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In this sermon arc, Living a Resurrected Life, we revisited 3 of the 7 characters so far – we met the disciple who understood what Jesus’ death on the cross means – breaking the cycle of retributive violence by absorbing hate with love, absorbing sin without passing it on, we met the disciple who was one of the woman disciples who were raised up and transformed by Jesus, and we met the demon-possessed man.
Pauline and I were very clear when we were planning this series – I shouldn’t be the one preaching about the woman disciples and how they were lifted up by Jesus because that would be mansplaining, no matter how well intentioned I am. There may be churches where there isn’t a female pastor and they have to work on how to tell such stories – but for us – we DO have a female pastor and that story should be told by a woman, from a woman’s perspective, as far as possible.
At the same time we also don’t want to just go along gender lines – and we decided to shake it up a little, and I will be preaching on the Samaritan woman by the well today. I have preached at least 5 times about her before, and Pauline has preached sermons about her as well. So when I started working on this sermon, I wondered – Is there more about the Samaritan woman to discover?
(M) What details do you remember of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus?
Allow me to step into her shoes today.
“Wells are where God starts something new.”
And here I am, back at the well where I met him. It isn’t as hot now, now that it is evening. And there, there’s the water jar I left behind – and there’s the bucket! The same one he drank from even though I drank from it.
I can still remember it as though it happened yesterday. I remember the shock at a man drinking from the very same thing I drank from – even my husbands did not do that.
I don’t know why I am back here.
What am I looking for?
To see him again?
Many of the others have gone back to their old ways. He’s dead. That dream where we no longer fight over where to worship God, or how to worship God, but just worship God – Jew or Samaritan, or Gentile or Roman.
The dream where it doesn’t matter if I am a woman, or a Samaritan, or what I have done, or all the pain and shame I carry, I am still beloved.
The dream where it doesn’t matter how others see me, how they talk about me – I know the truth of who I am, and whose I am.
Am I going to go back to who I was? Avoiding looking people in the eye, hiding, ashamed, fearful?
But I know the truth of who I am, and whose I am!
And something new started here! And even though he is gone, I am no longer the same!
I remember asking him – “Will you give me a drink? A drink of that living water?”
Then I heard a voice – that familiar voice – was it my memory, my imagination, or did I hear him again?
“You know that already, daughter, don’t you? You have known all along. You have known that once you tasted that living water, you will remain satisfied, for you will have a gushing spring inside of you that never runs dry. There will be times you forget, but it will always be with you. I am always with you.”
And I remember, and I feel – the same feeling that was in my heart – that lightness, that feeling of being freed, that feeling of being filled up till I am overflowing when I ran back to town declaring “He told me everything I ever did,” “Come, come to the well and see!”
I remember – “God is Spirit, after all, and Truth. You can’t build a temple around Spirit. You can’t lock Truth in a shrine.”
Why did I come back?
Because I didn’t want to believe that death is the end.
I know the truth of who I am, and whose I am!
Like the Samaritan woman, many of our stories begin from one burdened by shame and isolation. We feel alone, because we don’t feel that we are good enough.
Sometimes we are told that we are not good enough by our families, sometimes we are told we are not good enough in school by our teachers, sometimes by our classmates.
Whether it is about our family background, our education level, our accent, our mannerism, our behaviour, our sexual orientation, our gender, our race, how we look, how much we make, how successful or unsuccessful we are – When we don’t measure up in some way in society, we feel shame. And over time, the shame became part of us.
And so like the Samaritan woman, we head to the well, we go about our lives, in shame, in hiding.
(M) In what way do you think your story is like the Samaritan woman? Was it the way you encountered God? Was it how you were transformed?
For me, I thought I was the Samaritan woman. I had a string of boyfriends, and those relationships never really worked out. I have had more than 5. I thought I wasn’t holy holy. I held back from serving in church, only volunteering for helping out behind the scenes. But I came to realise – perhaps God will use my transformation just like God used the transformation of the Samaritan woman – and use me to testify to God’s love and power. I am no longer the person I was. And God is still working to transform me – I am a work in progress.
Jesus told the Samaritan woman – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,”
I wonder what is this water for you? Are there things you pursue to try run away from your shame? Are there things you seek out to feel better about yourself or numb those negative feelings you are trying to avoid? Are there distractions in your life that is not building you up at all?
(M) What are things in your life you consume/do that don’t really meet your needs?
Some of us use substances – alcohol, drugs, food, some of us use activities, some of us use things, some of us use sex, some of us use success / wealth to numb ourselves. There are a lot of things in this well that we use to quench our thirst. But we will only be thirsty again. This “water” we keep drinking only quenches our thirst for a while.
The Samaritan woman left her water jar behind – because she no longer needed this water to quench her thirst, to meet her needs, to survive.
Jesus had offered her living water – a gushing spring inside that never runs dry.
(M) What do you think this living water is?
I believe that this living water is love. The kind of love that anchors us. That helps us be connected to who we are in God. The love that awakens us to the awareness that we are not alone, we are not unwanted, we are not unworthy, we are not lost, we are not less than. It is when Jesus looked her in the eye, spoke to her without judgement, and helping her feel recognised, known, and accepted as she was that she began to connect with that spring that has always been within her – she – and us – have always been God’s beloved child.
