Lent 3

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March 3, 2002

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your Son once welcomed an outcast woman because of her faith. Give us faith like hers, that we also may trust only in your love for us and may accept one another as we have been accepted by you; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Exodus 17:1-7
{1} From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. {2} The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" {3} But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" {4} So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." {5} The LORD said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. {6} I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. {7} He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

1. the wilderness of Sin: A place, not a moral condition, located between Elim and Mt. Sinai.
there was no water for the people to drink: The people have already faced "bitter" water (15:22-25), and have enjoyed an abundance of water (15:27). The route of the Exodus is summarized in Numbers 33:1-49.
2. quarreled: The root, rib, is the source of the name Meribah, literally "Quarrel," "Strife," "Contention."
Why do you test The Lord: You will remember Ahaz’ refusal to "put the Lord to the test" in Isaiah 7:12, the first lesson for Advent 4.
6. Horeb: The name for Mt. Sinai used in the Elohist’s account. The mountain is not reached by the people until chapter 19.
7. Massah and Meribah: Massah (from nsh, to test or try) is an addition to the older tradition. A similar story is told in Numbers 20:2-13. The place there is also called Meribah. Gerhard von Rad wrote: "Massa and Meribah…imply that legal cases were investigated and decided by ordeal there." [1]
Is the LORD among us or not: The basis for complaining is a fear that since they do not have all the comforts they desire Yahweh is no longer with them. References to this story are in Numbers 20:1-3; 27:14; Deuteronomy 6:16; 9:22; 32:51; 33:8; and Psalm 81:7; 95:8; 106:32.
     This is one of a series of ten tests that the people undergo. They are 15:22-27, bitter water; 16, lack of food-manna; 17:1-7, the lesson for today-Massah & Meribah; Numbers 11, complaining about the manna-quails; Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron’s jealousy of Moses; 13-14, spies sent in the Canaan-fear of the Canaanites; 16, revolt of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; 17, complaining; 20:1-3, Meribah (again); 21:4-9, poisonous serpents-Bronze Serpent.
     The people contrast their "comfort" in Egypt with their thirst in the desert and complain to Moses. Moses turns to Yahweh, and Yahweh provides relief, thus proving that he is still with them and cares for them.

Psalm 95
{1} O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! {2} Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! {3} For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. {4} In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. {5} The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. {6} O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! {7} For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! {8} Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, {9} when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. {10} For forty years I loathed that generation and said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways." {11} Therefore in my anger I swore, "They shall not enter my rest."

     The Psalm has the form of a hymn, with an invitation to praise Yahweh and the reasons for that invitation given in clauses introduced by the word "for" in verses 3 and 7.
3. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods: The first hymnic theme. Yahweh’s kingship is developed in terms of his creative power in verses 4-5.
7. For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture…listen to his voice: The second hymnic theme.
8. Meribah…Massah: Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13. 
9. your ancestors tested me…put me to the proof…had seen my work.: The speaker has changed from the singer in verses 1-8. Yahweh is now speaking.
11. Therefore in my anger I swore, "They shall not enter my rest": This judgment does not occur in Exodus 17, but rather in Numbers 20:12. "Abruptly the prophetic word concludes with the oath of the angry God: ‘They shall not come to my rest!’… that is the ‘rest’ of possession of land…." [2]
     A connection to the first lesson is made in verse 1: the rock of our salvation and Exodus 17:6, and through the reference to Massah and Meribah in verses 8-11. Yahweh repudiated the wilderness generation because of their lack of trust. The congregation is encouraged not to harden their hearts with the implication that if they do they may suffer the same fate as the wilderness generation.

