Summary: A short talk for our Christmas Pensioners' Praise service but it works for all adult congregations. Some lessons about life and evangelism for all Christians
I’m going to pick out three snippets of conversation that caused shock in the 1st Century Land that Jesus walked; three bits of conversation that could change the course of the church in Billericay in our time.
1. The Samaritan woman said to Jesus, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (4:9).
First of all I want to say, “Thank you God that the Church of England will soon be ordaining women Bishops. It has been a long and painful journey and over the last 25 years God has been changing my mind on the issue – but here we are.
In the story Jesus caused shock and confusion because he asked a resident of Samaria to draw water from a well to give him a drink; and as the Bible says back then Jews and Samaritans didn’t do that! It was not the ‘done’ thing. It was like the Protestant Catholic thing that sadly still exists in some places.
Worse, in the eyes of the disciples, and in the eyes of any Samaritan men if they’d been watching, he was talking alone with a woman. In Many Middle Eastern cultures that would produce a similar level of distaste today and so we have two levels of cultural barriers being challenged and crossed by Jesus.
Here’s the challenge for us: Who are the people, or groups, or residents, or individuals that we would never dream of even approaching, let alone speak to? Jesus doesn’t pat us on the head and say, “There, there, sweet British Christians. It’s OK.” No. His actions and his deeds are always the example and the pattern and the route map for disciples, followers, and would-be disciples of Jesus today. Where he goes we are called to go.
So, whoever it may be, Jesus would have us accept and seek out hospitality and time with anyone we see as beyond the pale. So for some people I know God has led them to confront their prejudices: Japanese, asylum seekers, Muslims, travellers, homeless etc.
Jesus spoke into the life of the woman at the well – but get this, she was not just any woman, she was a Samaritan woman; but hey hold on, there’s something else I haven’t reminded you of from the story. She was not just a Samaritan woman – she was a Samaritan Woman who had been bouncing from relationship to relationship. She has had five husbands so far and she’s now with a potential 6th husband. That’s why she is drawing water from the well on her own because her reputation for seducing men has left her with few if any friends – and Jesus asks her for a drink. He then goes on to speak into her life, and the woman realises that Jesus has a precious gift that she needs, a gift that we all need – the water of life (4:13-14).
2. …leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (4:28-29).
Putting aside any past feelings of shame the unnamed woman puts down her jar – probably so that she can get back to town as quickly as possible without the weight to carry – and she goes and tells others. She has experienced the one who gives the water of life and she can hardly wait to tell others. Her personal experience of Jesus was infectious and that’s why often it is a new Christian who is the most infectious believer in the church. Friends, rejoice when people who find faith in Jesus just can’t stop talking about him because they are following in famous footsteps.
Before knowing Jesus my life was devoid of joy, empty of purpose, and I experienced a humourless life. I was a very solemn young man, sent to Sunday school as a boy and singing in the church choir, but I did not know Jesus the Christ. However, when I was 17 years old I heard the gospel – the Good News of Jesus – explained by a man who clearly loved Jesus, and that was the day I committed my life to Jesus.
Over time I began to experience joy, and hope and humour and laughter in my life. Things have not always been wonderful! I have known tough times including 8 months in bed with a debilitating illness that still lingers in my body; and I’ve felt and still feel the grief of the deaths of very close friends and family; but the sense of hope and purpose and love and joy has never left me. Jesus began to change and transform my life 28 years ago and he continues to do that today – and I want to say to the people of Billericay and to each of you, “Come and see. Come and see Jesus who knows all about me. Come and see for yourself if he is the Saviour.” He saved me!