s014ag99 Lent 3 Somerton Park 7/3/99
A shorter sermon this week because of the Annual Vestry Meeting after the later service today.
"Sir, you have no bucket ..." John 4.10
Men are supposed to be good at material things and women good at emotional things, yet sometimes men can be so so thick! Not only did Jesus not have a bucket, but to all intents and purposes he had little else either. The disciples had gone into the city to buy food - so there was hardly likely to be supplies strewn about. Probably as the experienced traveller Jesus was (like the experienced swaggie) he had reduced his own load to the bare minimum of necessities.
And dishevelled itinerants were not especially uncommon in those days as they are now. It would not be uncommon for any of us to be accosted for a drink - though it would be more likely to be for money for a cup of coffee, these days.
Jesus travelled with nothing, not even a container for the "living water" he purported to carry. And travelling with nothing he was able to elicit contributions from others, to make them feel needed and wanted.
He attempted to do this to one and to all. He allowed no religious or gender differences to hinder this interchange.
So whether the emphasis is on the "Samaritan" question or the "gender" question in this story - it doesn't matter. Jesus requests assistance from her despite the differences.
And the interchange about the woman's lifestyle and morals serve to show us that Jesus doesn't allow these sorts of criterion to get in his way either. He still requests assistance from her despite her "circumstances".
In the end of course she actually doesn't ever get to give him the drink. And perhaps this is also important, for us to see that it was not that Jesus was thirsty that he made the request. They have a serious conversation, essentially as equals. What Jesus does for this woman is that despite him knowing she was a woman, a heretic, and in a dubious moral situation - he treats her respectfully - answers her questions - treats her seriously - perhaps for the first time in her life. She is not treated as the slave - or even the willing woman. She is not there to fulfil his every desire - as so often women have been treated over the centuries by men.
For the living water that Jesus "carried" actually springs from within the woman and from within each of us. As we relate to others with mutual respect - people are healed and find wholeness and peace.
Today, after this service we are having our Annual Vestry Meeting. May we have this message before us as we consider the business. May we have the same motivation, for the living water of which Jesus speaks is still available in abundance, despite it seems that we too have no bucket.
So often in history the Church has wanted to carry the Church with all it's undoubted glory out into the world, and try to dump it on anyone who is not quick enough to get out of the way. This is what we might call ecclesiastical "Bible Bashing". Today we are bidden to follow Jesus and like Jesus, go empty - handed, hoping to elicit from others their unique contribution to our community and fellowship.
It is the same message of St Paul: "while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Ro 5.8). We remain simply sinners for whom Christ died, no different from anyone else in this world we might meet. We have no need even to carry a bucket for we have nothing to take to give to another, except that we are sinners for whom Christ died - just like they.
So we don't even have to sprout convincing and orthodox theology at others. Just a simple request: "Give me a drink" is sufficient. We don't need a degree in theology, wear a funny collar or a cross.
The world would indeed be a better, indeed far happier, place if we, like Jesus, saw others who are different from us as people to respect, and be enriched by, rather than another person to convert.
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