Roman 5:1-11
{1} Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, {2} through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. {3} And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, {4} and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, {5} and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. {6} For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. {7} Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. {8} But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. {9} Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. {10} For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. {11} But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

     "With this paragraph in Romans one moves into part B of the doctrinal section of the letter. Paul now proceeds from the question of salvation and justification to the consequences of faith in Christ Jesus. Whereas humanity left to itself without the gospel came only under the wrath of God, through the gospel and through the grace of God that it proclaims humanity now finds justification, redemption, expiation, and pardon of its sins. Paul now explains how, as a result of such justification and salvation, human beings are at peace with God, and now God’s love further manifests itself toward them." [3]
6-8. while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. …while we were enemies: Christ died for us as an expression of God’s love for us when we were still his enemies. This is not what we would expect of ourselves or each other, or especially of God. We would expect him to respond to us in kind. But God deals with his people in ways we have no right to expect or predict. The initiative is all with God, and God does not act in response to our righteousness or our sin. Instead he acts from his love for his people. Human relations, personal relationships, even ecclesiastical relationships require reciprocity between the two parties. Fortunately for us, our relationship with God is built on stronger stuff. See also Romans 4:5. In terms of the covenants of the Old Testament, God has established a unilateral covenant of grace with us, like the ones he established with Abraham, and with David.

John 4:5-42
{5} So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. {6} Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. {7} A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." {8} (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) {9} The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) {10} 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." {11} The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? {12} Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" {13} Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, {14} 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." {15} 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." {16} Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." {17} The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; {18} for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" {19} The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. {20} Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." {21} Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. {22} You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. {23} But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. {24} God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." {25} The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." {26} Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you." {27} Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" {28} Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, {29} "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" {30} They left the city and were on their way to him. {31} Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." {32} But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." {33} So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" {34} Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. {35} Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. {36} The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. {37} For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' {38} I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." {39} Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." {40} So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. {41} And many more believed because of his word. {42} 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."

     Jesus had gone to Jerusalem after Passover (2:13). There he had been baptizing at Aenon near Salim (3:23). He returned through Samaria.
5. a Samaritan city called Sychar: In Matthew 10:5 Jesus sent out the twelve disciples with the following instructions: "…enter no town of the Samaritans." Though, in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus excluded the Samaritans from the mission of the twelve, he calls attention to the Samaritan leper as an example of faith (Luke 17:16), and to the Good Samaritan as an example of love (Luke 10:25-37). The first Christian mission outside Jerusalem was to Samaria (Acts 8:4-25).
Sychar: This is probably Askar, a village near Shechem. Jacob’s field: Genesis 48:22. Joshua 24:32: Joseph was buried there.
6. Jacob's well: Jacob’s well is not mentioned in the Old Testament. By the 380 AD, a church was built at the site of a well that was identified as Jacob’s well at Balata, south-east of Shechem.
9. a Jew: Only here, in John, is Jesus identified as a Jew (a Judean). In fact he is a Galilean.
Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans: A comment by John or a later gloss, this comment reflects the historical hostility between Israel and the Samaritans based on Nehemiah 4. The comment would not have been necessary for those who knew of the hostility between the two groups, which suggests that the readers do not know of that hostility. In John 8:48 Jesus is denounced as a Samaritan by Judeans, perhaps because of his dealings with them, but certainly to make Jesus an ‘outsider’ in Judean society.
10-15: A dialogue like that in chapter 3, filled with misunderstanding and mystery. Jesus is the source of eternal life, expressed in terms of living water.
10. living water: "…the term is ambiguous, so that the woman understands ‘living water’ to mean ‘spring water,’ while Jesus understands it to refer to ‘water of life.’" [4] Jeremiah 2:21, 17:13: Yahweh is identified as "the fountain of living water."
14. those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty: See Eccesiasticus 24:21. The image of never thirsting and thirsting seem contradictory, but the reality they reflect is the same; having tasted what Jesus offers, nothing else can satisfy. He is also the bread of life (John 6:49-51).
16-19: The woman identifies Jesus as a prophet because of his inexplicable knowledge of her circumstances. See verse 29.
20-24: A second dialogue which leads to the principle that worship of God must be in spirit and truth.
21. neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem: The reference to the place of worship reflects the difference in what the Samaritans and Judeans accepted as authoritative Scripture. The Samaritans accepted only the books of Moses, and that in their own unique version, the Samaritan Pentateuch, which indicated that the proper place to worship Yahweh was on Mt. Gerizim Jesus declares that cults, sects, divisions, canons will cease to be significant.
25-26: A third dialogue: What the Samaritans believed about a Messiah is unknown. It was probably based on Deuteronomy 18:15. Jesus identifies himself as the Messiah..
26. I am he: One of several (6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-8) self-identifications by Jesus. Some think it reflects the "I am" statements of Yahweh in the Old Testament, for example in Exodus 3:14.
27. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman: Casual conversation between unrelated men and women was considered inappropriate.
28-30, 39-42. Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony: The first missionary (apart from the disciples) was a Samaritan and a woman!
31-38: A fourth dialogue. This one is between Jesus and the disciples. Again misunderstanding and clarification is the process. Jesus’ food is obedience to the Father, the harvest is gathering fruit for eternal life, people for the kingdom.
35-36: Cf. Matthew 9:37-38: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
40. he stayed there two days: Philip preached to the Samaritans in Acts 8:5ff. The conversion of Samaritans had to be confirmed before the Jerusalem church would accept it (Acts 8:14ff).
     There are several points to be made. In dealing with Samaritans Jesus demonstrates that God’s gifts are for outsiders. Those who consider themselves worthy of those gifts will be disappointed. The gifts God gives us in Jesus can no more be understood directly than God can be looked at directly. Jesus personifies God. Water and harvest personify eternal life. We should, perhaps, not be too sure we know what that is. For some revelation is direct, but most of us depend on the faithful witness of others.

