacrifices in God’s tent – sacrifices with shouts of joy! I will sing and praise the Lord. … Hope in the Lord! Be strong! Let your heart take courage! Hope in the Lord![7] → psalm that does exactly what Nyasha did and what Jesus did: takes those obstacles – whatever they may be – and turns them into reasons to praise God and show God’s love
  • It’s all about perspective. It’s all about how we approach obstacles. There are always going to be obstacles in our life journeys. Sometimes they’re big obstacles. Sometimes they’re only small annoyances barely even troublesome enough to be called obstacles. But no matter the size, obstacles arise. In this passage … in this journey toward Jerusalem … and in our own Lenten journeys, Jesus embodies for us the way to meet those obstacles – with grace, with compassion, with love.
    • Old saying: You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
    • Jessica LaGrone: Jesus is on an unstoppable course toward Jerusalem, but that also means that he’s on an unstoppable course toward us, toward our hearts, with tenacity and determination that will not be blocked, not even by the obstacles we put in his place.[8] Thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] John Steptoe. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. (New York, NY: Puffin Books), 1987.

[2] James C. Howell. “Second Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:31-35, Commentary 2: Connecting the Reading with the World” in Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship – Year C, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 55.

[3] Lk 13:29-30.

[4] Rodney Clapp. “Second Sunday in Lent: Luke 13:31-35 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 70.

[5] Lk 13:34.

[6] Jessica LaGrone. “Lenten Series: God on the Move – Lent 2: God Moves … past All Obstacles” in A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 195,

[7] Ps 27:1, 6, 14.

[8] LaGrone, 196.

