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Reflections, Images, and Videos for St. Patrick’s Day and the Third Sunday in Lent

March 21, 2017

348735bda76ba902ffb76b4dca9b1cacMar. 19 blog

Animated-glittering-three-leaf-cloverIn honour of St. Patrick’s Day, our Services on March 19 had a strong Celtic flavour. Here, embedded immediately below, are videos of 4 Irish songs about Our Lord’s love, the third of which is based on St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Following these, there are 2 videos of running water in an Irish waterfall and cave. We watched all of these videos before our 10 a.m. Service to prepare us for worship. 

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Our Liturgy at both our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services began with the following Call to Worship based on St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

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At our 10 a.m. Service, we had fun (and got our exercise) singing the following song with our children as part of the Children’s Talk.

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Here’s a video of “I’ve Got Peace Like a River,” minus the actions we did as we sang it together.

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Here’s the Gospel passage we read at both Services.

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[Here’s an adapted version of the sermon I preached at both Services.]

wwWater imagery occurs throughout today’s Readings from Holy Scripture. Exodus 17 & Psalm 95 refer to the story of water coming from rock while the people of Israel were in the Wilderness. Romans 5 says that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” But we see it especially in our Gospel Reading. Last week, we looked at the life-changing encounter of Nicodemus with Jesus. This week, we’re looking at the life-changing encounter between Jesus and a woman of Samaria at Jacob’s Well.

Before we look together at this passage, let’s watch this video of the first part of it interpreted on film.

Map-Israel-New-Testament-TimesIt’s actually remarkable that this encounter occurred at all. In verses 3-4, just before today’s passage, it says, “Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.” It’s true that to go straight to Galilee from Judea, you have to pass through Samaria. But actually, Jews usually didn’t go straight – they went around the region of Samaria. This was because of animosity towards the Samaritans, but also because of the Samaritans’ animosity towards them. Jesus, however, it says, had to go through Samaria. The Greek here is ‘edei‘: it was necessary . Jesus has a “divine appointment.” He overcomes all obstacles for it to happen. This is the first: the appointment’s location.

Verses 5-6 continue: “So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.”

John, who emphasizes Jesus’ divinity, also emphasizes his full humanity. Jesus is tired … and thirsty.

618625af59cdc28b391ccdf8c5fd4521Verse 7 then says, “A Samaritan woman came to draw water.” This was an unusual sight. First, it’s unusual, because Sychar had its own well in the town. You didn’t need to go to Jacob’s Well outside the town for water – unless you weren’t welcome to use the well in it. Second, it’s unusual because of the time. You came to draw water in the evening or morning, but not the heat of the day – unless you wanted to avoid people.

John continues: “Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)”

The disciples have taken the bucket with them. Jesus initiates contact, overcoming 2 more barriers. 

samaritan-woman2The Samaritan woman points these barriers out, when she says to him in reply, “‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?'” John then adds parenthetically, “(Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)”

As I mentioned earlier, there was mutual hostility between Jews and Samaritans, going back to the Exile, 600 years before! When the exiles from the South came back from Babylon, they found that those who’d stayed behind had married and had families with those the Assyrians had brought into the land, and wanted nothing to do with them. They saw these people as unclean – a half step to Gentiles. Things continued in the same vein on both sides from there. Because Jews saw Samaritans as unclean, wouldn’t use any of their utensils.

Also, this person was a woman. In that society, a man didn’t talk with a woman by herself. It was considered a temptation. Some even went so far as to say that even if it’s your wife or sister, you shouldn’t talk with her in public, to avoid the appearance of impropriety. This was magnified even further if the man were a rabbi, a holy man.

christ-and-the-samaritan-woman-fragment-1311In verse 10 , it says, “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.'”

“Living” or “running” water was the best kind. Water in wells and cisterns was stagnant, but it was pure. Throughout the Old Testament, it’s used in a spiritual sense. for example, Jeremiah 2:13 says: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” 

Does the woman misunderstand? (It’s the same question we asked about Nicodemus last week.) Or is she deliberately being obtuse? We don’t know.

Verses 11-12 continue: “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor [in the Greek, it’s ‘patros‘ – father] Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?'”

womanwellA nice dig there. Jews didn’t consider Samaritans to be proper descendants – children – of Jacob, but Samaritans did.

In response, Jesus says to her, “‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.'”

This is very similar to what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Here he uses imagery appropriate to the situation – water, rather than birth – to make the point that he’s offering the gift of new and eternal life within.

The woman responds: “‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.'”

youthministryobjectlesson-lessonsforevangelismofyouth-thesamaritanwoman-140309204256-phpapp01-thumbnail-4“Wouldn’t I like water like that!” I think that there’s a wistfulness here, a genuine longing, a yearning, she as yet cannot perhaps even name  (like Nicodemus’ saying: “Wouldn’t I like to be born a second time!”). And so. she asks Jesus: “Give this water to me.”

Jesus then does something that seems to be right out in left field: “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.'” The reason for this statement is about to become clear. Jesus is beginning of soul surgery, dealing with the final block between this woman and an encounter with Jesus that will change her life forever.

The woman answers, “‘I have no husband.'” But Jesus counters, “‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!'”

Jesus puts his finger on the spot of her shame, humiliation, the cause of her alienation, why she comes to Jacob’s Well with the sun scorching her in the middle of the day. Like a doctor, he touches this spot … and it hurts.

1280186417samaritan-womanThe woman responds: “‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.'”

