Lent 3 A John 4:5-42
the Gospel lesson, convert it into a reading drama with a narrator,
the woman at the well and Jesus. It makes for a wonderful play.)
It takes so good. It tastes so good especially when your throat is
parched and dry. Water…I cannot live without it. Without water, my
body would die.
we all know, water is part of our everyday living. For example:
think of your bathroom. In the bathroom, we wash our hands. We take
a bath with water. We take a shower with water. We wash our hair
with water. We brush our teeth with water. We flush our toilets with
water. The other option is having an outdoor outhouse with no water,
but that isn’t a pleasant choice.
think of your kitchen. In our kitchens, we wash our hand with water
before meals. We cook our meals with water. We wash our dishes after
our meals with water. The dishwasher uses water. We get a glass of
water. We fill the ice-cube tray with water. The icemaker uses
water. We wash the kitchen floor with water. Without water in the
kitchen, the kitchen doesn’t work very well. Cooking around a
campfire means no running water.
think of your carport or garage. Outside, we have water in our
carports or garages. We wash our cars with water and hose our
driveways. We water our gardens; we water our flowers; and we water
our lawns. In the summertime, the kids run through the water
sprinklers and squeal with glee.
us, water is the common and ordinary stuff of life. It is part of
our everyday living. It is a daily part of your life and mine. Some
people say that America is the breadbasket of the world. I think
American is the waterbuck of the world. We Americans are spoiled by
the amount of good water we have available to us.
2 under A: Water is part of our essential life. Students please
write that down.
never ceases to amaze me that my body is composed of seventy percent
water. It is hard to imagine that seventy percent of the flesh
standing before you today is water. That means about 154 pounds of
water is standing before you right now. I am not going to tell you
what I weigh but I can guarantee you that 70% of my body weight and
your body weight is composed of water.
are two and a half quarts of water in my blood. There are fifteen
quarts of water in the extra plasma in my body. There are thirty
quarts of water in the cells of my body, allowing all those little
cells to grow. It always amazes me that 154 pounds of water are
standing before you today at this moment. Truly, I am living water.
people say that I am a bag of wind. Others say that I am a bag of
hot air. But I am really a bag of water. I am a great big bag of
water. Standing before you today is walking, breathing, living
water. I am truly living water.
is important to my diet. It amazes me that I cannot live without
water, that water is more important to my diet than food. It amazes
me that I can exist for thirty days without food but I can exist
only one to four days without water. I cannot live without water. It
amazes me how absolutely necessary water is for by body to exist.
it always amazes me that during my first nine months of life, I was
in the water of my mother’s womb. I began in a bag of living
water. I lived as a fetus for nine months in my mother’s womb. I
could not live without that water surrounding me and in me. Truly,
as a fetus, I was surrounded by living water. The water around me
was truly the water of life. The bag of water around you as a fetus
and me as a fetus was living water.
is part of our every day life. Water is part of our essential life.
is with these images that we hear the great words of Jesus when he
says, “The water I give is living water. Whoever drinks of the
water I give will never thirst. He who believes in me, out of his
heart will flow rivers of living water. The rivers of living
water I give will become a spring of living water, welling up into
I what I would like to talk with you about today: Living water. What
is it? Where does it come from? What does it do?
Gospel for today is a great story. The basis and source of the
sermon for today is the Gospel lesson about the woman at the well.
Today’s Gospel story is a story that we can easily visualize. We
can easily visualize that she was a Samaritan and he was a Jew and
Samaritans and Jews didn’t talk with each other. We can easily
visualize how Jesus got personal with her and said, “Woman, where
is your husband?” The woman said, “I don’t have a husband.”
Jesus said, “I know. You have had five husbands and you are
now shacking up with a sixth guy.” We can easily visualize this
conversation and her embarrassment.
We can easily visualize how uncomfortable she was when Jesus
brought it up that she was married five times. We can easily
visualize how she artfully changes the subject. And to this woman,
this five time loser, to this woman who must have suffered so much
personal tragedy, Jesus offered her what she needed the most, what
she really needed. The woman at the well needed living water. She
could get physical water from the well but what she really needed
was the living water that Jesus told her about. That story is the
basis of the sermon for today.