Sunday’s sermon: God Moves … Into the Desert

jesus feet

Texts used – Genesis 21:9-20; Luke 4:1-13

  • We are a society constantly on the move, are we not?
    • Everything is about moving faster, more efficiently
      • Technology
      • Vehicles
      • Even shopping experiences have been streamlined for speed and efficiency with the ability to order online and pick up your order at the store. No need to even get out of your car … they’ll bring it right out and load it in your trunk!
    • Many of the milestones of our lives have to do with moving
      • Learning to move (crawl → walk → ride a bike → drive)
      • Celebrate moving from one grade level or one phase of school to another (elementary school to middle school, high school to college, etc.)
      • Moving away from home for the first time
      • Moving in with someone for the first time – sharing space with someone that’s not a family member (platonic roommate or romantic partner)
      • Moving from one place to another for family or career
    • We also recognize that the world around us is constantly moving, and that movement affects our lives.
      • Movement of the earth
        • Day to night to day again
        • One season to the next
      • Movement of nature
        • Wind/weather patterns
        • Water → millennia of simply moving water created the Grand Canyon
      • Movement of species → signal of geese flying south for the winter
    • So as we acknowledge the key role that movement plays in every part of our lives, it also shouldn’t surprise us that our God is a God of movement, too. The overarching story of our faith – the one that starts with that burst of light in the beginning and arcs all the way even to today – is the story of a constantly-moving God.
      • Moving in the world (creation, Noah’s flood, etc.)
      • Moving through the world (covenants, prophets, etc.)
      • Moving for the world (Christ, continued movement of the Holy Spirit)
      • Story and season of Lent is in and of itself a time of movement
        • Moving closer and closer to Jerusalem and the cross with Christ
        • Moving closer to God through spiritual practice and intentionality
  • And so, as we journey through Lent together this year, we’re going to be doing so by talking and thinking and meditating about … movement.
    • Movement of God in our lives
    • Movement of Christ throughout his ministry
    • Movement of the Holy Spirit in and through us
  • Today = begin at the beginning
    • Beginning of Jesus’ ministry
    • Beginning of season of Lent
    • BOTH = Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness
      • Text: Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil.[1] → those 40 days in the wilderness are the reason Lent is 40 days long (40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday not counting Sundays)
    • Gospel context: prior to today’s reading, Jesus has just experienced the “up” of God declaring “This is my Son, whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him”[2] – time of …
      • Public identification
      • Acceptance
      • Glory
      • And then, with the baptismal waters of the Jordan River still dripping from his hair and God’s words of love still ringing in his ears, Jesus followed the Holy Spirit out into the wilderness. → abrupt journey of stark contrasts
        • Moved from being thronged by crowds to being completely alone
        • Moved from refreshing waters to arid desert
        • Moved from rush of validation to 40 days and 40 nights of depravation and temptation – text: There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving.[3]
          • Important to note: not charicature we’ve come to associate with “devil” today (fire-loving guy the color of a fire engine with horns and a pitchfork who’s in charge of the underworld) → 2 words often used for idea The Opposition in Scripture, both have similar meanings
            • Accuser
            • Slanderer
            • Adversary
            • More about what the devil does than what the devil looks like → image from boys’ story Bible – cloaked and hooded figure (face isn’t visible)
    • Critical element of this movement of Jesus into the desert = that it was voluntary movement → Jesus wasn’t coerced into the desert. Jesus wasn’t dragged into the desert kicking and screaming. Jesus wasn’t magically and abruptly teleported into the desert like a Star Trek scene gone awry. Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit, yes, but not unwillingly. Far from it, in fact.
      • Fellow clergywoman Jessica LaGrone (architect of this particular sermon series): When God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, God moved into a whole new neighborhood and set of experiences. … This move, into some of the most physically and spiritually demanding experiences humans can go through, showed that God in Jesus wasn’t here for the tourist’s view of earth, one where he would casually drive by our struggles and gaze out the tinted windows of his air-conditioned limo. No! Jess actually talked through the toughest struggles you and I face.[4] → This desert move on Jesus’ part shows just how dedicated, just how compassionate, and just how devoted God truly is to us. God became incarnate in Jesus Christ, taking on human flesh and human experience and all that that entailed. Through Jesus, God experienced the many facets of humanity, the good and joyful as well as the difficult and painful. We’ve all had our desert moments … our wilderness wandering moments – those times in our lives when the bad outweighs the good, when we are desperate and desolate, when it seems like all we see is more emptiness and more isolation (which are the last things we need at that point). But we can be comforted and reassured by the knowledge that God has been there, too. God knows what it’s like to be running on empty – to need, to want, to be weary and hungry and depleted.
  • Certainly times when, like Jesus, we’ve wandered our way into our own desert moments – times we know how we’ve gotten where we are even if we don’t understand when or why → But there are also times when we end up in those painful, demanding experiences because of someone else.
    • Not someone leading us willingly like the Holy Spirit led Jesus, but someone pressing and driving us into experiences and situations we don’t want to be in
    • OT Scripture reading = one of those times
      • Story of Hagar and Ishmael’s expulsion into the wilderness = hard story to read
      • None of what happens in this story is under Hagar’s control
        • Sarah’s jealousy over Hagar’s happiness = Sarah’s problem
        • Fact that Hagar even has a son by Abraham = also Sarah’s problem → backstory: when Sarah was still unable to have children, in desperation, she “gives” her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham so he will at least be able to continue his family line through that child (hence Ishmael)
          • Wasn’t Hagar’s choice
          • Hagar didn’t really have a say in the matter
        • And when Sarah does actually get pregnant and give birth to Isaac, she grows fiercely jealous because this precious, beloved baby boy of hers isn’t Abraham’s first-born son … which was a matter of great importance when it came to inheritance and family honor and blessing. So Sarah starts scheming to get rid of Hagar and her own precious, beloved child, Ishmael. – text: Sarah saw Hagar’s son laughing, the one Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham. So she said to Abraham, “Send this servant away with her son! This servant’s son won’t share the inheritance with my son Isaac.”[5]
      • Exiles Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness to wander as far as they can until they run out of food and water → Hagar prepares for both she and her son to die in the wilderness – text: Finally the water in the flask ran out, and she put the boy down under one of the desert shrubs. She walked away from him about as far as a bow shot and sat down, telling herself, I can’t bear to see the boy die. She sat at a distance, cried out in grief, and wept.[6]
        • Heart-wrenching, isn’t it?
        • Hagar → moved into this wilderness wandering – dangerous and desperate – against her will
        • But that doesn’t mean that God is not there in that movement as well! –text: God heard the boy’s cries, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Hagar! What’s wrong? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy’s cries over there. Get up, pick up the boy, and take him by the hand because I will make of him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went over, filled the water flask, and gave the boy a drink. God remained with the boy; he grew up, lived in the desert, and became an expert archer.[7]
          • Scholar: Here again, God chooses to work through complex situations and imperfect human beings on behalf of the divine purposes. God works with individuals on the scene; God does not perfect people before deciding to work through them.[8] → This is one of those “why do bad things happen to good people” situations. Hagar has done nothing wrong, and yet this horrible thing has been done to her. Did God cause that horrible thing? No. Sarah, in her jealousy and over-protectiveness, did it. But even in this ugly situation, God was at work. God was moving through the wilderness with Hagar and Ishmael just as God moved through the wilderness with Jesus, protecting and providing and guiding every step of the way.
    • Ishmael’s fate = father of faith we know well: Islam
      • Reason Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are called “Abrahamic religions” – all trace their faith history and roots back to Abraham
      • Our God = Jewish Adonai = Muslim Allah → So when evil, hate-fueled acts are perpetrating against our Abrahamic brothers and sisters because of their religion, friends, it breaks the heart of the same God.
        • Could be evil, hate-fueled acts on a large scale like recent attacks in New Zealand
        • Could be evil, hate-fueled acts on a smaller scale like systematic discrimination and suspicion that our Muslim brothers and sisters face in this country day in and day out
        • All of it breaks God’s heart – our God and theirs, one and the same. All of it forces someone else into their own wilderness struggle, and our Old Testament story shows us just who God goes with friends. Did God stay with Sarah, the forcer, in that moment … or did God move with the outcast ones into the uncertainty and vulnerability of the wilderness?
  • Our God is a still-moving God. Moving in ways, seen and unseen. Moving in ways both understood and wholly mysterious. Moving in ways that are subtle and conspicuous. So no matter what phase of your journey you’re on, know that God is moving with you. God is with you, stumbling and struggling and slogging. God is moving with you, dancing and dreaming and daring. God is moving. God is moving. God is moving.

