March 12, 2023
MUSICAL OFFERING ANNOUNCEMENTS
All PULSE articles are due on March 15th.
PRAYER REQUESTS Please hold the following in your prayers.
· Jon who has been in the hospital.
· Betty Farwell and JoAnn Grimm who struggle with health problems.
· Richard Lewis who broke a hip and is recovering at the Alverno.
· Arlene Pawlik who is recovering from a broken leg.
· Those who are on hospice: Joan Pinkston & Maxine Wagner.
CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 95: 1-3)
L: O Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
P: Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving.
L: Let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
P: For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
L: Today we come to listen to his voice.
P: Today we come to hear his call and know his presence.
L: Let us worship our God.
From the wilderness of sin we come to worship you, Eternal Lord. You gave drink to your thirsty people in the wilderness and living water to the woman at the well, so we hold our parched and thirsty lives to you. May we worship you in spirit and in truth and know ourselves held in your care. Amen
HYMN From All That Dwell Below the Skies #229
CALL TO CONFESSION
Beside a well in Samaria Jesus offered the woman a gift of life. Let us begin to claim for ourselves that spring of water gushing up to eternal life. Let us lay bare our soul before our Savior in order to receive this gift. Please join me in our prayer of confession.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
How often, Loving Lord, do we doubt your presence and care? We cry out in anger or despair while failing to notice your blessings showered upon us. We turn away from your word, and bargain with ourselves, justifying actions that we know are wrong. Lord, we need this living water that only you can offer. Help us to open our hearts to you, our Savior. May we, too, worship you in spirit and in truth.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
God has proven his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son. Believe this good news: In Christ Jesus we are able to stand before our Lord.
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
(Please greet those around you with these words.)
May the peace of Christ be with you. And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Help us, O Lord, to be aware of our own deep yearning and thirst for your presence. Open our hearts that we might hear your words of life. Allow us to receive refreshment for our souls, reassurance for our worries and direction for our lives. By your Spirit, allow your word to give us these waters of eternal life. Amen
Exodus 17: 1-7
17 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink. “Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?” 3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
John 4: 5-42
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is rue. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” 39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
SERMON Washing Away the IF
Don’t you have to wonder about those ex-slaves in the wilderness? They’d seen the power of God. They had watched on the sidelines, giggling, I imagine as God smited the Egyptians. Moses had struck the Nile and it turned to blood. Can you imagine? I hope everyone had gathered water to drink before that happened! We don’t know that the Hebrew people had, but I’m going to assume that Moses had given them a heads up. And all those other plagues. My favorite is frogs. I can just imagine grabbing for a bowl a cereal and having frogs jump out of the cabinet! Gnats, flies, locusts, boils, hail, darkness, livestock disease, and then the big one. The death of the first born, but those slaves were safely tucked away in their houses, the blood of the lamb guarding the doorposts. And then they were off—on their way to freedom. Their Egyptian overlords had even pressed gold and silver in their hand to launch them—Just get out of Dodge!
But that wasn’t the end of the matter. When Pharaoh had second thoughts, here came the army trapping the people between approaching disaster and the Red Sea. Once again God saved the day. Now Moses struck the waters and a pathway opened up. Across they went and when Pharaoh’s troops tried to follow the waters closed over top of them. Finally freedom.
Hadn’t God taken care of them? Even in the wilderness God had provided sweet water when all they could find was undrinkable, bitter drink. He had rained manna upon them. He even sent quails for meat, but here they were once again grumbling and building themselves into a fit, threatening to stone Moses, moaning about the food back home. Why did God bring them out into the wilderness in the first place. Was it so they could die of thirst?
No confidence at all. They’d seen all of this, why couldn’t they trust? Maybe it’s because that’s just not the nature of us humans. Don’t we want to control our destiny? We want to know what’s up ahead and how we are going to get there. We NEED to plan and make preparation, to bargain if needed and explore options. We form committees to find answers. That’s just who we are, and we get frustrated when those things are taken from us.
And another thing that we might consider about those ex-slaves is that for their whole lives they had been taken care of in predictable, even if hostile, ways. Now they needed to trust in God, but it wasn’t predictable, and God didn’t give out an itinerary for how things were going to go.
It was a completely different system, and doesn’t that throw us off track? Even something as minor as the beginning of Daylight Savings time. I bet several of us plan a nap this afternoon, and we’ll be out of sync for a few days, to boot.
So maybe we shouldn’t shake our finger too hard. And then there is this, that I think compounds the uncertainty. It was after God had provided drinkable water after they had first crossed the Red Sea. God had said, “IF you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all of his statues, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” That’s a conditional phrase and there are four big Ifs. A lot of conditions to meet, even if we might argue that they boil down to one big one. So maybe under those conditions we might be a little less assured of God’s continued care, too.
Isn’t that why God sent his Son into our world—to eliminate a lot of those Ifs? And the story of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with our Lord is a perfect example.
To begin with, it was just the two of them. Jesus was on his own. His disciples had gone to find food. The woman was alone, as well. The busy time at the well would be in the morning. We don’t know why she was late. Perhaps she’d been there earlier, as well and now needed more water. Maybe she was avoiding the busy time, or avoiding the other women. We don’t know.
