Sunday Service 12th March
The whole truth?
Call to worship
Hymn 517: Fight the good fight
Reading: John 4: 7-18 Kay
Hymn 557: O love that wilt not let me go
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 657 : Father most loving
Hymn 519 : Love Divine, all loves excelling
Welcome to our reflection for 12th March.
Before we start we want you to know that we record these services because we care.
And as a sign of that care we want you to know that your life, and what is happening in your life is important to us.
So if there is something in your life that you would want us to pray about then us the email address below and email us.
It can be as simple as ‘Hi, could you pray for my wife, she’s going through a rough patch just now.’
And I will send that over to our prayer team who will pray for you and your situation.
Now let us hear Kay give our reading and prayer for today.
‘You are right when you say you haven’t got a husband. You have been married to five men, and the man you live with now is not really your husband. You have told me the truth.’
You have told me the truth?
I don’t think so.
I think there is a huge leap from ‘I have no husband.’ to ‘I have been married five times and I am not even married to the guy that I am with.’
That would be like me saying to someone, ‘I haven’t seen you at church for a while.’
And they say, ‘I wasn’t feeling very well.’
And I say, ‘You are telling me the truth.
You were ill because your conscience was making you sick because you had written a stinking email to the guide captain who comes to church.
And you wrote that email because your daughter misbehaved and wasn’t allowed to go to the big jamboree. And because of your daughter missing the jamboree you had to look after her and cancel that weekend with the girls you had been looking forward to for the last three months.
And you were so angry, but not at your misbehaving daughter, but at that inflexible guide captain who obviously just wants perfect girls at her jamboree so that she can look good in front of all the other guide captains that will be there.
So you lost it and after having three wines you told the guide captain exactly what you thought of her and now you feel embarrassed and hope that everyone just forgets what you wrote
and hope that people don’t think you are just a selfish mother that wanted a weekend away from her daughter...which to be truthful is how you feel about yourself anyway,’
You have told me the truth.
Is that really what she had done?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning the woman for not telling ALL the truth.
Look at the situation.
She is alone with a strange man at the well in the middle of the day.
She is really vulnerable.
The man could rape her and in her society she would be blamed for it, because she had put herself in a position where she could be raped.
The best case scenario if she was raped was that it was a he said/she said thing and the society would always believe the man.
So then you have to ask yourself, why would she do that?
Why would she put herself in such a vulnerable position?
Maybe she felt she had no choice.
This is just surmising, so you can take it with a pinch of salt, but everything seems to hinge on how many times she had been married.
If things were normal then she would have been married off quite young, an arranged marriage, organised by her parents.
But for some reason that marriage broke down.
It would have been the man that organised the divorce.
She would have had no say in it.
I think it is safe to presume that it wasn’t adultery or unfaithfulness that caused the divorce, well not on her part.
The women in those societies would have moved from her father’s house to her husband’s house. There wasn’t enough independence in the woman’s life to organise and arrange a relationship with any other men out with those within her husband’s family.
The usual cause of divorce would be childlessness.
But in such a religious society childlessness would be a sign of God’s displeasure.
As it was the woman who wasn’t producing a child then it must be something about the woman that was wrong, that was displeasing God.
That brought shame to all concerned, the immediate family, the wife’s family, all the extended families.
As the wife was causing shame to the family, that would be grounds for divorce.
If the wife’s parents wouldn’t take her back, then she was in trouble, unless she found another husband.
And each husband in turn had an automatic excuse for divorcing her if she displeased him; she was damaged goods, even God wasn’t happy with her.
Whatever her story was, it was not a happy one, and there is no way she would be telling that story, that truth, to a complete stranger, especially a respectable stranger who was acting like some rabbi.
‘You have told me the truth.’
No she hadn’t, not by a long shot.
But can you blame her?
When she first arrived at the well she might have been worried about what this strange man might do to her, and to her surprise this was one of the best days of her life.
This might be the first humane conversation she had had in years.
She is shunned by the community; that is why she is out there in the middle of the day instead of going to the well with the other women in to cool of the morning.
This might be the first conversation, ever, with a man that she didn’t feel threatened by.