[1] Lk 4:1-2a.

[2] Mt 3:17.

[3] Lk 4:2

[4] Jessica LaGrone. “Lenten Series: God on the Move – Lent 1: God Moves … Into the Desert” in A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 194.

[5] Gen 21:9-10.

[6] Gen 21:15-16.

[7] Gen 21:17-20.

[8] Terence E. Fretheim. “The Book of Genesis: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 1. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994), 489.

Sunday’s sermon: Gifts of Women

gifts of women

Texts used are embedded in the sermon this week.

  • Friends, today is an interesting day in the life of the church.
    • Transfiguration Sunday
      • Quick retell[1]: Jesus heads up on Mt. Sinai with Peter, James, and John to pray → during prayer, Jesus’ appearance changes: face and clothes “flashed white like lightening” → Moses and Elijah appear on the mountaintop with them → God’s voice comes out of the clouds: “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” → Moses and Elijah disappear → Jesus and the stunned disciples head back down the mountain
      • Biblical account fraught with meaning
        • Words that God speaks echo what was spoken when Jesus was baptized
        • Meaning/purpose for both Moses and Elijah being present – from PC(USA) resources concerning the transfiguration: In Jesus’ transfiguration, we are assured that Jesus is the hope of the ages. Jesus is the One who fulfilled the Law given through Moses, the one dreamed of by the prophets, of whom Elijah is the greatest.[2] → encounter brings key elements of the Jewish faith tradition (the Law and the testimony of the prophets) full circle
        • Pivotal point in Jesus’ ministry → From here on out, Jesus turns his face – his steps, his ministry, his journey – toward Jerusalem where he will be arrested, tried, and crucified.
      • Transfiguration Sunday is a Sunday in which we acknowledge the enlightening, eye-opening nature of Christ, especially as it pertains to our Lenten journeys with Jesus toward the cross and especially as it pertains to God’s command to follow this Christ into new and sometimes unexpected circumstances.
    • Cool thing this year: this is also Gifts of Women Sunday as designated by the PC(USA) – a special Sunday to acknowledge and honor the many gifts that women have made to our church, our denomination, and our lives → In all the time I’ve been pastoring – both serving here and while I was filling in at my parents’ church while I was still seeking a call – these two Sundays have never coincided before. And I found something incredibly powerful about celebrating Gifts of Women Sunday on the same Sunday that we remember Jesus’ transfiguration – Jesus’ eye-opening moment that turned a corner in his ministry.
  • So today, we’re going to do something a little bit different. We’re going to read 2 stories of women in Scripture who are enlightening, eye-opening women. We’re going to spend a little bit of time talking about those stories, and then we’re going to have some “open mic time,” if you will, for you all to share stories of important, eye-opening, enlightening women in your own lives.

 

STORY OF QUEEN VASHTIWomen who open our eyes to injustice

  • As Bible stories go, women don’t get a whole lot of “air time” (“text time”?) – a verse here, a short story there (exceptions: Ruth and Esther = get their own books, albeit short ones) → And Queen Vashti is no exception to this. Her part of the story could be easy glanced over. It is, after all, in the book of Vashti is often treated as little more than a footnote in the wider arc of the book of Esther – a character that needs to “exit stage left” quickly so the main act, Esther herself, can appear. But even in her brief appearance, Queen Vashti is quite the inspiring figure when we take a closer look at her.
  • Context of the story: Ahasuerus was king of Persia who had conquered Babylon not too long after the Jews had been captured and taken to Babylon themselves (roughly 60 yrs.)
    • Reminder: Vashti is not a Jew. She is a Persian queen (as far as we know)
  • Basic story: King decides to throw a massive, 6-month-long party to “[show] off the awesome riches of his kingdom and beautiful treasures as mirrors of how great he was”[3] → key element to this party: bottomless glass of wine for everyone there → In the middle of this drunken revelry, the king decides he wants his beautiful queen, Vashti, to come in so he can show her off as part of his “beautiful treasures,” so he sends for her. → Vashti is having none of this → Vashti refuses the king’s summons → king’s advisors suggest to the furious king that Vashti be banished for refusing the king’s order, partly out of fear that other women will hear of her refusal and emulate her actions in their own households (God forbid!) → Vashti is, indeed, banished
    • Paves the way for King Ahasuerus to search for a new queen (Esther) → sets up the rest of the story
  • But it’s not the rest of the story that we’re looking at today. We’re looking at Vashti – the beautiful, the brave … the banished. Vashti is a queen of radical resistance in the face of devalument. There she was in the midst of her own party with all the important women of the kingdom, and the king tried to call her away from it just to show her off. But she refused. She refused to be treated like property. She refused to play the role of trophy queen – another jewel in the king’s boasting crown. She refused to allow her endeavor to be interrupted by the king’s drunken and probably lascivious whim. Vashti was indeed a queen of radical resistance in the face of devalument, and when it comes down to it, devalument is at the heart of injustice.
    • Injustices are committed again another person or group because someone devalues that person or group → devalument excuses unjust actions in the minds of those perpetrating the injustice
    • In this role of being a radical resister, Vashti is in good company.
      • Lucretia Mott: radical resister in the face of those who devalued both slaves and women → worked tirelessly and often thanklessly as an abolitionist and a suffragist in the 1800s
      • Rosa Parks: radical resister in the face of those who devalued black people in the 1960s → active throughout the Civil Rights movement
      • Malala Yousafzai: radical resister in the face of the Taliban who devalues girls and women as a whole but especially in terms of education → Nobel Peace Prize winner who continues to write and speak and work for education and women’s rights
      • And these are just a few – a few stories of women who have opened the eyes of those around them to injustices, women who have worked to make the world a better place.
    • So who have been some of the faithful, eye-opening women in your lives?