to begin? Rather than
just jumping in and talking about living water, I first want to talk
about the relationship of Jesus and this woman. The relationship
between Jesus and the woman is very complicated and interesting, so
let us first talk about their relationship and then the living
Jesus loved this woman at the well, and Jesus wants us to love her
as well. Jesus had compassion for her and Jesus wants us to have
compassion for her as well. Jesus did not condemn her and Jesus
doesn’t want us to condemn her either. Jesus wasn’t harsh with
her. He didn’t put her down. He didn’t judge her. She would have
been an easy mark. You could have made this woman squirm easily It
would have been easy for him to do that…with five divorces and all
and now shacking up with a guy. It would have been so easy for Jesus
to condemn her, to reprimand her, to say “naughty, naughty,
naughty, mustn’t do that, woman.” But not Jesus. From the first
moment Jesus was with her, you sense a tenderness towards her. He
didn’t seem upset by her behavior. Closely examine the story for
today and you will not find one hint of condemnation of her, not one
single word of criticism of her. Instead, you sense his tenderness,
knowing her personal tragedies. Jesus did not have that judgmental
spirit to his personality.
is the way that Jesus was with so many people.
Zaccheus for example. Zaccheus was a crook, a cocky little
crook, who ripped off his fellow Jews by stealing their taxes. And
Jesus looked up into the sychamore tree and said, “Zaccheus, you
come down, for I am coming to your house this day. I am coming to
have dinner at your house today.” I mean, Jesus could have said,
“Come on down here, Zaccheus. I want to talk with you about what
you have been doing lately. I want to tell you how you have been
stealing these people by overtaxing them. You are a crook, plain and
simple. You have been robbing the people, even if it is lawful.”
That is what Jesus could have done. Jesus could have called a spade
a spade and condemned Zaccheus on the spot. “Zaccheus, you are a
crook, a thief, a moral creep.” But not Jesus. Jesus does not
condemn Zaccheus. No, it is just the opposite. Jesus loved Zaccheus.
Jesus’ heart was not judgmental towards the obvious failings of
are many similar stories in the Bible, such as the woman caught in
the act of adultery. It was the same scene, similar verse. Love for
the sinner; no condemnation. There is not one sentence of
condemnation in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
you know the people Jesus did condemn? The religious people. The
Pharisees who thought that their sins weren’t as bad as the woman
at the well. Those were
the people that Jesus condemned. Not the woman at the well. Jesus
loved that woman.
that is the way that Jesus feels about you and me as well. Jesus
loves us in all of our sinfulness. So when we live our marriages in
such a way that it is not good, healthy and appropriate. So when we
commit adultery or when we get married five times or when we are
shacking up with somebody else or when we have sex before marriage
or outside of marriage or when we have abortions or when we get into
conflict with our neighbors, does Jesus condemn us any more than the
woman at the well? No. Jesus doesn’t need to condemn us because
our hearts have already condemned us. When you sin in these ways,
Jesus does not need to condemn you because your hearts already
condemn yourself. … And so when we are too materialistic and sin
with money and when we are to preoccupied with materials pleasures
and when we become too busy for God, what is Jesus’ attitude
towards us? Does he
condemn us? No. When you are a person who doesn’t pray very well
and to into bed and fall asleep and rarely talk with God; when you
are an average American Christian who spends four minutes a day in
prayer with God; Jesus does not condemn you because your heart is
already condemning you.
and I don’t need condemnation. What we need is living water.
Jesus does not condemn us does not mean that Jesus condones our
sinful behaviors. Jesus did not condone what the woman at the well
had done and was doing nor does Jesus condone us as well when we are
sinning. Sometimes, we human beings are sufficiently slippery so
that if God doesn’t condemn us, then we erroneously assume that
God condones our sinful behavior. Sometimes, we can become very
slippery. Jesus didn’t condemn, not did Jesus condone.
point is: Jesus offered the woman what she really needed. She needed
living water, not a condemnation.
second quality that I notice about the relationship between Jesus
and this woman is that Jesus got personal with her. Jesus always
gets personal. Jesus always has a way of coming into our personal
lives. When Jesus became personal with her and started asking
embarrassing questions about her five husbands, she tried to
cleverly change the subject and talk about religion. She didn’t
want Jesus to get personal. She wanted to talk about safe subjects.
Jesus said, “Go and get your husband for me.”
She said, “I don’t have a husband.”
Jesus said, “I know. You have had five husbands and the man
you are now living with is not your husband.” I love the woman’s
response. “Jesus, I hear that you Jews believe that you are to
worship God in Jerusalem whereas we Samaritans believe that God is
to be worshipped in Samaria. Where do you think we should really
worship God? Jerusalem or Samaria?” Do you see her dodge? She
tried to trick Jesus into a conversation about where to worship,
Jerusalem or Samaria, and what she was doing is so obvious. She was
trying to steer the conversation away from the conversation about
her past five husbands. She thought to herself: “Stay away from my
private life. Stay away from my personal life. I don’t want to
talk about that.” She thought Jesus was going to give her a pious
lecture about how to avoid divorces.
