S. Lent 3.20 “True Worshipers” John 4:5-26
True worshipers. That’s what the Father through Jesus is seeking to worship Him. So what does a true worshiper look like?
Well, in true Seinfeld “Opposite Land” style, he or she would be the opposite of the Samaritan woman we meet this morning with Jesus at Jacob’s well. [Maybe the whole purpose of her life was to serve as a warning for others?]. It’s high noon, on a hot day in Samaria. Jesus is not Superman. He’s weary (and thirsty!) from His journey—because He allows Himself to experience in His Body our weakness and woes in order to heal them all. He says to the Samaritan woman with that divine authority that brought everyone up short: “Give Me a drink.” No “please, if you may,” with Jesus. God commands and we ought simply to obey.
But the woman… argues with Jesus. This is not the Way! She marks Him as an Israelite prophet, and after a brief exchange, senses this might be the Christ, in Person. But instead of eagerly serving Him, she never does wet His whistle. Jesus never gets His drink. This is important, as we’ll see in a bit.
She uses religion as an excuse not to give Jesus a cup of cold water on a hot day. “Jews don’t mix with Samaritans, right?” She says sarcastically—suggesting Jesus isn’t practicing His religion properly by even speaking with her much less asking her a favor (sarcasm is such a terrible thing. I’m glad it so rarely issues from this pulpit!). Jesus gives as good as He gets (which is my excuse for sometimes practicing the art 🙂 “Hey, lady: if you knew the Gift of God, Who it is asking for a drink, you would ask Him and He would give you living water!”
Now the game is afoot! She ups the sarcasm ante: “Oooh, that sounds good, give me this “living water” so I won’t have to come here and draw daily! But, oops! Or shall I say moops? You don’t seem to have a bucket so how will you get this “living water”? Are you greater than Jacob our father—maybe God or something?” And Jesus is like “Uhm… well; whoever drinks from this well will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give will never thirst, but it will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Just sayin’…”(!)
Dripping with sarcasm (see what I did there?) the woman goes: “Oooh! Give me some of that water right now, Mr. No-Has-A-Bucket-Guy!” Jesus shoots back: “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman pleads “no husband” and Jesus is like: “Right, you’ve had five husbands and the guy you’re shacked up with now isn’t your husband.” And she, fearing a church service is about to break out, goes :“Oooh! You must be a prophet! But didn’t all the prophets say you could only worship in Jerusalem? We can’t do church here—just wouldn’t be rite.”
Jesus: “I see what you did there, but you worship what you don’t know. We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father, neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth. In fact, the Father is seeking such to worship Him, right now!” The woman goes “As long as we have Jesus in our hearts, it doesn’t matter where/if we go to Church—Christ will come and sort it out.” Jesus, winking, bowing, goes: “I AM! speaking to you who’ve guessed My Name!”
But, she just leaves Jesus thirsty and goes to complain about Him to the townsfolk who come and give Him a hearing and end up believing in Him. Because they didn’t argue with Jesus! They heard Him and gladly served Him His drink and whatever else they could offer.
So, true worshipers—simply put—do not argue with Jesus, do not dispute His words. No; they love Jesus and so gladly receive all He offers and delight to serve Him with all they have. They drink, in Word and Sacraments, by faith alone, the living water of eternal life that flows to us by Jesus’ blood and so have courage, faith, good hope, and joy in serving Christ and their neighbor. Most of all: true worshipers have no fear of life or death. They are joyous, mettlesome and merry, eager to serve Christ and their neighbor because they see Christ in all their neighbors. Jesus is the Sun around which their lives gladly revolve!
But today, most are beset with fear—fear over the Coronavirus has closed schools, churches, businesses, crashed equity markets. I wonder if fear itself might be the greater threat these days? Well; true worship produces faith, produces love, and casts out fear!
In 1527, Bubonic Plague ravished Europe— killing 1/4 of the populace. Luther wrote a letter on facing Plagues which we will be reading the next couple Sundays in our pastor’s class. Here’s a little sample…
Luther writes: “A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor. He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss… but such a person becomes a murderer in the sight of God(!), as I John 3:15-17 states… If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us” [though Luther does encourage sensible precautions as long as we’re still helping and serving our neighbor]. So Luther continues: “We can be sure that God’s punishments [like the Plague] come upon us not only to chastise us for our sins but also to test our faith and love… for the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles… Because we know that it is the devil’s game to induce such fear and dread, we should in turn minimize it, take courage as to spite and annoy him, and send those terrors right back at him!”
Hmm; how would we do that? Luther says the real weapon against the devil’s plagues is true worship! He admonished healthy people to attend worship (even though Luther knew this created a slight risk of infection because he knew such diseases were airborne and spread through human contact) because in the Divine Service we get the living water that is eternal life for all who drink—the real protection against sin, death, hell, and all devils! There is no poison in the Communion Cup—just the medicine of immortality which makes us joyful, mettlesome, and merry, not because our safety is guaranteed, but because God’s goodness is!
So, the true worshiper puts his or her life everyday in Christ’s hands—whether for life or death, all will be well! She races to His pulpit/altar saying: “No, Satan, you’ll not have the last word! If Christ shed His blood for me and died for me, why should I not expose myself to some small dangers for His sake and disregard this feeble plague? If you can terrorize, Christ can strengthen me. If you can kill, Christ can give life. If you have poison in your fangs, Christ has far greater medicine. Should not my dear Christ, with His precepts, His kindness, and all His encouragement, be more important in my spirit than you, roguish devil, with your false terrors in my weak flesh? God forbid! Get away, devil. Here is Christ and here am I, His servant in this work. Let Christ prevail! Amen.”
So say all true worshipers; and just so Peace, surpassing understanding, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.