This could be a diversion, and attempt to shift the spotlight off of her life, to get release from the touch that is hurting. Or, as in the above movie clip, it could be a genuine block for her.This was the main source of conflict between Jews and Samaritans. When the Jews rebuilt the temple, they refused participation by Samaritans. So the Samaritans built their own, on Mount Gerazim. This temple was destroyed under the Maccabees. Then about 20 years before this conversation, some Samaritans defiled the temple in Jerusalem by scattering human bones in the courtyard during Passover.

Words like these can be either a diversion or a genuine block. Sometimes, when God is moving in people, they can find reasons to resist change. “If there really is a God, why is there such suffering in the world?” “Who can really know?” “Wouldn’t it be more prudent to hold back from doing anything rash?” These questions can be a kind of smoke screen to disappear behind when the Great Physician’s hands are touching us. But they can also be genuine: “If God really is love, why did my mother / my spouse / my child die so painfully?” The essential point is that Jesus in love overcomes whatever the barriers are. They don’t need to prevent people from receiving the water he wants to give them.

samaritan-woman-at-the-well-jruchi-gospels-ii-mss-georgia-12th-cenJesus says to her, “‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 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 worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.'”

Jesus responds: “It so happens that the Jews are right about the location of the temple, but it doesn’t matter. God is looking for people to worship genuinely, for a relationship of love. God is looking for people like YOU.”  

The woman says to him, “‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.'”

The Samaritans were indeed looking for a Messiah. She’s saying: “I’ll get right with God when … ; I’ll go deeper when … when God appears to make things clear. One day things will be different, be better.”

2360530_f520Jesus replies to this: “‘I am he , [In Greek it’s just: ‘I am’] the one who is speaking to you.'”

“This is the day you can experience this. You don’t have to wait any longer. You can know this right now.” 

How fitting it is that this encounter should take place at Jacob’s Well – where Jacob met Rachel! Jean Vanier comments: “The meeting of Jesus and this Samaritan woman at the well is a meeting of love. Jesus, the divine Bridegroom, reveals his love for her.”

The result? We see the change in her by what happens next.

“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?'”

BLOG-WaW-Empty-Water-JarShe is so excited that she has to share. And she goes to the very people who had ostracized her! Note how her relationship struggles had been her self-identity, her secret. And not just hers. They all knew what she was talking about! But, Jesus touched her where she was broken, and now she can share with it as a testimony of Jesus’ healing.

Verse 39 says, “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.””

160217132605e9b3b2913e579c654d6544bac171c5fdIn his homily on this passage, St. John Chrysostom offered this reflection:

Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water, and when she had lighted upon the true Well, … what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also. They when they were called, left their nets; she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot, and winged by joy performs the office of Evangelist. And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip, but having aroused a whole city and people, so brought them to Him.

There was no denying the effect on her. And so she was the first evangelist to the Samaritans; just as the first evangelist to the Gentiles wasthe demon-possessed man who was healed in the region of the Gerasenes. Both shared what Jesus had done; they bore witness by being who they were – healed.

This story was not written for us to admire it from a distance, saying, “Isn’t it great how Jesus reached out to a woman of Samaria!”

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At the end of John’s Gospel, he says: “These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). 

Jesus has a divine appointment with you today. He knows your thirst, the places you’re broken. He knows all the barriers, all the reasons you can think of why this can’t be for you, and he’s overcome them all. He’s offering this gift to you. He wants you TODAY to know this fountain of water welling up to eternal life inside – for the first time, or for the 101st time! 

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And he wants you to share about this water with others who are themselves thirsting for living water their souls, as one desert traveller tells another where they’ve found an oasis.

Let’s spend a few minutes reflecting and responding to Jesus’ offer to us, as we listen to Irishman Robin Mark leading a Belfast congregation in song.

Let us pray. From Andrew King:

well-7How often have I come here,
Jesus, to this place of
old faith and fresh neediness,
bent down with the burden
of my failures, stumbling
in my thirsting for hopefulness,
the cracked vessel of my heart
leaking grief. . .

how often have I come here
not expecting you in the heat
of my pressures,
not expecting you in the stress
of my confusion,
yet meeting you
who offers water to the helpless,
who quenches the raw thirst
for acceptance,
who gives the deep sustenance
of kindness without payment,
the nourishment of love

without limit. . .

how often have you met me,
refilling my heart, leaving me
astonished again

in the depths of my being
that you waited here
for me, even me?

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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We used the following Celtic Litany for the form of the Prayers of the People at both March 19 Services.

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At our 10 a.m. Service, a modern version of St. Patrick’s Lorica (sung in the video below by its composer) was our Song after Communion.

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WaterDayDuring our Announcements’ time, we remembered that March 22 is World Water Day. We celebrated that our Parish has raised $13,450 since 2008 to build 134 biosand filters through the Calgary-based Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST)! social_media_shareBut we also remembered that so much still needs to be done, as over 1.8 billion people still are drinking fecally contaminated water, and 2.4 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation. The theme for World Water Day 2017 is “Waste Water.” Here’s a brief video we watched about this at our 10 a.m. Service.

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We left our 10 a.m. Service with joy at Our Lord’s love for us, and the opportunities we have to share this love with others.

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o-SAINT-PATRICK-570For St. Patrick’s Day material from 2015, please click here.

For St. Patrick’s Day material from 2014, please click here.

For St. Patrick’s Day material from 2013, please click here.

For St. Patrick’s Day material from 2012, please click here, here, here, and here.

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