Br. Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC
RCL – Lent 3 A - Sunday 24 February 2008
Beloved Lord of All, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts help us to live our lives in truth and spirit. May we all contribute to the harvesting of your fields, to the building of your Kingdom. Amen.
As Jesus ran into increasing resistance from religious authorities in Judea, he decided to eschew confrontation and to continue his ministry in Galilee. Now, the shortest route between Judea and Galilee goes through Samaria. Most Jews would have preferred the longer route which would have avoided Samaria altogether.
You see, Jews and Samaritans had a centuries-old, intense dislike for each other. In a nutshell, Jews reproached Samaritans for having lost their Jewish integrity; their religious and ethnic purity. But Jesus deliberately chooses to travel through Samaria.
In his encounter with the woman at the well and the folks of her city of Sychar, Jesus offers us many valuable insights into God's desire to free us up into a life of integrity. Ill point two of them this morning: reconciliation and worship.
First, Jesus brings reconciliation. The Samaritan woman is invited to face herself as she is, there and then. And she is invited to ask for the gift of grace; the well of living water springing up to eternal life. She is invited to step into her own salvation.
And it isn't just anyone that Jesus invites in this way; the gender, the social status and the ethnic origin of who he invites shows that God has little interest for our human boundaries of separation.
The apostles, when they return from their errands into the city, are flabbergasted that Jesus would be speaking with a woman, a Samaritan woman and a compromised Samaritan woman, at that!
But, Jesus shows that God's message is for all; for Jews and non-Jews alike; for people in good standing and for outsiders. God doesn't need to choose the most prestigious and privileged amongst us to work wonders.
The Samaritan woman goes on to become an evangelist in bringing her own people to God.
The disciples too are invited to step out of their own cultural boundaries here. Jesus shows them an enlarged mission; their harvest will extend beyond the Jewish people, starting with those Samaritans they grew up to despise.
Through the events of his meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus also teaches us that true worship is not linked to a place, be it the temple in Jerusalem or anywhere else. True worship is the lives we live with God, in truth and spirit. True worship is our lives lived in integrity with God.
You see, worship is that, which we do, that embodies what we value. By showing up in church this morning, for example, you are demonstrating that you give value to the word and the will of God. Our presence here for the liturgy is a common understanding we have of the word "worship."
But everything we are and everything we do can embody what we give value to. When you insist in your relationships on being truthful, respectful and loving, you are worshipping God in God's creatures. When you are re-using, recycling and generally reducing your use of physical resources, you are worshiping God in God's creation, for instance.
All of Life can be worship. Living our lives in truth and spirit is worshiping God in all we are and all we do. We worship God when we live life as if everything we do mattered.
And Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one, tells us where to look to find the sustenance for our life with God. Reconciliation and worship start where we meet the Living God; in our innermost heart, in the quiet of loving presence to all that is.
And there, we are to ask, to receive and to accept the gifts of God: the well of living water that will spring to eternal life and the food of doing God's will.
But asking, receiving and accepting are each important steps of this movement of the heart. Grace is never forced on us. We have to make ourselves available to it (possibly with some help).
The Samaritan woman does not seem to have walked to the well feeling ready and able to accept grace, that day. And yet, in her, little by little, Jesus creates the room for her to receive it.
Jesus starts all of these important teachings, by reaching out to a single person; one person whom, by all conventions, he's supposed to not even speak to. It could be me; it could be you. Salvation starts with your own self. Salvation starts with any one person you interact with in truth and spirit.
So hear what the Samaritan woman's story has to tell us. We are invited not to harden our hearts with self-preoccupations such as reputation; or whether we'll ever have to come to the well to carry water again.
We are invited to listen deeply to the word of God; to listen, as Saint Benedict of Nurcia would put it, with the ear of our heart.
And this reminds me of the reason why I am spending a warm week in Florida in the midst of my bleak New York winter. Ted, your rector, and Bob, your spiritual life team-leader have invited me to come and reflect with you on how to nurture our spiritual lives here at Saint Boniface.
In the coming week, I will be encountering many of you an meeting with clergy, staff and volunteers to explore how to draw more fully on the spring of living water and the will of God, that both reside within our selves.
I look forward to discovering the graces that God has in store for us. And I thank God for your hospitality.
Now, on behalf of all of us, I pray the following Celtic blessing on all our endeavors:
May the eye of God be in dwelling with you,
May the foot of Christ be in guidance with you,
May the shower of the Spirit be pouring on you,
Richly and generously.