How surprised she must have been to see a Jewish man loitering by the well, and when he spoke to her that was a surprise, too. Men didn’t regularly engage in conversation with unknown women. But here he is asking her for a drink, and she noted his uncustomary request.
Do you notice how Jesus sort of ignores the point of her question and offers the heart of the matter? He tells her that if she just knew who was asking she would request that he give her “living water.” (Living water is running water as from a brook or a spring, even a river. It was considered a higher quality water.)
The woman takes offense, assuming that he is insulting the well which was rather famous, from the time of Jacob. “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and this well is deep. (In other words, you’re not fooling me!) And Hey do you think you’re better than our ancestor Jacob? Do you hear the way she’s bristling against this arrogant Jew?
Jesus tries to explain. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again. But those who drink of the water that I will give will never grow thirsty. The water that I give will become in them a spring gushing up to eternal life.”
Now he has her attention. Now she’s willing to ask the question. “OK, give me this water so I won’t be thirsty and won’t have to keep coming here to draw water.”
But there is a price. And now Jesus get to that. “Go and get your husband and bring him back.” That would be fine except the woman has to admit she doesn’t have a husband. Now she’s beginning to come clean.
Jesus tells her what he already knows. Not only does she not have a husband now, she’s had five husbands and her living arrangement is with a man to whom she’s not married. Now that might mean she’s broken one of those commandments God sent down the mountain. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” But there are other scenarios that might also be true. Living with another male relative or being a servant or a slave with a household. Regardless, she would really like to change the topic, so she turns the classic dispute between Jews and Samaritans—Where is the proper place to worship God? Is it in Jerusalem as the Jews claim or on Mount Gerizim as the Samaritans assert.
Jesus replies that the time is coming when neither place will be an option for worship. He slides in that salvation is from the Jews, but the important piece is worshipping God in spirit and truth.
When the woman comments that she knows that the Messiah is coming, Jesus tells her “I am he, the one speaking to you.”
And with that hanging in the air, his disciples return. How surprised they are that he is speaking with this Samaritan woman. She has three strikes against her. Samaritan, female and of questionable reputation. Even if her current living arrangement were acceptable, five husbands is a LOT.
Do you notice that Jesus doesn’t put any IFS on this woman? There is no condition except that she make the request for her to receive this living water, this eternal life, this presence of God to walk with her along the way.
Later we discover that the woman has accepted Jesus offer. She has told her whole community about him and they, too, have come to believe.
Suddenly we get it. Jesus accepts us BEFORE we can get all our IFS in order. God bends low and gives us this gift of living water. It’s an assurance that God’s love and forgiveness are ours for the asking. We get to be agents of light and hope in Jesus’ name. We can let go of our fear and anxiety. We can be patient in waiting for God because we know that it will be OK. We can see life’s difficulties, not as obstacles, but as stair steps to grow closer to God.
All of us have things that we wish we’d done differently. We wish we’d been smarter and more sensitive about how we handled something. We wish we’d avoided doing or saying that thing that hurt our brother or sister. We wish we’d spent more time showing forth God’s love. I bet the Samaritan woman had some of those same wishes. But ultimately she could let them go because Jesus had offered her living water and she’d drunk deep into eternal life.
He offers it to us, as well. Regardless of our “I wish I didn’t have this in my history” living water that gushes up to offer us eternal life is as close as our “Yes, please, Lord.” It’s sweet and refreshing.; it keeps us hydrated in ways that are sweet and hopeful. It carries us through stress and crises. It reminds us that God is present. God is providing that which we need.
Those Hebrew slaves will come to understand these things, and at times they will fall back to doubting. But Jesus comes to us with an invitation and a pitcher of cold, refreshing, life giving water. Let’s drink and know the sweetness that carries us forward into God’s eternal grace. Amen.
HYMN Amazing Grace #280 PASTORAL PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR LIVES
DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
INVITATION TO THE LORD’S TABLE
THE PRAYER OF GREAT THANKSGIVING
God who offers us life and hope and forgiveness, we praise you, Lord.
We offer our joyful thanks for your gift of life. You, O Christ, were obedient unto death for us. Help us to remember that we can’t do it ourselves. We need you.
We need your strength and your wisdom, your love and your guidance, your salvation and your unending grace.
You offer all these things to your people. You call us just as you called
disciples long ago.
With those disciples you sat to share this sacred meal. You offered to them, and to all of us, participation in your life and in your death. You took the bread and broke it,
Calling for us to remember not only the unleavened bread that the Hebrew slaves ate as they fled from Egypt,
But also you, our Bread of life,
Your body broken on a cross for us.
You poured out the cup
Calling for us to share in the drinking of it.
It is salvation, release from the bondage of sin and death.
But it is also the power in your blood that offers to us the new covenant by which God writes his laws upon our hearts.
As we eat at this table, sharing your body broken, your life-blood poured out, we know ourselves to be the children of the living God.
May we be lifted to you by the power of your Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Be our host in this banquet of life.
Come Lord Jesus into our hearts and into our lives. Amen
RECEIVING THE BREAD AND CUP COMMUNION PRAYER
HYMN Come Sing, O Church in Joy! #430
CHARGE & BLESSING POSTLUDE
We will remain seated throughout the service.
Bold text is to be read together aloud as a congregation.