Jesus did want to talk with her about her personal life. Jesus
wanted to free her, forgive her, shape her life in a new direction,
change her. Jesus wanted to offer this woman the living water. So
when Jesus came into her private and personal life, he did not give
her a little moral lecture about divorce, a recitation of the ten
commandments with an emphasis on the sixth commandment and adultery.
Jesus came into her private life and offered her not a lecture but
the living water.
that is the way God works with you and me. A sign that God is active
in our lives is when he comes into our personal lives. Jesus wants
to get personal with you and me. Jesus wants to get into your
private life and mine. You have a private and personal life which is
contrary to the will of God. And Christ comes into our personal
lives, not to embarrass us, not to judge us, not to be unkind or
malicious to us. Not to condemn us because our hearts are already
condemning us. But Christ comes into our private and personal lives
to free us and change us and offer us what we really need: living
what is this living water? What is this living water that Jesus
offered the woman to drink? Jesus said, “I want to give you living
water. Whoever live in me, out of their heart will flow rivers of
living water.” ‘Well, what is this living water, these rivers of
is living water? The living water is the Holy Spirit. The living
water is the Spirit of Jesus and his love. Jesus answers that
question clearly in John, chapter seven, where we discover that the
living water is the Spirit. The living water is the Holy Spirit. The
living water is the Spirit of God himself. God is Spirit. And the
person who believes in Christ, the Spirit of God and the Spirit of
God’s love comes and lives in that person. The living water is the
spirit of the living God. The very essence of God. God’s energy.
God’s love. God’s forgiveness. God’s words. God’s wisdom.
God’s feelings. God’s attitudes. God’s actions. It is the very
presence of God. The very presence of Christ. What Jesus wants to
give you in full measure is his Holy Spirit.
human beings are composed of four parts: mind, body, emotions and
spirit. God’s spirit comes into us and that affects the way we
live with all four parts of our humanity. God affects our thinking,
our physical activity, our emotions, our spirit. We all have flesh
and it grows over time. We all have minds and our minds grow. We all
have emotions and our emotions grow and mature over time. And we all
have spirits, and our spirits grow as well.
What Jesus wants to do is to take his Spirit and to pour his
Spirit into our spirit. His Spirit is poured into our Spirit. We all
know that the spirit in us is the most important part of our
personality. We know that the spirit in us influences the way we
think, the way we feel, the way we act. The spirit in us and
enormously important and Christ’s spirit comes and fills our
wants us to have the fullness of his spirit, and I offer you to
analogies to help us understand that.
you all go into your refrigerator and find a jug of cold water?
Would you take an empty jug of water from the refrigerator and you
put it under the kitchen sink water spigot and fill it up. You put
it back into the refrigerator and the water cools and becomes cold.
Then, later, you pour out from that water jug, cold, fresh,
invigorating water. The cold fresh water from the water jug is
poured into a glass and you drink it.
are Spirit and Jesus wants to pour his Spirit into your life. You
are the cold water jug; Jesus is the water faucet. You need your
inner spirit filled up every day from the endless supply of Jesus
who is symbolized by the water spigot and its endless supply of
water. When you believe in Christ, Christ pours the Spirit of
God’s love into you. Then, that love and spirit flows out
of you. Out of you flows rivers of living water. The rivers of
living water flow out from you, the love of Christ, the compassion
of Christ, the gentleness of Christ, the forgiveness of Christ, the
very attitude and character of God. That is what Jesus offered to
this woman: living water, the very Spirit of God to be in her and
then flow from her.
second analogy. Would you all imagine a creek bed? Would you have
that creek bed died up? Nothing but sand and rocks on the bottom of
that creek bed? That is the way some spiritual lives of people are.
Now, would you add a trickle of water? A trickle of a stream?
Nothing could live in that trickle of water. No fish. No salmon.