 

STORY OF THE SAMARITAN WOMANWomen who open our eyes to new possibilities

  • I think this story is one of the greatest stories in the gospels because it’s a story about eyes being opened, not in ideal circumstances, but in awkward, uncomfortable ways … you know, ways that mirror real life!
  • Context within the gospel: fairly early on in Jesus’ ministry according to John – so new that the Samaritan woman at the well doesn’t recognize Jesus (something that happens a lot later on as Jesus has begun to build up a reputation) → To this woman at the well, Jesus is just some random (and unwelcomed!) Jewish guy sitting at the well and inappropriately asking her for a drink of water.
    • Inappropriate because he’s Jewish and she’s a Samaritan
      • Jews believed the holiest and only acceptable for worship to be in Jerusalem while Samaritans believed the holiest and only acceptable place for worship was at Bethel
      • Samaritans were half Jew, half Gentile → product of the invasion of the northern kingdom (Israel) by the Assyrian army in 721 BCE
    • Inappropriate because he was a man all alone and she was a woman all alone → proprietary social boundaries dictated he shouldn’t talk to her
    • But still, Jesus asks this solitary, Samaritan woman for a drink of water … and everything changes.
  • First her eyes are opened
    • Opened to the fact that Jews aren’t so bad after all → Jesus isn’t forceful, Jesus isn’t rude, Jesus isn’t condescending or inappropriate. He simply asks for some water
    • Opened to the face that Jesus is indeed the Messiah – text: The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.” Jesus said to her, “I Am – the one who speaks with you.”[4]
    • Important because this woman shows a willingness, an openness, a vulnerability and a hunger to know more → Almost all of the conversation that happens throughout this passage is spurred on by this woman and her questions. Jesus simply asks her for a drink of water. She responds by asking, “Why?” When Jesus gives her an answer, she responds with another question … and another question … and another question. And finally she challenges him by bringing up the cultural and spiritual differences between Jews and Samaritans: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalm.”[5]
  • It is exactly this openness and this willingness that will turn this unnamed Samaritan woman into a powerful evangelist, opening others’ eyes to new possibilities. → after her conversation with Jesus, she is shooed away by the disciples (who have returned with food) → hurries back to her village and tells anyone and everyone she can find: “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve ever done! Could this man be the Christ?”[6]
    • Samaritan woman = radical question in the face of preconceived notions
    • Power of her witness: Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified.[7] → invite Jesus into their city to stay for a few more days → come to believe through his words … words that they never would have heard had it not been for that woman at the well who encouraged them to open their eyes.
  • Power of women innovators
    • Marie Curie – physicist and chemist who made conducted pioneering research on radioactivity in the late 1800/early 1900s → 1st woman to win a Nobel Prize
    • Elizabeth Blackwell – 1st woman to earn a medical degree and become a doctor in the U.S. (1849)
    • Margaret Towner – 1st woman ordained as a teaching elder (minister) in the Presbyterian Church (USA) (1956)
    • J.K. Rowling – British author who radically changed the face of juvenile and young adult fiction with her Harry Potter novels, drawing kids into reading who may not have been as enthusiastic about it before AND being the first person to intentionally fall off Forbes’ billionaire list because of her philanthropic efforts and charitable giving
  • This list could go on and on, so let me give you the opportunity to extend it: Who have been some of the faithful, eye-opening women in your lives?

 

[1] Lk 9:28-36.

[2] https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/christianyear/transfiguration-lord/.

[3] Est 1:4a.

[4] Jn 4:25-26.

[5] Jn 4:19-20.

[6] Jn 4:29.

[7] Jn 4:39a.