March 12, 2023

Prayer of the Day

Merciful God, the fountain of living water, you quench our thirst and wash away our sin. Give us this water always. Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Exodus 17:1-7

1From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lordcommanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Psalm 95

1Come, let us sing | to the Lord;
  let us shout for joy to the rock of | our salvation.
2Let us come before God’s presence | with thanksgiving
  and raise a loud shout to the | Lord with psalms.
3For you, Lord, | are a great God,
  and a great ruler a- | bove all gods.
4In your hand are the caverns | of the earth;
  the heights of the hills are | also yours.
5The sea is yours, | for you made it,
  and your hands have molded | the dry land.
6Come, let us worship | and bow down,
  let us kneel before the | Lord our maker. 
7For the Lord is our God, and we are the people of God’s pasture and the sheep | of God’s hand.
  Oh, that today you would | hear God’s voice!
8“Harden | not your hearts,
  as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah | in the desert.
9There your ancestors | tested me,
  they put me to the test, though they had | seen my works.
10Forty years I loathed that gener- | ation, saying,
  ‘The heart of this people goes astray; they do not | know my ways.’
11Indeed I swore | in my anger,
  ‘They shall never come | to my rest.’ ” 

Romans 5:1-11

1Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4:5-42

5[Jesus] came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “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.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
27Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Christ and the Samaritan Woman  —  Henryk Siemiradzki, Lviv Art Gallery, Lviv, Ukraine

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I have been listening to a relatively new podcast called The Planning Commission. One of the hosts led the health assessment of the city of Nampa pre-pandemic. Their episode this past week introduced me to a new phrase, though not a new concept: place making. Here’s a bit of a definition: As both an overarching idea and a hands-on approach for improving a neighborhood, city or region, placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public ream in order to maximize shared value.

In today’s gospel from John, Jesus becomes the ultimate place maker and equips the woman at the well to become one as well. It is a fabulous encounter because of the role Jesus plays, but equally because of the Samaritan woman at the well.  She has gumption, personality, conversation skills, and courage. We never even learn her name.  And yet, Jesus’ conversation with her is longer than with any of his other conversations recorded in scripture.  This is an encounter worthy of our attention. It’s quite a contrast to the story that comes before it.

The Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. To Nicodemus, Jesus pronounced, “God so loved the world that he sent his only son.” Now Jesus is walking the talk—crossing every possible boundary. He speaks to a Samaritan, who by rule did not associate with Jews. This Samaritan is a woman, another boundary.  And finally, this woman is ostracized by her own community. We know this before getting her personal background because she can’t even draw water at normal hours, when respectable townsfolk come to the well. 

What do we really know about this woman at the well?  Five times she has been either widowed or abandoned.  Likely she was infertile, or perhaps too uppity.  We will never know.  But neither does it say, even though many interpreters have delighted to assume, that she was a tramp.  

Jesus shows his knowledge of the woman’s former husbands and the man now in her life.  Notice that he does not attempt to shame or judge her.  Such judgment has been projected onto the text, but I don’t hear it.  No, instead Jesus expresses intimate knowledge of her pain—rejection, loss, vulnerability, impermanence.  He sees her, all of her, and he knows her.  

Being seen is a powerful thing.  I love that moment when you hold an infant who is looking at everything around the room, suddenly your eyes lock, you both smile, and she knows in her tiny little heart that she is loved.  But the need to be seen does not end there. 

I have witnessed people become invisible in their grief, all sorts of grief. Grieving a death, a loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the sale of a home, people disappear literally or hide in themselves. The truth is that if you live long enough you will go through some time when you believe no one on the planet truly sees you, truly knows who you are.     

To know that another human being has truly seen you, understood you, received you for who you really are, that is pure grace. It is being seen.  Most of us would do anything for it. Human beings long for communion, for deep connection. When we don’t have it, we literally waste away—from isolation, anger, depression, addiction. To use Jesus’ own image from today’s text, we find no quenching for our thirst and we dry up.

Jesus and the Samaritan woman talk with one another about water. Whether it’s clean water out of a tap that we take for granted, a spring of water in the desert, water from your water bottle on a long dusty walk, splashing into a mountain lake in the summer, water is truly life giving. That’s what makes it such a powerful image.