She just wants it to go on.
She wasn’t going to ruin that by telling Jesus all the skeletons in her cupboard.
But then you have to ask yourself...why would Jesus ruin it by telling her her past as bluntly as he did?
Why would Jesus humiliate her when all she wanted to do was let this moment last?
Here’s what I think.
I think Jesus knew her hope was built on an unspoken lie.
She didn’t know Jesus; she didn’t know what Jesus knew.
So this wonderful conversation where she was being treated like a human being... that was based on her thinking that Jesus didn’t know her past.
In her head, Jesus was treating her like a human being because he believed that she was a decent human being.
In her head that pretence had to be kept up,
because if Jesus knew how damaged she was,
if Jesus knew how damaged society thought she was,
if Jesus knew how damaged she knew she was,
and her life was proof of just how damaged she was,
then she knew that that conversation would stop very quickly.
As long as the woman believed that lie, then her hope was never really a hope, it was just a fading dream that would die as soon as she left that well.
And Jesus was so blunt, because he needed her to know that he knew exactly what had happened in her life, and was still having that conversation, still having that relationship with her.
And that then created a truth that brought her so much joy...
If the basis of her relationship was not her perfection, but Jesus love and care for her, then she had real hope.
And she did, her hope became something infectious, something joyous, something wonderful.
How I wish that was the case for all church members...that that was the message they heard about themselves, that that was the message that they gave to others.
But too often we live the lie of the Samaritan woman.
Look at communion services.
In the old days people had to have communion tokens. The elders would go round their districts and if the family was good enough, worthy enough, then they got a token to prove that they could take communion.
And deep down that attitude has kind of stuck in the back of our mind.
We can’t go to church because we have done something wrong,
something that we are ashamed of,
something that makes us unworthy of being in God’s presence.
And the sadness is that in doing so we cut ourselves off from the community, from God, who wants to help us become whole again.
When the real truth is, the truth Jesus gave that Samaritan woman, is that God knows everything about us,
he knows us and our lives just as much as Jesus knew the whole history of that woman’s life,
and he still wants to talk to us,
still wants that relationship with us,
still wants to reach out to us.
That is what communion is meant to be a sign of,
that is what every church service is meant to be a sign of,
that is the message we need to hear,
that is the message we need to give.
Let us pray
how much simpler life would be if everything was not so complicated!
If the goodies always had the sun shining on them, and the baddies always had a cloud hovering over their head, then we would know who to trust and who to avoid.
But then, what kind of person would that make us that we avoided the baddies instead of trying to heal them?
If only the signs were clearer so that we knew, without a doubt, which way was right and which was wrong. But often we take the easy, lazy ways, the ways that cause us the least inconvenience, rather than the harder ways that might actually make a difference in the world.
We want to look at others and see black and white, good and bad, pureness and evil, and often we do, and put people into boxes without ever finding out the truth of their lives, the reasons for their actions.
But then we look at ourselves and see a mixture of good and bad,
muddled and clear-headed, generous and selfish, fallible and fabulous, and all stations in-between.
Help us to see the same in others.
May we look at other people,
and the more we get to know them, the more of their stories that we hear, may we all the more realise that they are just the same as we are.
Not wholly good or wholly evil, neither perfect saints or abject sinners,
but human beings muddling through and loved by the One who made them.
May we remember Jesus telling us to love our enemies and pray for those who
wish us harm.
if that is a step too far for now,
let us take time, in the safety of this place, to picture the faces of some of the people
who feel most different and strange;
the ones in whose company we feel uncomfortable or under threat;
the ones we do our best to avoid.
And instead of building a barrier
to keep them out,
can we imagine drawing a circle wide enough to let them in?
“There is no longer Jew or Greek,
male or female,
slave or free…
all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.
You reached out to one who felt so flawed.
You reach out to us who are also very flawed.
We are one in the way that you love us, so may we be one in using that love to love others.
So let it be.
As I said at the start, if there is any part of your life, or the life of someone you care about, that you want us to pray for, then please contact us at the email address below and we will have our prayer group pray for that situation.