Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Invest in People

This continues the OASIS series. I forgot to post it on Sunday. We have reached the I of OASIS--"Invest in People."

I’d like to introduce you to a woman, who is a lot you and me. On the day she met Jesus at the well she did not know she was dying of thirst. She did not know that God saw and loved her. She did not know that her life was about to change forever.

John 4:3-27

So he [Jesus] left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

Jesus broke several barriers--he changed travel plans, ignored gender-based limitations, flouted common racial prejudice, and he the "rabbi" spoke intimately with a woman of questionable reputation. Why? Because he knew that he came to this earth for one purpose. People. People are eternal. He saw this woman's need for the life only he could give to her.

Jesus always invested in people, even when it meant going the cross. People are the only thing that lasts for eternity. In Jesus' encounter with a woman at a well, we see our own need for an encounter with Jesus, and we are reminded of what it is we, as followers and disciples of the Lord, are to do. To invest in people is to invest in eternity.

Jesus invited the woman to see him for who he is. Jesus said, in effect, "You don't know who I am." Sometimes I think we are not much different. We may intellectually know who Jesus is supposed to be, but our hearts aren't so sure. Sometimes if we have been rejected we see him as rejecting us, if we have been judged harshly we see him as judgemental, if wounded by anger, as someone always angry, and so on. We don’t come to God with our deepest hurts if we see him wrongly.

Secondly, he invites the woman to let go of the things that do not satisfy. Samaritans and Jews were bitter rivals; each group claimed the distinction of being the people of God. The Samaritans believed that their land, and especially Mount Gerazim, was particularly holy and set apart for God. Jacob, the father of Jews and Samaritans, was an important figure and his well was special. She was holding on to what she had, what she knew, what she thought would bring meaning and significance.
Jesus invited her to spiritual life that would truely satisfy. He offers us the same invitation, knowing that we run to relationships, or alcohol and drugs or friendships, or distract ourselves from our thirst with work or busyness. It is never enough. We have to keep coming back. Drugs, food, sex, elationships... whatever it is we use to quench our thirst.

He invites her, and us, to see him for who he really is. He invites us to let go of our ways to find satisfaction, to give up our attempts to find satisfaction.

Sometimes he works through people, members of the body of Christ who speak something to us in the power of the Spirit, sometimes with the gifts of the Spirit, sometimes circumstances, or books or songs or many other ways. He pursues us. Jesus got the woman’s attention, and she invited him give her the better water, the one that truly satisfies.

Ah, he will come, but only at your invitation!

He next moves to the area of her brokenness. He says, "Go call your husband." We know that one of the woman’s issues was relationships with men. Married five times, she tried to find relief over and over again. Many preachers make a point of saying she was a "sinful" woman, but Jesus doesn't say much about that, does he? We do not know what caused her brokeness--was she widowed, abused, deserted? What will you do when the Holy Spirit reveals a wounded place in your heart? She was honest. "I have no husband." When we confess, when we agree with Jesus that we’re hopelessly defeated in a certain area, we’re allowing Christ to enter into that place of brokenness to bring healing and new life.

Jesus invited her to see him for who he really was. Why? He invited her to give up the inferior things, things that don’t really satisfy. Why? He went, kindly but purposefully, to her brokeness. Why? To bring life. He gives an astonishingly clear statement, "I am the Messiah!" And as truth dawned in her life, she ran to tell others.

Jesus went out of his way, broke social custom and convention, and spoke plainly in order to invest in one woman who opened the way for others to find him.

Will we learn from his example and invest in the only thing that lasts--PEOPLE?

Someone once said, "In order to get the best, you have to give up the rest." He invites her, and us, to enter his presence and worship. That is where her healing, and ours comes.


Iris Godfrey said...

Good sermon. Good data, good points and excellent conclusions. Thank you for sharing.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Reading this is so choppy! I'm happy to say that the spoken version was better, IMO.