Lent 3A – Jesus Is Still Speaking
March 26-27, 2011
I am Nicodemus.
My name is unknown.
I came to meet Jesus in the dead of night.
I met Jesus at the well at noon.
I have spent much of my life learning Torah.
I have never been taught to read or write.
I am a leader among the Jews.
I am a nobody among the Jews. In fact, because I’m a Samaritan, I’m less than a nobody.
People would be surprised that I’d be willing to talk to that radical Jesus – that’s why I came at night.
People would be surprised that Jesus would be willing to talk to me – yet he came in the middle of the day.
My life has been one of privilege.
My life has been — well, my life has been complicated!
Jesus told me I must be born again. I asked him how I could re-enter my mother’s womb!
Jesus told me I could have water that would make me never thirst again. I asked him to give me some so I wouldn’t have to coming back to this well!
I listened to Jesus and went back to my community to think about it.
I listened to Jesus and went back to my community to tell others about it.
The woman went back to her community exclaiming,
“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!
He cannot be the Messiah can he?”
And those who heard her, left the city and went to meet him.
We are told that then they themselves came to believe –
not because of what the woman said, but because
of what they heard themselves.
They would not have heard;
they could not have heard unless the woman had told her story.
Challenging text for us, isn’t it?
How many have not heard; could not hear
because we haven’t told them our story?
Maybe we don’t believe we have a story to tell.
This woman had a complicated life for sure –
she’s had five husbands and is living with a man who is not her husband.
(It seems a bit ironic that Elizabeth Taylor died this week…)
We don’t know why the woman at the well had five husbands, of course –
perhaps she was fulfilling Jewish law and her husbands had died.
Nonetheless, it seems that five husbands is unusual –
Jesus knew her circumstances and still spoke to her,
He included her in the promise for living water that will quench all thirst.
That’s some story!
We hear that the woman went back to her community and told them 3 things:
First of all she told them “Come”
“Come and see” for yourselves – she issued an invitation first.
Second of all, she told them,
“He told me everything I have ever done.”
No more secrets.
Everything was out in the open.
“He told me everything I have ever done,”
and the implication is her astonishment that he accepted her anyway.
Thirdly, she asked them,
“He cannot be the Messiah can he?”
As the famous preacher Fred Craddock once said,
she gives them a confession of faith, but it’s not exactly the Apostles’ Creed – She didn’t say, “ I believe that Jesus is the Messiah!”
Her confession is tentative, in the form of a question,
still wondering if it could possibly be true that Jesus is the Messiah.
The woman at the well is not the best trained evangelist.
She’s never read the Torah herself.
She’s provided more questions than answers.
She doesn’t even get names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses to follow up!
But look what happens!
Many Samaritans believe because of what the woman told them..
They invite Jesus to come into their city to stay for a couple of days
to tell others.
And many more believe because of what Jesus told them.
Come and see.
He told me everything I have ever done.
He cannot be the Messiah can he?
3 phrases. That’s it.
I suppose that most of us feel that we’re not the best trained evangelists.
Perhaps we’ve never really read the Bible ourselves.
Perhaps we’ve got more questions than answers.
But we still have a story to tell.
The United Church of Christ has a slogan you might have heard –
God is still speaking.
Well, Jesus is still speaking.
Jesus has told us something…or we wouldn’t be here wasting our time on a Sunday morning.
What is that story?
What has Jesus told us?
Maybe Jesus told us when we were sick or depressed that he would give us hope.
Maybe Jesus told us when we saw the news in Japan that he would work through our gifts.
Maybe Jesus told us that he accepts us too regardless of our past.
Jesus told the woman everything she had ever done.
Jesus speaks to us too.
And that is our story to tell.
My story this week?
It happened on Tuesday evening at our World Outreach meeting.
We had a visit from Del Dell, the leader of a congregation of Sudanese Lutherans in Harrisburg.
Del spoke to us about how he and the other members of his congregation fled the Sudan as teenagers or younger
Del thinks he was about 7 or 8. That was the last time he saw his family.
He and all the young boys in his village were rounded up.
First they went to Ethiopia – on foot.
Many didn’t make it. They died of starvation or disease.
But Del said, “God is great!” – they made it to Ethiopia.
Well, about 6 months after they arrived in Ethiopia there was another uprising.
They were uprooted again and this time, they went to a refugee camp in Kenya.
This trip was a little bit better – but still they had no food.
And when the UN dropped food down from helicopters, the government forces dropped bombs at the same time – and it was not a coincidence.
But with a smile on his face, Del said, “God is great!” – and they made it into Kenya.
Del lived in the refugee camp for several years.
Finally, he was resettled with a number of other “Lost Boys of Sudan” to the Lancaster area.
Del has been called to preach.
Del is now a leader for mission congregations of Sudanese Lutherans in Harrisburg and Lancaster.
He’s going to seminary here in Gettysburg at the same time.
Del feels compelled to tell his story of his belief in a loving God who was behind every closed door all along the way!
Del’s story is pretty remarkable!
I believe Jesus spoke to me when Del spoke.
I believe Jesus was reminding me that I’ve had a lot more open doors than closed doors in my life – and God has been behind those too!
I believe that Jesus was reminding me that this is why the congregations from the Lower Susquehanna Synod work together – we work together so we can support mission congregations such as this one in Harrisburg.
I believe that Jesus was reminding me of the passage from Genesis we heard last week – we are blessed to be a blessing.
Did I hear the actual voice of Jesus?
Not in any way that could be recorded.
But I did hear Jesus speaking.
I’m going to challenge myself this week to tell that story to two other people not associated with St. James.
Challenge yourself to tell two people your story too.
It doesn’t have to be a remarkable a story like the one of the woman at the well, or like Del’s.
It could be a rather ordinary story, like mine – just sitting in a meeting on a Tuesday night.
But tell it.
Tell what you are hearing from Jesus.
I don’t know what will happen if we all begin telling our stories.
But I think I know what will happen if we don’t – nothing.