RCL A Lent 3
Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, Saint John 4:5-42

The Gospel today serves as a sequel to the Gospel last week. Like last week, we have the old dichotomy between the physical and spiritual worlds, and we have a sinner who is puzzling her way between those worlds. Last week we had Nicodemus, and this week we have the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s well.

Nicodemus was stumped by the subject of birth. He well understood being born as an infant. But being born again, from above, in a spiritual way was his stumbling block. I think he recovered from that, but we cannot be sure.

The Samaritan Woman similarly stumbles over the water, the still water, from Jacob’s well and the running or living water that Jesus offers to her. But she recovers quickly.

When Jesus offers her the water “gushing up to eternal life,”[1] she asks for it immediately. Jesus reveals to her the situations in her life before identifying himself as the Christ. She goes and asks her neighbors if he is the Messiah. She becomes an evangelist like Peter, James, and John. She brings others to Christ having herself discovered who he is. In the end, the Samaritan Woman and her neighbors believe that Jesus “is truly the Savior of the world.”[2]

Nicodemus at the end of his encounter with Jesus seems unresolved as to Jesus’ identity. But the Samaritan Woman is satisfied that he is the Christ.

And I want to make the simple point that when we are poised between belief and unbelief in Jesus, we are poised to write our own happy ending. Believing in Jesus leads to a happy ending for our lives. We are free to choose which ending we shall have. And in choosing to believe in Jesus, we are choosing to believe in the Spirit, in being born from above, and in the water that gushes up to eternal life.

And in making that choice, we are holding out for the possibility that what Jesus tells us in the Gospel is true. We are letting him be God, and we are simply holding a place for God to be God. In letting God be God, we are declaring ourselves to be faithful, to be God’s faithful creatures. We are declaring that we choose to live.

I am telling you that I believe that is the way to live. That is the way to choose life. That is the way to be what God created us to be. If it takes the thirty-ninth observance of Lent, or the sixty-ninth, or the twenty-fifth time of reading the story of the Samaritan Woman, or a Gothic church, or a decided mission, or the old-time religion, to make this decision to live, to be born from above, or to taste the living water, so be it. Coming to this decision, however you do it, is the best use of your God-given time.

[1] Saint John 4:14.

[2] Saint John 4:42.