THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
March 15, 2020
ENTRANCE HYMN #761 (Stand) Rock of Ages
THE PRAYER OF THE DAY
P: The Lord be with you.
C: And also with you.
P: Let us pray. O God,
C: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
✠ ✠ ✠
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
FIRST LESSON (Be seated) Exodus 17:1–7
All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (ESV)
L: This is the Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.
ANTHEM Wondrous Cross
arr. Philip Wilby
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the cross of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from his head, His, hands, His feet sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!
SECOND LESSON Romans 5:1–8
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)
L: This is the Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL John 4:5–30
P: The Holy Gospel according to St. John, the 4th chapter
C: Glory to You, O Lord.
So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “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 said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from 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 is seeking such people 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 (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him. (ESV)
P: This is the Gospel of the Lord.
C: Praise to You, O Christ.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen. Dear friends in Christ:
Today we hear Jesus offering something he calls “living water.” As someone who has grown up and lived his whole life in places where the tap water is perfectly fine to drink, I tend to think of water as water. When I’m thirsty and want some water, I just go to the closest faucet and fill my glass. Simple as that.
But of course, I know that not all water is the same. On my hikes, I carry a filter so that I can drink from the streams I find along the way, since those streams contain all kinds of things I don’t want to consume. And I know that many people prefer to get their water from a bottle even in areas where the tap water is good. Bottled water might contain extra minerals or carbonation. It might come from a spring that is thought to be extra pure. It might have a certain flavor or taste that is appealing.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus was getting his water from Jacob’s well—not because that water was so special but because it was the only option that day on his travel through Samaria. While he was there at the well, he started a conversation with a Samaritan woman. He first asks her to help him get a drink, since she has a jar and he does not. He then turns the conversation to the water he offers—something he calls “living water.” Jesus explains that the living water he gives will quench a person’s thirst forever. In fact, it will become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman is interested in this water. We can see why.
Jesus then asks her to call her husband to come and join the conversation. That’s where thing starts going in different directions.
We’ll cover some insights from the later parts of the conversation as the sermon goes on. But for now, I’d like us to pause and think more about the living water of which Jesus speaks. What made this water so special? How could it contain such power? And was it just for the Samaritan woman, or is it also for us?
“Living water” in the Hebrew can be understood as simply “flowing water.” Knowing this, we can see why the Samaritan woman might have thought Jesus was referring to a better source of actual water—like one that flowed from a stream instead of being drawn up through a well.
But Jesus is not talking about water in a literal sense. His use of the phrase means much more.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, God is sometimes described as a fountain of living waters. The prophet Jeremiah (17:13) once said: “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.”
The living water Jesus offers… is God himself.
If there’s any question about this, Jesus clears it up by his words a few chapters later. In John 7 (v.37-39), when we hear about Jesus in Jerusalem for one of the festivals, we’re told that on the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
And then John adds: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The living water Jesus offers is the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of God. This is the Spirit by which God moves people and teaches people. It is the Spirit God sends as witness to his glory and the salvation he offers. It is the Spirit which flows from the heart of God; and which is God.
Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, and us, that God’s Spirit will come to us and remain within us – as a living water, quenching our thirst and becoming a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Think about what a gift this is! One can hardly overstate its significance.
As such, this living water is a water of cleansing. Jesus says that the living water in us leads to eternal life – and eternal life is only given to those who are cleansed. We must be cleansed from our sin in order to overcome the curse of death that has been placed up on.
Earlier I quoted a verse from Jeremiah where he described God as a fountain of living water. Jeremiah also uses that name in a different part of his prophecy—one where he points out the people’s sins. There he quotes God as saying (2:13): “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
God is describing here how his people not only left him, but also followed other gods. As Jeremiah relays in an adjoining verse, the people preferred the worship and prophets of Baal.
And we do this too. We may not bow the knee to Baal, but we often bow it to the almighty dollar, and the delights of the world, and the spirit of the age. All too often these become of higher value to us than the Lord God. God reminds us that these other, lesser gods are merely broken cisterns that can hold no water. But we often choose them anyway.
Later in his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus explains that “salvation comes from the Jews.” His statement comes in the context of the rivalry between Jerusalem and Samaria, but it also shows what is at stake. Jesus is concerned about salvation—about people being saved from their sin. The living water which he gives becomes a spring of water inside us, welling up to eternal life. Through this living water we are cleansed, and we are saved.
That being said, God’s Spirit, the living water, brings more to us as well.
Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that with the water he gives, one will never be thirsty again. This means it is a water of faith. And it is a water of contentment.
“Thirsting,” in the scriptures, means more than simply the need and desire to be adequately hydrated. It means desiring any number of things—some of which are good to desire, like righteousness, and some of which are not, like those fruits that God has forbidden his people to taste.
In our first reading today, from Exodus 17, the people “thirsted for water and grumbled.” We can’t blame them for wanting water. But we can blame them for grumbling. Their grumbling was a sign that they didn’t trust the Lord.
Just a short time ago, God had delivered the people from their slavery in Egypt. Surely, he would provide for their thirst during their desert journey. But the people’s faith wavered. They grumbled, quarreled and tested the Lord.
This happens to us too, of course. We get worried about our future. We sometimes wonder if we’ll survive. We worry about pain and loss. We worry about illness and disease. We worry about our loved ones. We worry about our sanity.
