In Spirit and Truth
3rd Sunday in Lent – A LSB #808
Text – John 4:24
God is spirit, & those who worship Him must worship in spirit & truth.
IN SPIRIT & TRUTH
If I say 2, 4, 6, 8 – which number comes next? If I say 11, 9, 7, 5 – which number comes next? Challenging you a bit more, let’s switch to months of the year. February, April, June, August & then comes? Finally, how about do, re, mi, fa?
Now that you have the concept of progression in your mind, last Sunday we focused on the idea of being Born of the Spirit. This morning we’ll be looking at In Spirit & Truth. There’s a progression going on in the Gospel of John. It’s just not as obvious or predictable as those I quizzed you on moments ago.
Because of what sin has done to us, everyone instinctively understands that we need improvement & some kind of progress. What sin has done to us also gives the impression that we can improve ourselves if we just find the way. It’s a notion that’s hard to shake, because it is not learned behavior. It is in fact part of our DNA as sinful creatures.
The essence of our sinful nature is rebellion, & how rebellious can you be if you truly believe that you can’t get by on your own? The essence of rebellion is that the authorities that be are not getting it done. They aren’t doing right by me. They’re corrupt & looking out only for themselves. They deserve to be overthrown because I can do better.
Rebelling against authority is the ultimate “self-help” program. At least, until you end up in a position of authority. In last Sunday’s Gospel lesson that’s where Nicodemus was. In today’s Gospel reading, the woman of Samaria is in anything but a position of authority. The only rung lower on the ladder of her society would have been reserved for the lepers.
She had given up on progress & self-improvement as a hopeless fairy tale. She was just
trying to survive. There was no need for her to rebel against authority because no one in those shoes even cared that she existed. She was irrelevant, & powerless to do anything about it. She could have been the poster child for the feminist movement. Men had only been doing her wrong for her entire adult life.
So John brings us people from opposite ends of the spectrum. Both need progress & they realize it. Nicodemus thought he could achieve that on his own & figured Jesus might explain how. The woman of Samaria thought it was a hopeless pipe dream. It took her most of the Gospel reading to finally believe that Jesus really did want to help her.
It’s like we heard in the OT reading & sermon this past Wednesday. Nicodemus & the Samaritan woman both had their backs to the Red Sea. The Satanic army was bearing down on them, ready to swoop in for the kill. Nicodemus was still trying to live a perfect enough life to escape on his own. The Samaritan woman never imagined that escape was possible.
The truth is that God had designed an exodus to deliver them, just as He delivered the Israelites of old, as they literally sat with their backs to the Red Sea. Through the Samaritan woman & Nicodemus, St. John, in his Gospel, invites the reader or hearer to participate in the new exodus which will occur in the Sacrament of Baptism.
St. Paul makes that connection between the Exodus & Baptism in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, as he wrote: “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, & all passed through the sea, & all were baptized into Moses in the cloud & in the sea.”
Ever since Christ was baptized, it is in baptism that a person will be Born of the Spirit. It is there that a person will begin to worship in Spirit & Truth. It is there that we receive freedom from sin because we receive the life of the Spirit. Jesus came, in His flesh & blood body, to reveal that life to His creation. The resurrection of His once dead body was the 1st fruit in Yahweh’s plan of salvation. Those who trust in Jesus as Lord & Savior will be the many that follow, in flesh & blood. We will see that life fully & completely in heaven, but it is already alive now in those who follow Jesus. Yes, our sins hide that life. The brokenness of this present world, because of sin, hides that life, but it is real nonetheless.
Going back to the exodus, the descendants of Abraham became the nation of Israel as God delivered them from Egypt. But that nation was unfaithful to God, & their bodies were scattered across the wilderness. Whoever is born from God through water & the Spirit becomes thereby a member of the new Israel, united to Jesus who is Life.
As we remain in Christ, we remain alive eternally, even though we will die physically here on earth. You become a child of God not according to the flesh, but from God & from His Spirit. That was the lesson to Nicodemus. The lesson to the Samaritan woman is that the place in which we worship does not matter. What matters is that we worship the true God.
Since He is Spirit we must worship Him in Spirit & Truth. In the particular Gospel lesson for today, there is a progression occurring. The Samaritan woman is progressing from worship as an external action – a going through the motions, & a matter of the flesh – to an internal attitude – a matter of the heart which is truly in relationship with her Father in heaven.
Our earthly life here is precious & a gift from our heavenly Father, but sin has tied our thoughts far too tightly to what we can see, our life in this world. That’s why the coronavirus is the center of everyone’s attention right now. Here, all that we experience is tainted by Satan’s lie. He wants to interrupt the progression of the faith we have in Jesus as Savior & Lord.
Our life, as children of God, is not forever tied to the times & the places we know from our experiences of this life. The Samaritan woman demonstrated her confusion, where her progression had been interrupted, when she says, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” (John 4:19-20 ESV) She was tied too tightly to the times & the places of her life, her experiences.
Jesus answers her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. But the hour is coming, & is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit & truth…” (John 4:21 & 23 ESV)
Worship, or submitting to God’s will, is not about location, but about the heart & about relationship. This woman has not had good relationships in the earthly life. Mary on the morning of the resurrection doesn’t recognize Jesus, until He calls her name. Here, Jesus also has to reveal Himself to the Samaritan woman.
Jesus is the shepherd who knows when a sheep is weary & He comes to offer care by sharing the water of life. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” we have learned to say. “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Today, we see Jesus, coming as a shepherd, sitting beside still waters, restoring a soul.
Jesus begins a conversation with this weary woman. He offers her water – living water. She does not understand. How can He offer a drink when He does not even have a bucket? Is He greater than her father Jacob? Well, yes. He is greater, because He is Jacob’s Lord. The water He offers does not come from any well. It comes from Him.
Jesus is the source of all living water. His life, His death & His resurrection are a life-giving stream. Only in the gospel of John does Jesus cry out, “I thirst,” at His crucifixion. He becomes the thirsty one, longing for life, bearing our suffering, enduring our shame.
He enters the depths of Hell itself & dies in our place that He might rise & offer us His eternal, life-giving stream. Jesus sits by the well as a shepherd, coming to offer this woman a life-giving stream. For a moment, think about her experience. For once in her life, this woman meets a man who gives rather than takes & what He gives… oh, what He gives makes her a child of God. The honor she finds in Jesus frees her to speak in hope of the Messiah. The life she finds in Jesus is a gift that will never go away.
He still sits there, our Shepherd, by that well where, with a splash of water & God’s word, you are made a child of God. The words of our Lord run deep, deeper than any of your troubles, deep enough to conquer Hell itself that He might rise from the depths with life for you.
“Come to me all you who are weary & heavy-laden,” Jesus cries. That is the progression which Jesus desires for you. Today, the Son of God comes to restore your soul. Amen.
O sing to the Lord, O sing God a new song. O sing to the Lord, O sing God a new song. O sing to the Lord, O sing God a new song. O sing to our God, O sing to our God. For God is the Lord! And God has done wonders. For God is the Lord! And God has done wonders. For God is the Lord! And God has done wonders. O sing to our God, O sing to our God. Amen. LSB 808:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet