Monday, March 20, 2017
Act III The Christ Event
The Five Mighty Acts of God
Act III Jesus Christ
When we were all much younger and the children were little we served The Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, Ohio. In the Summer, Cindy and I would pack up the car and the camper so that we could come back home to visit friends and family. We loved camping near the Cape Cod Canal and then at Old Orchard Beach in Maine. All this brings back fond memories.
Mind you, it was a twelve to fourteen hour trip from Ohio depending on the weather and the traffic. It didn’t take much for a fight to break out amongst the boys for any number of spurious reasons such as to who would sit where. Sometimes there were mild but persistent annoyances like Michael’s playing the clarinet hour after hour in the confining quarters of a small car. But by and large, they are good memories. And now as I think back, what I wouldn't give to have some of that time back again.
Now here we are at Trinity Church in Canton and we continue on our Lenten Journey. Today our focus is on the Christ Event. It unfolds within the context of the Divine Drama. The Catechism teaches us to call these The Five Mighty Acts of God. We’ve named Acts I and Act II; The Creation and The Exodus. God created everything that is and then brought the children of Israel up out slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.
In the wilderness during the Exodus experience, God provided for the people. Mind you, the people complained to Moses and Moses in turn complained to God. First there was meat they wanted and God provided quail. Then it was bread they needed and God provided the manna that rained down like the early morning dew. By the way the word “manna” in Hebrew literally means “what is it?” So the folks would get up in the morning asking themselves; “Manna?” “what is it?” So naturally that’s what they called it. “Manna”. “What is it?”
The people complained and Moses was exasperated. “What am I going to do with this people? They are ready to stone me.” The people tested God asking whether God is among them or not. Fair enough, we wonder that too, truth be told. We cannot help but wonder as we journey on through our wilderness experiences and in our thirst to know “is God here or not.”
We are told in today’s first lesson that the waters gushed out of the rock. God quenched their thirst. And then they knew God is indeed in their midst. Moses named the place “Massah” which means “test” in Hebrew because the folks tested God there. And “meribah” because the folks complained.
In the Gospel there is another wilderness experience with the woman at the well. Jesus is tired from his journey. He’s thirsty too at the noon of the day. I’ve been in the Holy Land when the sun beat beats down from high in the sky; you become dry as dust. We constantly carried two liter bottles with us and easily went through three or more bottles a day.
Well might Jesus be thirsty. The dialogue between Jesus and the woman is instructive. He asks her for a drink.
“How is it that you a Jew would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink?”
First, no self respecting rabbi would speak to a woman. Period. Besides respectable women went to the well first thing in the morning before the heat of the day. "Other" women went later on. There was a reason why this woman could not go to the well at a respectable hour.
And a Samaritan woman at that! Do remember that, as the Scripture says, Jews do not speak to Samaritans. They were considered heretics and apostate. They used Hebrew but a form of the language that actually predated then contemporary Hebrew. The version of the Torah they subscribed to was slightly different. Folks can always find a reason not to speak to folks.
But Jesus spoke to her. He spoke to a woman. At noon. A Samaritan woman at noon. That’s breaking three important conventions. Horrors!
The story turns then from Jesus’ thirst, and the woman’s thirst becomes the focus of the story. Jesus offers to satisfy that thirst with a kind of living water, the kind of water that springs up to eternal life.
Then Jesus changes the subject from the thirst for physical water to the woman’s husband. Well, then the truth came out about the five husbands and that the man she was with presently was not her husband. She recognized that Jesus was a prophet. He knew the secrets of her heart and even then, he offered her the kind of water unlike anything she’d ever drunk before.
What then did this woman thirst for? What is the eternal life she was seeking? What Jesus offered her was the kind of water that springs up to eternal life. That water was the kind of love Jesus offered, the kind of forgiveness he could provide. The reconciling and healing presence with which he could touch her life.
The disciples were concerned about Jesus; “Have something to eat.” Jesus explained that he had food to sustain him they knew nothing about. After all, Jesus' food was to do the will of the One who sent him like reaching out to this sinner, like reaching out to each one of us.
The Christ event is pivotal in the Divine Drama for all of us. Our wilderness experiences are not easy. Relationships can become stressed and strained. Our relationship with God can become such that we wonder whether God is even there or not just like happened to the Children of Israel in their wilderness. In fact much like the world we live in, folks may go on and on in life as if there is no God at all.That’s just the way it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
It is the central fact of our faith that Jesus is with us every step of the way in our journey through the wilderness; in our joys and in our sorrows, in our sins as well as in forgiveness, in our struggles for justice as well as in those moments when we suffer the indignities of defeat. Jesus is with us every step of the way through our suffering and death and to the very day of resurrection. I invite you to come to him and proclaim him in the name of the church.
What I find interesting in God’s Great Salvation plan is that it is always God who takes the initiative. God is the one who created everything that is. God is the One who seeks out Adam and Eve and Cain to give an account for what is going on in the Garden. God notices the suffering of his people, and calls on Moses to go down and tell old Pharaoh; let my people go. All of us need to go down to Washington and tell our old Pharoahs that the proposed national budget is an immoral assault on the poor, the sick, the elderly. It is God who gives the Law to Moses to clarify that with freedom comes responsibility. It is Jesus who seeks out the woman at the well to satisfy her thirst not just for water but for that kind of water that wells up within to become eternal life.
In the Christ event the waters of Eternal Life include forgiveness, reconciliation and accountability and the kind of love that only God can provide. As Jesus proclaimed to his disciples, so too we learn that our food is to do the work God wants us to do. It is when we learn to love one another like this that we take hold of eternal life in our lives with one another.
Finally, Paul reminds us in today’s epistle that it is The Christ who takes the initiative. Certainly for our children most if not all of us would risk our lives, but Paul continues; “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
And so the car and the camper are filled to the brim and God’s family continues on that long journey home. In our creation, our exodus and in our relationship with the living Christ, God seeks to satisfy our deepest thirst from that spring that wells up within us. May God grant us grace to say "Yes" to the water he offers to slake our thirst.
In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.