Sunday, 23 March 2014

Much More

…a short homily for the Third Sunday of Lent with reference to Romans 5.1-11 and John 4.5-42, Year A

Jesus still reveals himself to us in ways that are just as surprising, mysterious and misunderstood as the way he revealed himself to Nicodemus last week (John 3.1-17) and to the woman at the well this week in John 4.

For example, Jesus still asks us for help, just as he did the woman at the well in John 4.7: "A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The trouble is he often comes to me disguised as someone I don’t want to help. Someone who is not very attractive and well behaved. Ungrateful. Difficult. Demanding. And I am all too likely to miss an opportunity to serve Jesus, himself. And I am uncomfortably reminded of Jesus saying, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (Mt 25.45)

Something that makes me go, “Hmmn,” in what is supposed to be a Holy Lent of almsgiving, self examination, penitence and all the rest.

Even when I do get it right, and do provide the person in need with a refreshing act of kindness, I can easily be misunderstood because I am unclear about why I’m doing it and for whose sake.

The woman didn’t get Jesus at first. “Sir,” she says, “you have no bucket.” (John 4.11) That’s how you and I appear sometimes, too. Bucket-less. But I’m not. Neither are you. The act of kindness and service is important but it is so much, much more than it appears on the surface.

Look at Romans 5.9-10. When we do it in The Name of Jesus and for his sake, it really is the “much more” of the possibility of being saved through him and by his life from the wrath of God. It really is the offer of a drink from a spring of living water gushing up to eternal life (John 4.10, 14).

We are not as bucket-less as people think. When some of you prepare the food and serve it at Hope Street this afternoon and clean up afterwards, no matter what the people think or how aware they are, you are offering the “much more” that Jesus promises, the “living water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4.10, 14) that only Jesus provides.

Look at John 4.27. The disciples were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman. People may be surprised when we try to help and serve awkward folk on the edges of our society. People might say, why do you bother with them? You’re just allowing dysfunctional people to take advantage of you.

Look at Romans 5.3. What if me being prepared to suffer a little inconvenience by giving up some of my Sunday afternoon nap time, grows some endurance in me, which grows some character, which produces hope in some people who have lost it through a free lunch because God’s love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit that has been given to me (Romans 5.5). How much more would that be?

Look at John 4.29. And what if, like the woman at the well, some of those people, or even one of them, went back home and said to her friends, “Come and see a bunch of people who were really good to me because they follow Jesus. ‘He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’” Look at verse 39. And what if lots of people in this city come to believe in Jesus because of it and to know that Jesus is truly the Saviour of the world.

How much more than we could ask or imagine is that?