Sermons

Jesus Rules (John 4:3-32)

Joan MacPherson, February 4, 2018
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

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Jesus Rules
John 4:3-42
There is a good chance I could get myself in trouble treading into a sermon illustration that is way out of my area of expertise but, relying on God’s grace and yours, here I go. I have heard through the grapevine that there is a football game being played tonight. I understand that there are some unknowns going into it. As I am writing this sermon we don’t yet know if Gronk will be able to play. We don’t know how it is all going to work out (though that doesn’t stop us from imagining it all in the way we want does it?) What we do know is that either when the clock runs out at the end of the second half or after a dramatic overtime episode the numbers on the scoreboard will tell which team won.
We do know what to expect though. There are rules for the game of football after all. We know there will be a coin toss and a kickoff and all sorts of plays and efforts by each team to score or prevent the other from scoring. There will be whistles and calls by the referees (some of which just might be contested by zealous fans). The framework, timing, rules, media breaks, half time show its all defined and prescribed.
There are rules that come with being the church and followers of Jesus also but they have some very different objectives from the NFL rules. With the church and Jesus it isn't about one group prevailing over the other its about expanding and welcoming all of God’s people into the group. The woman at the well didn’t know the Jesus rules or the Super Bowl rules. She had the rules/customs of her day and time. With those rules she is going about her harsh life in Samaria. She is coming to the well for water at high noon - the hottest part of the day - a time when anyone who didn’t have to be out laboring wouldn’t be. She lives in a time when women are totally dependent on men for survival. You need to have a husband and the husband had all the power so if a marriage ends it is either because the husband divorces the wife or because the husband dies. She has had five different husbands. Five times in her life the rug has been pulled out from under her, a marriage ended, her means of support removed, leaving her totally vulnerable. The hard stuff, the scary stuff, the how can I get through another day stuff just keeps coming at her.
In the glaring sun and stifling heat she approaches the well and sees there a Jew - the arch enemy of her people and a male on top of that. The rules of the day say you don’t talk to each other but he starts up a conversation. Really God? What’s this about? I am tired. I have to get this water and get on with my tasks. Life is demanding and I have things to to. Now this man is asking me to get him water also? Really God?
Really. In the midst of all that is very hard, very challenging, very uncertain, Jesus reaches out to the woman to make a connection with her. And his connection? Let me love you. Let me fill you with all you need to be alive in the world. Let me quench your hunger and thirst with things of life and hope. This is not what is expected. This is not going according to the rules of the culture and the time. Quite the opposite. In their encounter Jesus is modeling a way of being that is about welcome, acceptance, fullness of life that runs contrary to what she had been experiencing. It is an incredible gift to her. She has an ah-ha moment that changes her life. Binds her to Jesus’ love and with that encounter she can’t keep silent. She runs back to town to let others know about Jesus, his love, his welcome, his future. She has tasted grace, she has experienced inclusion and she can’t limit that to just her own experience, she needs to tell others so that they can be welcomed, healed, held, loved. She knows how hard it is to be vulnerable and uncertain and she does all she can to connect others to Jesus and his other way.
Jesus offers the same to us. In the cold and grey of winter, in the hurts and challenges of life, we have come this morning to this metaphorical well called worship/church. Here we remember and declare that present in our midst is Jesus who wants nothing more than to enter into relationship with us, to welcome us, hold us, heal us, support us, love us - each of us all of us. No one is excluded. No past mistakes a deal breaker. The rules with Jesus? No one is excluded. It is never too late to let him love you, change you, hold you. If you have let that happen? Go out and tell others so that they can also. Amen.

Joan MacPherson
Main Street Congregational UCC
February 4, 2018

Note: This manuscript was prepared for oral delivery only.
It contains excerpted material not properly cited.
Please do not redistribute without permission.

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