Sermon Lent 3. Yr A, 2023 What a gospel! We got nearly the whole chapter in that one eh?  And yet, I’m still going to add some back in, verses 3 and 4, Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee, but he had to go through Samaria. An innocuous little verse…he had to go through Samaria.  Had to? Really? Jews and Samaritans were not the best of friends, in fact quite the opposite and to go through territory belonging to the Samaritans, if you were Jewish, was inviting trouble. Geographically speaking Jesus didn’t NEED to go through Samaria to get to Galilee.  Yet we read he HAD to go, HAD to, and tired out by his journey Jesus sat by Jacob’s well. And here Jesus meets the nameless woman at the well. Now if you were living in Jesus time, you’d know what that meant right away.  In the bible and in story if a man and woman met at a well, they were sure to get married.  Jacob’s well, was in fact the one where he met his wife Rachel. A man meets a woman at the well, was as common in story ,as a prince meets a princess at a ball…we all know what happens next. So.  We read Jesus has to go through enemy territory, and then meets a woman at a well.  You can bet those listening would have pricked up their ears. And the story starts as it ought, with the man asking the woman for a drink, but that is where all expectations and stereotypes end. We find out that Jesus is not going to marry this woman, in fact she has had 5 husbands and currently has a lover.  So now the expectation changes to the idea that Jesus will save this terrible woman.  Surely that is why Jesus had to come to this dangerous and foreign place. However, instead of condemnation we get a most remarkable conversation.   "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.""Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, … The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."… This is not at all the conversation that would have been expected, yet here we find the very essence of an outsider engaging Jesus in conversation like an equal.  What a difference from the conversation of last week’s gospel where in Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, who was a leader of the Jews and a teacher and follower of the law. “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about what it takes to enter the kingdom of God, what it means to have eternal life, but Nicodemus spoke to Jesus as a teacher, a Rabbi, a learned man of God, and nothing more.              The conversation with the woman at the well is the same conversation, that Jesus had with Nicodemus but it was received and responded to quite differently.  The living water, the water of eternal life, is that same rebirth of Spirit that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about.  However Nicodemus, the epitome of a faithful and religious Jew, one who knew the law, followed the faith, lived in righteousness didn’t understand Jesus “How can these things be?” and didn’t recognize him to b anything but a fellow teacher. Yet from the Samaritan woman, disgraced and isolated…the furthest from a faithful and righteous Jew one could think of, we hear the words of faith and proclamation. And we hear from Jesus that great proclamation I AM, the same words that would get Jesus crucified by the faithful, but here and now an enemy of the Jews becomes an evangelist for Christ. Many Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the woman's testimony, And many more believed because of his word. … They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world." The saviour of the world.  A unique proclamation in John’s gospel.  It is only here, in Samaria,  that Jesus is proclaimed Saviour in John’s gospel.  Those we assume should see Jesus clearly, said ‘how can this be?!” And those we would write off entirely, proclaim Jesus to be the Saviour of the World. Perhaps this is why Jesus HAD to come to Samaria.  Perhaps it is to meet this woman, to equip her to become his evangelist that Jesus HAD to come to that so called God forsaken part of the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. This encounter breaks the tropes of Jewish storytelling, it breaks the bondage of stereotypes, it breaks through human ignorance and assumption, through cultural bias and false religious piety and gets to the core of human relationship with God. And it does so through conversation, in fact the longest conversation Jesus has in the bible.  Jesus engages with out of the way people and places and so should we.  By getting to know the others in our lives, by embracing the idea that we don’t know everything and the God can be found in the most unexpected of places.  We drink deep of the water of life, we are born again in Spirit. The woman at the well represented in so many ways the very type of a person Jesus should not be talking to.  A woman, unchaperoned.  A Samaritan, the enemy of his people.  A woman unclean by virtue of her sexual status.  An outcast from all polite society. Yet…God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  In fact, through Jesus’ conversation with this undesirable, the word of God, the witness of the Saviour of the World  is spread beyond the Jewish people and beyond the expected recipients of God’s favour to people…well…people like us.   There is a lot to digest here. It may be that the people we try to avoid, the ones we cross the street against, those who we’d rather take the long way round to keep from, are those whom Jesus goes out of his way for. He had to go through Samaria.  Where do we have to go I wonder? What are the places and who are the people that we assume God would never go to?  It’s easy to say God saves all, but truly, deeply are there people who you would rather be ignorant?  And worst of all…what if it’s us?   After all we are closer to Nicodemus than the Samaritan woman.  Sitting in our fine church, draped in robes, broadcasting our liturgy to the world.  Are we not more like the Pharisees than we are like the women at the well?  Yet, time and again it is the woman at the well and those like her that Jesus seeks out.  Perhaps it’s because we think we know all the answers?  If people would just come to St. Andrew’s and see what we do, if they would just show up…and tithe… and volunteer then we would be ok.   I mean, Jesus’ mission would be fulfilled.  Right.  That’s what we are doing here right? Saviour of the world?  Or Saving St. Andrews?   It takes some good long thinking to sort out what we REALLY want and if that is what Christ is calling us to. It may be that to rid ourselves of prejudice and false piety, we do have to be born again, drink deep of the living waters, and be reborn of the Spirit.  Just as we do when we undergo baptism, born again by water and the spirit, so that we can work with God to bring to life the purpose of God, not to our glory but to God’s.  For God so loved the world, that Christ came to the world save it…to teach us, demonstrate for us, died for us, so that we can be born of water and Spirit.  So that we can live out that kingdom God calls us to, so that we can do as we are called to do in our baptismal covenant, through repentance, proclamation, service, justice and restoration. So that we can live as our Samaritan woman did, not constrained by past nor bound by the chains of social status but alive in the spirit and engaged with Christ.  So, that we can be evangelists in our own spheres, speaking out loud of our conversations with Christ and our relationship with the saviour, in order that others may meet and engage with Christ themselves. So, that through that relationship not only will the message of Christ be spread, but also that prejudice be removed and community restored.  At the beginning of the story the woman was at the well alone, at the end she was surrounded by community. That encounter between Christ and the Samaritan woman had far reaching consequences, changing not only her life but all of her community and in time, one could even say the world.   One can never know what good will come of following where Christ leads, but like Christ’s journey to Samaria, we have to follow.  Follow and drink deep of the water of life, until it springs forth and overflows.   The story of the women at the well did not go as one assumes it would, there is no reason ours will.  However, when we go where Christ has us go…and when we engage in relationship with Christ and other,  Christ’s kingdom will come and we will see this lives change. Drink deep, and follow where Christ leads. amen