Third Sunday in Lent
March 15, 2020 - John 4:5-26
A massive number of people (maybe even ourselves) have punched the panic button with every ounce of strength. Suddenly a society that widely advocates for the slaughter of babies, a society that widely advocates for committing suicide when life no longer feels worth living, has accidently shown itself to be frightened – scared stiff – at the prospect of death. The fear of death has always been there. Technology and human inventiveness have been able to do lots and lots of things – but one of the things that still remains elusive is death. Society has been able to mask the fear of death by making it more palatable or hiding it, but corona virus has ripped that mask off. A person can deal with the idea of a stranger dying, but when the prospect of death is you, your children, or another loved one – death becomes very, very real. Sooo many are just scared.
When fear of death hits, then original sin reveals itself in all its glorious disaster. The hoarding of toilet paper, facemasks, water, and hand sanitizer began several days ago. We did some shopping in Baxter on Thursday night. Not one package of tp in Walmart, Costco, or Aldi. And my brother texted me a picture of their local grocery store – food shelves empty. When death threatens, it seems “love thy neighbor as thyself” is as empty as the grocer’s hand sanitizer aisle.
At the same time, all things considered, this fear of death in wider society is a good thing. For just as the woman in the Gospel reading knew she was missing something – that she was unsatisfied, empty, and needed something in order to have fullness of life. She recognized a void, even if she couldn’t name it. So this corona virus panic is showing the same thing in our society. We live in the most technologically advanced period the world has ever seen. We live in a country of tremendous wealth, where even the poorest of Americans have more than the wealthy of some other countries. Yet, we as a society are hoarding little squares of flimsy, fragile paper. How sad is that? The world is missing something – it’s unsatisfied, empty, and needs something. A void must be filled in order to have a fullness of life. The church has something that the world needs. The local water well couldn’t fill the woman’s void just as the local market can’t fill this void.
The woman at the well didn’t know Jesus. It simply surprised her that this Jew would be talking to her, a Samaritan. She doesn’t recognize that she stands before the one who holds the key to life – who is life in all its fullness. All she sees is a Jew disobeying societal norms. Jesus says, “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.” Jesus is the gift of God and He is God in the flesh, an incredible idea to ponder. Here standing in front of her is her Lord, her Creator, the Author of life, given to the world by His heavenly Father. Jesus is the gift who gives all kinds of precious gifts. He asks for a drink of temporary water – showing His humanity – and He’s also the one who gives living water – showing His divinity. Living water is running water, flowing water, bubbling water. It looks fresh. It looks clean. Still water is stagnant water. It often looks yucky. A film may grow on the water. Stagnant water is unappealing, but running water looks attractive. Jesus – the gift of God – offers to give her living water.
She thinks in worldly terms – toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and all – “You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? I’m skeptical; this sounds like a scam.” She thinks that He’s talking about earthly water, a water source he has hidden somewhere and just like that she’ll never come back to the well. She’s doubtful that He’s greater than Jacob – greatly revered by the Samaritans.
The Lord’s response declares that He is indeed far greater than Jacob and can give a water that no one can give. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
She’s convinced even though she still thinks in worldly terms. “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” She wants water to make this life easy, not recognizing that she still has many sorrows, shames, and sufferings in this life – including death. Nothing has changed. Those panicked by corona virus also have their sorrows, shames, sufferings, and fears of death.
Some churches around the country and world have closed. It’s a tough call. I’m glad we haven’t because in this building right now, a gift is being given that far exceeds any panic.
JESUS GIVES YOU LIVING WATER – A SALVATION THAT SATISFIES ALL YOUR NEEDS
Jesus gave the Samaritan woman living water that nourished her soul in a way that the water from Jacob’s well never could. She would have to come back and draw more water from the well. Jesus revealed Himself to her as her Savior in a way that brought peace, comfort, joy, hope, life, and salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Nowhere else in the world could she get that. And the living water of Christ bubbled up to eternal life in her. She was looking for the Messiah, she even says so – and she was blessed to receive Him in the person of Jesus. He was the answer she was looking for all along. He filled the void in her life that brought peace to her troubled heart, and she would never thirst for that again.
Right now, you are receiving something that doesn’t deplete in a week so that you need to get more. Right now, you are receiving something that no virus can kill or take away. Right now, you are receiving that which fills every single void in your life and satisfies all your needs, something that gives you meaning and purpose in life – something so inestimable, so priceless, and it is free – it is gift.
“If you knew the gift of God” – you do. You know the gift of God. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t forget. Miracles are happing today. This font is where lost and condemned sins are ripped from the jaws of hell and delivered to the kingdom of God. The words spoken in this place, the words I’m speaking right now, bring dead sinners to life as easily as Jesus yelled, “Lazarus, come out.” And the dead man walked. The bread and wine given to you in this place are the body and blood of Christ – given for your forgiveness, for your life, for your salvation. It is the medicine of immortality.
Sometimes we forget what’s really happening in Church, how amazing the Word of God is, how incredible what He does is, this should be awe-inspiring. We really should be soaking every single bit of it in every single week. May the Lord grant us a continued hunger and desire to be here in His presence and in the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We come here to meet our God in Word and Sacrament. We should love to be in this place whenever we have opportunity. Here is the one place on earth – the house of the Lord – where the announcement is made that death itself is defeated by the death of one man. Here in this place, you receive Him who gives you life forevermore. Jesus is right now filling the void in your life. He is satisfying your needs. He’s giving you life in abundance. “To live is Christ; to die is gain.” There’s no need to panic.
If it were announced right now that they found a cure for this virus, people would be scrambling as fast as they can to figure out where to get it. That’s sad. Not because I don’t want a cure to be found or for people to receive it. I certainly do. But right now, today, at this very moment, the medicine of immortality – our Lord Jesus Christ – is being given. The Lord of Life is nourishing His people with the water of life that wells up in you into eternal life. You are receiving these things so that you don’t have to fear any kind of suffering and death. “If God is for us who can be against?” “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [nor corona virus nor panic], nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What’s sad is that… churches… are… not… filled… to… the… brim. There are a lot of people outside those doors, who have not received this water of life, who are empty, unsatisfied, void, and frightened, who all they can think about is the next jar of water that they have to draw. They just don’t know what they’re missing. They need to receive what you’re being given so that they too may share in the life that you and I have in Jesus. Amen.