Monday, March 28, 2011

The Spiritual Connection

What a wonderfully beautiful story we hear this morning from John’s Gospel.
It is a story of God’s love and grace.
A story about a woman tired, dried up, and all used up by life.
Who comes to a well to do something very simple.
She comes to get water in the heat of the new day sun.
There she has a chance encounter that will forever change her life.
She encounters Jesus who offers her more than mere water but living water.
It has always been our assumption that this is a sinful woman whose life is changed because of this encounter with Jesus.
It is true that her life is changed, but not from sin.
But what struck me about the story is that Jesus never condemns her.
Jesus never mentions the word sin, never gives her a lecture about the proper sexual ethics for women.
Jesus simply sees this woman.
Jesus sees her life with all of its complexity and duality.
Jesus sees that she is dried up and used up from life.
The text never actually tells us that she has done anything wrong.
We just assume it.
Truth is that all those husbands could not be her fault.
It is the men in that society who have the ability to divorce.
The man she lives with now could be a brother of a dead husband as the law prescribes.
Jesus in looking at this woman does not see a sinner, but sees someone in need of more.
Jesus does not see a Samaritan woman, but a person.
Jesus does not see a woman, but someone used up by life, a person alone and not connected to her community.
Jesus crosses all sorts of boundaries in this story that have been set up by society, and in so doing connects with her on a deep spiritual level.

Lots of times we make every Bible story about sin and redemption.
Instead of seeing it for what it is an invitation by God for connection.
That is what we all really desire to connect with others and share our lives.
The woman gets it.
“He told me everything I have ever done.”
Jesus connects with her life and really sees her.
Her level of belief is bigger than that of the Nicodemus from last week.
Even though Nicodemus is a religious leader he cannot see the need for more.
Nicodemus gets caught up in the physical world and cannot see the world through God’s eyes.
Like all the Gospels it is the people who are left out, dried up, and used up that are most ready and willing to see God.
The woman in this morning’s Gospel is seen by Jesus and she is connected to him and very real way.
She is so overcome that she leaves her water pitcher behind, because she sees that Jesus is the real water that gives life.

Our own lives often can feel like this woman’s.
We can be dried up and tired from all the things life has brought us.
Some of those might be our fault and some might not.
Either way Jesus comes not to scold us, but to see us.
Jesus comes to love and care for us, and show us how much God really cares about us.

I believe that this changes us.
Just like the woman at the well is changed forever because Jesus sees her and offers her true life our encounters with Jesus are powerful reminders that God is about changing lives.
Our encounters with Jesus are about God connecting with us and giving us true water that does not dry up.
We all need this water, because life is always trying to dry us up.
There is always some message out there that tells us we are not good enough and we don’t measure up.

In 1950 they asked high school students if they thought they were special and only 12% said that they were.
In 1990’s they asked high school students the same question and 80% said that they were special.
Some people believe this is a bad thing.
That we have watered down what it means to be special.
I wish every kid in high school saw themselves as special, because God sees each of them as special.
Our problems come from fear of not being loved.
Brene Brown a researcher who studied what makes people do things like become addicted to drugs, over spend, and have a narrow world view, says that it is our inability to connect with others that drives us to these things.
That connection is what gives life meaning.
When we are able to connect we are willing to risk making ourselves vulnerable.
We are willing to admit that we are not perfect and neither is the world.
She said that we should not be telling our kids they are perfect, but instead loving them through their imperfection.
This is what I believe God can do for all of us.
This is what Jesus did for the woman at the well.

Jesus connects with her.
Jesus offers a connection to God.
This is what Jesus does for all of us, is connect our lives to God.
Jesus gives us a new identity where we are able to see ourselves and live with who we are.
Not tell us how perfect we are, but help us live with our imperfections.
Help us take a risk and connect with others around us.
At the end of our story what gives it the happy ending is that the woman is able to be a respected member of the community.
It took some risk for her to run back and tell people what Jesus had done for her, but that is what makes her able to connect with others.
And our lives are better when we are connected.

When we are connected to Jesus, and to one another, we are able to have this spiritual well of joy, forgiveness, hope, and love.
That is the real water that does not run out.

This week I did a funeral for a family who are not members of our congregation.
They were your average family filled with love, joy, and brokenness.
Their mother was the one who connected everyone in the family together.
I told them that their mother was not dead but lived in eternity with Jesus.
And that the love they shared with their mother also lived on for eternity.
This is real connection, and when we find it we are changed forever.

We are given a new identity that surpasses whatever labels others want to give us.
And we are brought to the new reality that is about being authentically human.
We can then live with our failures and brokenness.
We can then live without shame or fear and embrace our need to connect and be seen.

Today Jesus comes and sees us for who we are.
And then offers us real living water that flows from God’s grace.
I know that there are many times in my life when I feel like the world is against me.
There have been many times when I felt shame because of my sins.
When I feel let down because things are not working the way I want them to.
There have been times in my life when I did not feel connected to others around me.
I think about Jesus and how my life is always connected to his.
And I realize that I have many blessings, I have much joy, and there is always hope.

I know that Jesus is there for all of you too that when life is getting you down that Jesus is there to lift you up.
Jesus gives the true water that does not run out, but quenches our thirst for connection and love.
Jesus sees all of you, and knows you, let that be your connection that gives you life.

The woman at the well is given her connection to a new identity, to a new life with real living water.
She sees Jesus because he sees her and shows her God’s love.
When we feel dried up and used by life let us see Jesus in our lives and receive the water that does not run out, but that leads to eternal life filled with love and connection.

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