Jesus says “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:24
Yet we doubt. We are disconnected from God. We have been taught that we need to earn God’s love, because we are undeserving and wretched. Then we get seduced by worldly things that promise to quench our need for love – power, wealth, fame, success, material, approval, things, alcohol, drugs, food, sex. But like the song goes – we are restless till we rest in God.
It is, like what Pauline preached last Sunday – the isolation and disconnectedness lie at the heart of the issue. When we are disconnected from ourselves, disconnected from God, disconnected from each other, that is the root of our problems.
Yet, while many of us have experience that encounter with Jesus, we still find ourselves slipping back to disconnectedness. The spring of living water somehow ran dry. And we try to find ways to have that encounter again. Some of us may even suspect that God has abandoned us.
I believe that our spiritual experiences – some may call them encounters with God – are experiences of enlightenment. We gain insights, knowledge and there is connection with God, and to things around us. That was the experience the Samaritan woman had. She only encountered Jesus once, and she was transformed.
(M) How do you think you can find that spring of Living water?
Jesus pointed out that this spring of living water needs to become internalised – “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. (John 4:14)
The insights, knowledge and connection isn’t just something that we experience, but something we internalise. What we know in our heads needs to be also felt and know in our bodies, in our hearts.
This internalisation requires practice. It requires us to live it out.
Jesus did not impose onto the Samaritan woman how she should live her life, or what she should do. His last recorded words with her was, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” He spoke to her with respect and allowed her to make what he was teaching her own. That is empowerment.
Through her encounter with Jesus, she was no longer the woman who was defined by the number of husbands she had, the one who avoided contact with others because of shame, the one who had to accept religious beliefs and observe religious rules just because she was told to. She was transformed and empowered to speak the truth of her encounter with Jesus and the truth of her spiritual experience. Nobody could tell her otherwise.
She was liberated from religious beliefs that was forced on her (and her people) that did not give them life. She was liberated from thinking that God is only present in a certain place, liberated from thinking that she was not good enough because of her circumstances, liberated from thinking that she was not allowed to ask or talk about religion or theology because of her status, her background, her gender. She was liberated from limiting herself.
(M) What about you? How have you internalised God’s love for you?
The Samaritan woman’s story didn’t end after her encounter with Jesus – it continued with her return to the Samaritan community. Like the Gerasene demoniac whose journey to wholeness requires his return to community, so did the Samaritan woman’s. And that is true for us as well.
What do you think happened to Samaritan woman after Jesus’ crucifixion?
Did she give up?
She experienced resurrection when she met Jesus. He treated her differently. He saw her. He listened to her. He didn’t diminish her. He took her seriously. He didn’t judge her. He showed her compassion and understanding.
Jesus offered her living water, while ignoring the social conventions, the social taboos of that time. He broke down boundaries and did what he was not supposed to talking to a Samaritan, talking to a woman, asking a drink from her.
And that brought her back to life, helping her tap into the spring of living water that had always been within her.
I don’t believe that she would just give up. She would have done for others what Jesus had done for her. He helped her see that she was worthy, that she deserved love, and that she was loved. She was transformed – enlightened and empowered and she could not help but to offer what she had received to others, treating them with respect, loving them as she had been loved. Jesus helped her find her voice in the midst of her shame and her struggle – and she was not going to ever lose it again.
She would use that voice to help others. She would use that voice to speak truth to power. She was empowered to empower others, to help them see that they were worthy, that they deserved love, and that she was loved
She would help others find that spring of living water within themselves, so they too, come alive. And she would do it with no strings attached – loving people, just like she had been loved. “Love each other as I have loved you,” Jesus had said.
When we get stuck thinking just focused on encountering Jesus, may we remember that this spring of living water isn’t a private well – it is our connection with the source – God our creator. And when we share this connection, it is not diminished. This water isn’t meant for us alone, it is meant to be given away. Holding on to it selfishly is as silly as trying to scoop up and hold a flowing stream with our hands.
This goes far beyond sharing our faith with others. It is about helping others see recognise their inherent worthiness in the eyes of God, regardless of their gender identity, their religious beliefs, their nationality, their race. This is what we are about as FCC – FREE – First Realise Everyone’s Equal.
Let us dream of doing what Jesus did – breaking down all that separates us so that we can learn to love fully – connected to God and to each other so we bring about transformation in the world.
A resurrected life is sustained by this living water, and living out a resurrected life allows this spring to keep flowing. A resurrected life is lived out actively, not passively. It requires practice. That doesn’t mean we have to keep doing – some types of practices require us to be still and focus on “being” rather than “doing” – like meditative prayer, like resting.
Other practices require us to live a resurrected live out in action – how we do justice, how we love mercy, how we walk humbly. It is about having a balance of both in our lives so we continue tapping into the neverending source of love – and as we tap on it, we are connected to God, to ourselves and to each other.
We come every Sunday to church hoping to connect – and I pray that you do. And may you hear that still voice telling you “I know you. All of you. The whole you. Do not be afraid. I love you. Allow yourself to be filled up with this living water – may you be full of hope and peace and love and then help me bring heaven to earth.”
And this is worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth.
[ Download sermon discussion questions for self-study or group discussion click here ]