Nothing. That symbolizes those Christians who pray only four minutes
a day. Now, I want you to imagine your creek but there is a huge dam
above that creek and behind that huge dam is a reservoir that
extends hundreds of miles. The sluice in the dam is opened and there
is an endless supply of water flowing into the creek. You and I are
the creek; the Spirit of Jesus is the reservoir, and from the
endless supply of the reservoir, the river of Christ’s love flows
from our lives. It is not our love or water; it is the water and
love from this reservoir above the creek. When the creek is full and
fresh with flowing and rushing water. Trout live there. Salmon live
there. That is what Jesus wants of us in our spiritual lives. Jesus
does not want you to have a little bit of spirit, four minutes a day
of prayer. What Jesus wants for you is that he will pour into your
hearts rivers of living water and out from you will also flow rivers
of living water. Did you hear the word, rivers? That is what
Christianity is about, when Christ came into your heart in full
measure. That is what that woman at the well needed. Not just a
little bit of spirit, but the fullness of the Spirit, the living
water. That is what she needed.
did not offer her a soft reprimand e.g. “naughty, naughty,
naught.” Jesus did not offer her a parental reprimand: “Don’t
you think you need to consider what you are doing with your life in
this situation? What will your children think? What will the
neighbors think? What you have done is a shame to our family, to
your parents and grandparents.” Jesus did not offer this woman a
religious reprimand “If you were a better person and truly religious, you
wouldn’t be doing what you are doing. How could you as a Christian
woman do such a thing?” No.
None of that. Instead, he offered this woman living water. He
offered her what she really needed. Jesus offered this woman the
living water, the Spirit of God so she could become truly alive.
What we need are not religious putdowns, family putdowns, moral
putdowns. What we need is the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Holy
Spirit, rivers of living water that is poured into our hearts and
flows from our hearts.
more thought. The woman at the well: she wasn’t looking for Jesus.
She wasn’t out searching for the Messiah like Nicodemus was. She
was just out living life. She was just out getting her bucket of
water from the well. She wasn’t especially looking for God or
wanting to walk the godly life. And when she wasn’t even looking
for it, Jesus said: “I would like to give you some living
water.” She didn’t even ask for it, and Jesus offered her the
very best gift in the whole world, at a time in life when she really
Jesus does the same to you and me. We may not be looking for God. We
may be just living life, day by day, and to us who are living life
just day by day, Jesus says: “Whoever believes in me, I will pour
into him, into her, the living water, and out from his heart shall
flow rivers of living water.” Christ makes the same offer to you
and me, whether we are looking or not.
I ask you, where do you get this living water? Where do you get the
rivers of living and loving water? From Jesus. Jesus is the source
of the living water. And where do you find Jesus? In the Word. There
are four river channels. The one channel is the Word. Through Bible
study, immersing yourself in the Word of God. The second channel to
find Jesus and his gift of the living water is through worship,
Baptism and Holy Communion. We worship privately during the day and
publicly on Sunday. We
find Jesus and in him the living water through prayer. It is through
daily prayer and by daily prayer, God does not mean a trickle of
four minutes per day. We pray daily personally and publicly in
worship. 4) The fourth place where we find Jesus and his gift of the
living water is through conversations and community with Christian
friends. These are four places where we find Christ who gives us the
Gospel story is one of the best stories in the whole Bible. Here was
a woman who was a five times loser and was shacking up with another
man. She was a five time loser who was not even looking for God.
Jesus offered this woman what she really needed: not a
lecture but the living water. He offered her what she really needed
and she couldn’t live without. And Jesus does the same with us.
SERMON. The children
are all invite up to the chancel area and they need to stand apart
from each other. Spread out so you have room to move. Now, I want
you children to pretend that you are all trees, but you don’t have
much water in you. Right in front of you, and you are trees, is a
river or stream of fresh water. Now, we know how you the tree get
water. Your roots need to go deep down into soil and deep under the
soil, you will get water from this stream. So you children, all of
your toes are roots, so drive your toes deep into the soil. Come on
now, pretend you are driving your toes, your roots, deep into the
soil and your roots are reaching this stream in front of you. Your
toes and roots are going down farther and farther and deeper and
deeper. The water is starting to come into you from this stream.
Start to raise your hands like your hands are the tree branches. You
are getting more water. You are getting a lot of water. You are
coming alive. Keep
those toes down into the water. Now, start waving your hands like
you are waving branches and let your bodies sway in the wind. Wiggle
your noses so we know you are alive. Roll your eyes so that we know
that they are living. Wave your arms like branches of trees waving
in the wind. Yes, if you are going to be a Christian, you want to
have roots that go way down into the water, the Spirit of God, and
if you have roots way down deep into the water, you come alive as a
Christian and start to move. Thanks children. You were good trees
with wonderful roots that went down into the water.
THE READING OF THE GOSPEL, have the baptismal font with water in it
representing Jacob’s well. Have Jesus and the woman at the well do
the Gospel do the gospel reading from the well.
Please watch the videotape of this sermon as an illustration of
preaching without notes and how the sermon can become alive when
preaching from a mental outline.