In difficult times we are to keep calm… and keep the faith. God is in control. We have been cleansed from our sin. We are saved.
Someday we will experience Jesus’ promise in full… to never thirst again. But even now, in this life, we can achieve a measure of contentment with our life. Because we have living water, quenching our thirst each time we drink it. This shores up our faith. This keeps us feeling refreshed.
The living water of Jesus is the water of cleansing, faith… and one more thing. It is also the water of mission. When Jesus says his living water will flow out of our hearts… as stated in John 7… that means that it flows to others. When we have the living water of Christ, we become a part of his mission to the world.
The prophet Isaiah (58:11) told God’s people that “the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” When you are a watered garden and a spring, you are a great help to others.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus shows his heart of mission in many ways. First, he approaches a sinner—one who had to go to the well by herself, in the heat of the day, so that others would not be seen with her. Jesus often spoke with sinners. In fact, it was his mission to reach them.
But Jesus is reaching out in mission in other ways too. This Samaritan woman isn’t just a sinner. She’s someone who has been hurt. Five times she had been rejected by a husband. Jesus sees her in her hurt and approaches her. He cares. That’s an act of mission.
And in this caring, Jesus is also serving to break down a barrier. The disciples marveled that Jesus spoke to a woman in public. That wasn’t the accepted way. Jesus was a progressive in his time (which by the way doesn’t necessarily mean he would be a progressive today). Here he worked toward bringing men and women together—something that will always need work.
And again, Jesus works to break down another barrier here—that between his Jewish ancestors and her Samaritan ones. There was a very big gulf and very hard feelings between these neighbors. Jesus knew this well. But he spoke to Samaritans. And told parables with them as heroes. Most significantly, Jesus told of a day when people would no longer worship on the Jewish mountain or the Samaritan mountain but be united in the same worship—the worship of the God who transcends national borders.
The living water of Jesus accomplishes great things. And this living water is given to us in the waters of Baptism, where we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection and where we receive his Holy Spirit. Baptism cleanses us. Baptism saves us. Baptism gives us faith. Baptism sends us forth in mission. Perhaps the best way for us to understand the living water of Jesus is to think of the waters of our Baptism.
Jesus said that the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The truth is that we all need a Savior. And the truth is that we all need a faith which teaches us to be in mission and can bring people together.
The living water of Jesus addresses these needs. It gives a spirit to people so that they can worship, work and serve truthfully. It gives a spirit of mercy, forgiveness and cooperation. It gives the Holy Spirit.
During this season of Lent, we often pray portions of David’s great penitential Psalm—Psalm 51. Hearing today of Christ’s offer of living water, it seems fitting to conclude with the prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with me.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
HYMN OF THE DAY # 824 (Stand) May God Bestow on Us His Grace
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen
OFFERING (Be seated) Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed
Setting: Robert Buckley Farlee
PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH (Kneel)
P: Almighty God, Giver of all things, we rejoice to serve You as Your pilgrim
people. Hear our prayers which we offer for those in need:
For the Church, purchased with the blood of Christ; for all pastors who, filled with Your Spirit, proclaim Your saving Gospel and serve us with Your Holy Sacraments; for our perfection in love and for the good works that manifest this love for our neighbor; and for our witness, that we may speak Your Word to those who do not yet know You, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the baptized in their vocation of worship, witness, prayer and works of mercy; for strength in the midst of temptation; for courage in the face of threat; for hope in times of despair; and for confidence amid doubts and fears, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the missionaries far and near, for the Lord’s blessing upon mission congregations, for younger congregations, for our steadfastness in the Word, for the flourishing of the work of the Kingdom everywhere, for the renewal of existing congregations, and for the Lord to prosper the work of the Church in every place, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the Lord to preserve our nation and prosper the cause of justice in this land. We pray also for Donald, our president; the Congress of these United States; Ralph, our governor; and for all elected and appointed civil servants. Grant us peace among the nations and watch over those who protect us in the armed forces of our land, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the Lord to grant us a spirit of cooperation; that the Lord may remove from us prejudice and hate and dispose our hearts to the common good; for all the places where people teach and learn God’s Word; for the homes in which our people dwell; and that the Lord may make them places of blessing and love, where His name is honored and children are raised up to know the Lord, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the Lord to grant comfort, aid, healing and peace to the sick in their afflictions; for the dying near the end of their earthly lives; and for those who struggle with adversity and sorrow, [especially for __________,] let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who grieve the loss of loved ones; for our own endurance in faith through trials; for the Lord to make us ready to receive our Savior when He comes in His glory, as King and Judge of all; for the families of the martyrs and those persecuted for the faith; and for the Lord to keep us in fellowship with those who have fallen asleep in the Lord and now rest from their labors, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Oh Lord, you who are the refuge of the poor and needy, we ask that you would save us from the pestilence that stalks in the darkness and the plague that destroys at midday. Be our sun and shield. Be our fortress. Be our comfort this day. May we not fear any evil but rather trust in your might to save and your wisdom to guide, so that we always might rest in the Shadow of the Almighty. In the name of the One who heals our diseases. Amen.
P: All these things and everything else we need, give to us for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
SENDING HYMN #855 sts. 1, 10, 3, 4 For All the Faithful Women