What’s more, the need for fresh water unifies living things. It is necessary for life. The same is true about being truly seen.  Is there anything else so necessary for the health of our souls?  That is just what Jesus does—he sees her. And I think we can confidently finish what the woman says to her townsfolk, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did…and loved me anyway.”  

It’s quite a contrast to the main character last week. Nicodemus is a Pharisee—an insider, a leader of the Jews.  He is a man, he has a name, but he comes to Jesus by night. The woman is a Samaritan—a religious, social, and political outsider.  She is a woman, she has no name, but she meets Jesus at noon, in full daylight.  

No one introduced to these two individuals would assume that the woman at the well would be open to what Jesus has to say, for her to identify Jesus and then to converse with him.  And yet it is she who testifies to Jesus, she is the one who gives her testimony. It is so easy to make assumptions about who is and who is not ready for Jesus’ living water, so easy to think we know who or who is not thirsting to know the Good News of Jesus Christ.

What conscious or subconscious assumptions do we make about people we would talk with about our faith, invite to worship or social events?  Do we seek out only those who look like us? Are our eyes and ears open to other possibilities, people who can almost seem invisible? From whose brokenness do we turn away even though he might be the one person who most needs to be seen? What oddball has been on the outside for so long that he does not even notice his need to be seen and loved?  

The truth is that each of us here is in some way broken, odd, has felt invisible in some way. By the grace of God, we were told or shown that God sees us and loves us. Maybe it happened long ago on a grandparent’s lap or in a Sunday School classroom or around a campfire. Perhaps it took place recently in a conversation with a friend, in the solitude of a long walk, or when you came to the Table for the first time or for the first time in a long time. Maybe it happened through something we simply cannot explain.  

How do we respond to such a claim on us—of being seen by a loving God? The Samaritan woman moves outside of her religious expectations to engage Jesus in a theological debate. The woman at the well hears the actual name of God, “I am.”   The last words of the woman at the well are “He cannot be the Christ, can he?” lead her to witness to her whole town.

When I speak with friends about preaching in this space, I acknowledge the wonder and challenge I experience. I am sure it is true of most congregations, but we come, each one of us, with such diverse stories. Yes, there are of course some threads of similarity but our backgrounds, trials, celebrations, daily lives are quite varied. 

What that means on a day like today is that some of you need to hear that Jesus sees you and loves you, just as he saw that Samaritan woman with her broken family. Jesus loved her enough to journey to the cross and die. And then God defeated even death in the resurrection. Full stop. 

Others of you know this truth so well, it floods you, quenches your thirst. You need to be reminded to share that gift. “Come and See!” Those are the words with which you can begin your testimony, your story of faith. Most of you need to hear both of these things. You are seen and you are loved just the way you are. Now go tell someone else that the same is true for him. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Sustained by God’s abundant mercy, let us pray for the church, the world, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

We pray for your church. Bless partnerships with other Christians and inter-religious dialogue. Guide the daily work of denominational and congregational leaders. Strengthen our combined witness for the sake of the gospel, that all experience your life-giving love. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for the universe. All creation teems with life, from the depths of the earth and seas to the skies above. Fill us with awe and reverence for the diversity and preservation of life. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for the nations of the world. Topple the dividing walls that separate us from our neighbors. Form us into your beloved community where diversity of gender, race, language, ability, and ethnic origin is celebrated and affirmed. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for those who suffer in mind, body, or spirit. Be present with all who are lonely, and give courage to all who are afraid. Comfort those who live with chronic illness or other sickness (especially). Give them your living water always. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We pray for this congregation, especially those preparing for baptism (at the Vigil of Easter/on Easter Day). Nurture their faith and pour your love into their hearts. Inspire our community by their testimony to God’s grace in their lives. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We give thanks for the lives of all your saints (especially Gregory the Great, whom we commemorate today). Their hope in you sustained lives of faith and service. Encourage us with the hope they shared in you. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your steadfast love and your promise to renew your whole creation; through Jesus Christ our Savior.

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