Second Sunday in Lent
There had to have been a committee. That’s just the way Baptists work. There must have been lots of samples to look over, and there must have been some difficult choices to make. And maybe some strong opinions one way or another, and maybe even an argument or two. But in the end, a decision was made, probably by God, and we’ve got her, much bigger than life, and memorialized, here in the sanctuary, for us to consider week after week, when we come to worship.
The truth of the matter though, is that I don’t know how she got here. I don’t know if there was a committee with lots of samples to look at, I don’t know if there was a decision process, I don’t even know if there was a choice. Maybe it was a take it or leave it kind of deal, and not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the good Baptists at the time decided to take her. But however she got here, she has been an immediate and obvious lesson to every generation of baptists who have worshiped here since the day that she arrived. And, as long as she stays here, she will be teaching that very same lesson to everyone who ever looks at her. I am speaking of course, of “Our Lady of the Window.” It is very intriguing to me that of all of the people in the Bible, of all of the stories, and of all of the healings and the miracles that could have been represented here in this sanctuary, that the woman of Samaria gets equal billing alongside a depiction of the parable of the talents.
The prominence of the parable of the talents is easy to explain. Money and faith are inextricably linked. We don’t like to admit that, but they are. Money can keep us from faith. Money is often what we really have our faith in; money is our most valued possession. Money is often the last thing that we let go of in our journies of faith; it sometimes takes us a life time to truly turn it over to God. When we finally get separated from our money, we can be joined with God, who is the one who loaned it to us in the first place. And so the parable of the talents is practically a no-brainer for us. We need the reminder that God requires our whole lives. And not just the bits and pieces of them that we are comfortable strewing about.
But why the lady? I’m convinced, that however she got here, that she is here providentially. She is here because God put her here to remind us week after week, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade, that no one, not me, not you, nor anyone else, is ever beyond the scope of the grace of God. Everyone is welcome in God’s kingdom no matter who they are, what they’ve done, or what they are now doing, and the woman of Samaria is here to prove that to us.
There are times when I wish that the woman of Samaria had a name. Names are important. In Bible times, names gave value and worth to a person. Sometimes in Bible stories, if a person doesn’t have a name, it means that they’ve received the ultimate sentence, and that they’ve been passed over by God. It means that they are of no account. But perhaps in this passage, she doesn’t have a name, because in reality she bears the names of every single one of us here this morning. She represents every man, woman, and child who stands in the need of God’s loving and compassionate grace.
This much we do know, though: she has certainly been passed over by her community. She certainly has no standing in her community; if she’s got a name around town, it is not the name that her parents gave her. She is a loner, and she is an outsider. She has no friends.
She’s coming to the well at noon to draw water, because it is a safe time to come. By noon-time, all of the other women in the community have already come and gone to get their water. Water getting was a first thing in the morning kind of chore. Besides being a necessary chore, it was also a social activity for the women. It is when they did their chatting and their gossiping. But the woman of Samaria is not part of that happy group, other than that she’s probably quite often the topic of discussion there by the well, first thing in the morning.
And that’s because she has a history of failed relationships. And failed relationships are fun to talk about. Either she’s not very good at developing and maintaining relationships, or she’s miserable at choosing decent men. She has been married five times. And now out of frustration, she has given up on the institution of marriage, and she’s just living with a guy. Not exactly the way to gain status and standing in a community, especially in the first century. And now, as she approaches the well, she can see that there’s a guy sitting there. And she’s probably thinking, “Great. There’s somebody there. I’ll just ignore him. I’ll get my water and go.”
Now social convention would have dictated that a solitary man, and a solitary woman in that situation would simply have pretended that the other one was not even present. It simply wasn’t proper for them to acknowledge one another beyond anything more than just a nod. There would be no speaking. But Jesus isn’t going to pretend that she’s not there. He has an appointment with her. Jesus is going to do something beyond belief. He’s going to acknowledge her. He’s not going to let her be invisible anymore. She has been invisible long enough. He’s been waiting for her to come along.
And so he asks her for a drink of water. And in doing so, he surprises the dickens out of her. This is absolutely the last thing that she ever expected because everything is wrong about his request. First of all, he’s a man, and she’s a woman. And that’s a problem that we won’t get into just now. And, as soon as he speaks, she recognizes that he is also a Jew, and that’s an even bigger problem, because Jews and Samaritans don’t get along. She knows that no self-respecting male Jew would ever drink from any receptacle that a Samaritan woman had ever touched, and Covid has nothing to do with it. We’re talking ritual pollution of the highest degree here, not to mention the underlying racism.
This lady may have broken lots of rules in her life, but at least she knows what they are. She knows that Jesus’ request for water is way out of line. And she’s so stunned by his request that she’s willing to challenge him on it. She wants to know why Jesus is willing to break the rules just for a drink of water. And so she says, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
Jesus is willing to break the rules because relationships in the kingdom of God are more important than the rules. Jesus has something to offer this woman that no one else can possibly offer her. And that’s a relationship with the living God. This woman has probably been looking for the perfect relationship for her whole life. But so far, nothing has worked. And now, Jesus is offering it to her freely.
Most of us probably know some one who’s been looking for the perfect relationship for their whole lives. And the truth of the matter is that perfect relationships just do not exist. No matter how much we look, and no matter how much we dream, and no matter how many fantasies we may have, perfect relationships are completely elusive.
But there is one relationship that brings complete and total satisfaction, and that is a relationship with Jesus Christ, our savior.
Jesus knew that this lady was the queen of temporary; that she was the queen of failed relationships. But he offered her a relationship that was so permanent that it was eternal. He offered her eternal life with him, and she received it. She got living water; living water that became in her a spring gushing up to eternal life.
And that life, and the power of this new relationship gushed up within her with so much joy that she ran back to her village to tell everyone about it.
Who are the women at the well is our lives? Who are the people that we’d just as soon not have any relationship with at all? These are the very people that Jesus reached out to and these are the very people that Jesus calls us to reach. But we make our own rules, don’t we?
It is important for us to note that Jesus reached out to “our lady of the window” while she was still a sinner, while her life was still messed up, and he welcomed her. I think that this is really the reason that she was so stunned, so surprised and so amazed. Because of her sin, she had known rejection well. She understood rejection. She accepted rejection as a consequence of her sin. And yet now, in spite of her sin, she has received acceptance, forgiveness, a perfect relationship with Jesus, and eternal life.
Jesus was often reviled by others because he welcomed and received sinners. Are we willing to risk doing the same? Our lady of the window reminds us that we should be willing, and readily willing. Our lady of the window reminds us that no one is so unworthy that they cannot enter through these doors of our sanctuary. Our lady of the window reminds us that all are welcome here, that all are worthy of God’s grace, and that all may receive God’s gift of living water that will become in them a spring of water, gushing up to eternal life. Are we willing to allow God to change our hearts in this way? Or do we prefer our rules? There, (as the pastor points to the stained glass window) my brothers and sisters is the well of living water, gushing up to eternal life.