One theme that stands out is that the Lord responds to our need apart from our worthiness, indeed in spite of our unworthiness. That response is identified with water in the first lesson and the Gospel. In the first lesson God provided water to ungrateful complainers. In the second lesson Christ died for the ungodly. In the Gospel an unclean Samaritan woman is given an opportunity to receive living water. The Psalm introduces another note into the series of lections, condemning those who doubted God. The Gospel picks this up, too, with the implied contrast between the Samaritan woman whose religious traditions were contrary to those of the Judeans and who yet accepted Jesus, and the Judeans who did not accept him.

Hymns [5]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

301 --E--Come to Calvary's
497 --D--I Heard the
4 --P--Come, Let Us
790v --P--Praise to You
306 --II--Chief of Sinners

420 --G--Lord, Save Your
742s --G--Tree Of Life
635v --G--Surely it Is God (809s)
772v --G--The Lord Is My (793s)
297, 291, 327, 429

Prayers of the People [6]
P or A: We praise God's name, for he is gracious and merciful, and will not test us beyond what we can bear. We commend our prayers to our merciful God, praying in Jesus' name, and responding, "Amen."
A: We are instructed by your word to forsake wicked ways and to trust in your mercy, for you are a God who will pardon abundantly. Draw your church to repentance and freedom from the human greed and ambition which lead your people to labour for that which does not satisfy. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: We reach out to the world by preaching your gospel and serving our brothers and sisters. As we do so, strengthen our words and deeds with the gift of humility. Encourage and direct us so that we do not in arrogance put your faithfulness to the test. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: Help us to abandon notions of self-righteousness in relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Remind us that each human story is sacred, and that our own stories are also coloured by the fallenness common to all humankind. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: For all who suffer illness or face death, we pray to you, O God. Strengthen us to lend our prayers and open arms to support and comfort them. We think especially of __________ . In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: We pray for all those who lead in this congregation--pastor(s), assistants, teachers, council members, and __________. Encourage them in the tasks of service to which you have called them, that in all that they do your name may be blessed. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
P: In our lives and prayer, let us seek the Lord that he may be found, giving us the gift of eternal life. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Or [7]

Presider or deacon
To all who come to the well, God gives living water.
As we make our journey to the paschal feast, let us earnestly pray to God for all who thirst and hunger.
Deacon or other leader
For the holy catholic church in every place, traveling the wilderness of this world.
For N our bishop, for presbyters and deacons and all who minister in Christ, and for all the holy people of God.
For NN our catechumen(s) and NN their sponsors(s).
For all nations, peoples, tribes, clans, and families.
For the victims of greed and violence, and for all who are in need.
For the dying and the dead.
For our families, friends, and companions, and for all those we love.
Blessed are you, God of spirit and truth, who gave us the savior of the world.
Receive the prayers we offer this day for those who seek new life in Christ and for all peoples everywhere.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962, p. 12.
[2] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989, p. 248.
[3] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1992, p. 393.
[4] Ernst Haenchen, John 1:A Commentary on the Gospel of John Chapters 1-6. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, p. 230.
[5]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/rcla9899.txt
[6]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/inter_a2.txt
[7] http://members.cox.net/oplater/prayer.htm