Engaging the Word: 03/19/17 (The Third Sunday in Lent)

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By Barbara Klugh

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

In this week’s readings, God instructs Moses to strike a particular rock to get water for the thirsty Israelites, Paul tells us about the growth that comes from being in right relationship with God, and Jesus shares his identity with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Moses Striking Water from the Rock by Nicolas Poussin, 1649. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Moses Striking Water from the Rock by Nicolas Poussin, 1649. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Exodus 17:1-7: In this week’s reading, Moses and the Israelites are traveling “by stages” on their journey to the Promised Land. God has delivered them out of Egypt, divided the Red Sea, made bitter water sweet at Mara, sent them manna and quail to eat. Now you would think they would not only be grateful, but also trust that God will continue to provide for them. Instead, they are camped at Rephidim, and complaining to Moses of their thirst. “So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” God commanded Moses to strike “the rock at Horeb” and water will come out, which it did. Moses “called the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling; strife], because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”

It’s easy for me to think, “What a bunch of ingrates,” but I recognize that I, like the Israelites, forget about God’s daily blessings and provision all too easily.

Psalm 95: Vs. 1-7 of this royal, or enthronement, psalm is used as a canticle called the Venite (Lat., come) for Morning Prayer in our Prayer Book. The first seven verses call us to sing to the Lord, our Creator, with joyful noise, thanksgiving, and praise.

Paul preaching on the Ruins by Panini, 1744. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Paul preaching on the Ruins by Panini, 1744. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Romans 5:1-11: In our reading this week, Paul tells about the joy that comes from being “justified by faith,” being made right with God, through Jesus Christ. The big deal to me is that when Paul says we are justified by faith, he’s not referring to our faith, but to Jesus’ faith. Therefore, “we have peace with God” and access to God’s grace.

Paul adds, “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” And even more, “Christ died for the ungodly…God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Angelica Kauffman, 1796. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Angelica Kauffman, 1796. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 4:5-42: This week’s reading is about Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, an encounter that is reported only in John’s Gospel. Jesus and his disciples were traveling from Judea to Galilee, but had to go through Samaria, and came to the city of Sychar, where he stopped to rest by Jacob’s well at noon—Jacob had acquired land there. The disciples went into the city to buy food.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman expressed surprise that Jesus would even talk to her, being that he was Jewish, and the Jews and Samaritans had been at odds for centuries; moreover, she was a woman. Jesus replied obliquely, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman doesn’t get what Jesus is saying but she isn’t intimidated by him either. She responds almost dismissively, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it? Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus knows about the woman’s personal life (five husbands in the past and no husband now), and she understands Jesus is a prophet. She wants to know which is the proper place to worship—Mount Gerizim, or Jerusalem. Jesus says true knowledge comes through the Jews. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” So not only was the Samaritan woman transformed, but her testimony led others to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the World.

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