The Grace of Kaaterskill Falls, March 15

The Grace of Kaaterskill Falls

Exodus 17:1-17; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church, online; March 15, 2020

 

This is such a story, here in the fourth chapter of John.  This woman, by herself, at Jacob’s well in Samaria, comes upon a stranger, a Jew, clearly a traveler, because there sure weren’t Jews who were regulars here.  Her plan is surely to ignore him, but he speaks to her, asking her for a drink after a long journey.  She won’t refuse him – water is a necessity, of course.  But she questions him – why are you speaking to me?  You’re a Jew; I’m a Samaritan – we strive to have nothing to do with each other, if at all possible. 

 

Ah, says Jesus – and  as he is wont to do, especially in this gospel of John, he immediately turns poetic – if we’re talking water, and if you knew who I am, you’d be asking me for water. 

 

You? You don’t have water, nor any means to get it.

 

They’re sparring, bantering perhaps, but with an edge, trying to find where the other is coming from.  Perhaps you noticed that the conversation went on for a while, that Rick read and read and read, because the story is intricate and intimate, and extensive.  And although the encounter begins with banter, it ends with deep respect, of the unnamed woman for Jesus and of Jesus for her.  He has told her that he is, in fact, the Messiah, which he has told no-one else, and she has then believed that, trusted in its veracity, and become the first evangelist by proclaiming Jesus and his grace and love to her entire village.  It’s a story beloved by many because it is so full – of authenticity, of strong characters, of transformation, and ultimately of hope. 

 

We hear it on a day that is also full.  We’re overwhelmed by the reality of a medical emergency that is upon us and will intensify before it slows down.  We’re also, therefore, full of feelings of worry and loneliness and fear, with some skepticism thrown in and a little bit of relief at the insistence that we slow down and stay home.  We’ve been given time to read the books we got for Christmas or watch that show everyone’s talking about in its entirety.  We’re given the gift of Sabbath rest, to read scripture – claim a Psalm each day, read through Philippians or Luke.  Memorize your favorite hymn.  Even spending an hour playing Candy Crush online, or catching up on your knitting needn’t feel like a guilty pleasure, just a pleasure.  You shouldn’t go anywhere.  We’re full, too, of the challenges of twenty-first century technology.  It may have taken some doing just to find this live-streaming worship service in the first place.   We hope to find God where we expect God to be, and it’s hard to do that when we can’t even come to church.  This isn’t even being offered from the sanctuary – we don’t yet have good enough technology and wi-fi capacity to share beyond this small office.  So we sing, and we pray, and we long for something familiar.

 

Come back with me to the gospel story.  The promise that draws the woman at the well into the heart of the conversation with Jesus is his word that he can offer her living water, gushing up to eternal life!

 

Living water is flowing water, water that is moving, like the water that comes down the mountain along the Spruce creek and tumbles down the cliff creating Kaaterskill Falls.  Especially as the snow melts, the waters are powerful, beautiful, and exciting.  The vision of her life being filled with the excitement of living water gushing up from a deep mountain spring, bringing rich and full life – this grabs the imagination of this woman and keeps her engaged in a conversation with a stranger, who was definitely not her kind. 

 

Jesus’ invitation to us today, even in the midst of the unrest and chaos we’re in right now, is not stagnation or even a static status quo.  It’s not the constancy of a backyard pool, or a duck pond with reeds coming up from a marshy, shallow bottom.  The image Jesus offers this woman, and still offers to us, is active, rolling, living water, gushing up into eternal life.  A wise sage once said that you can’t step into the same river twice.  The living water in a river flows by, sometimes rushes by, and is therefore always different, never quite the same.  Which is to say that Jesus anticipated days like today, days which are different from what we have known before.  Change isn’t something new; this particular manifestation of change is new, but change itself is a core part of the good news that Jesus offers to all of us.  Samaritans and Jews in Jesus’ time disagreed about what constituted good worship.  Today, people of faith worship in old churches and new storefronts, with liturgy written centuries ago and songs composed specifically for today’s challenges.  Today we’re worshiping together and yet far apart, in a way that most of us haven’t ever quite experienced before.  And our God, God of change and glory and of time and space, will guide our feet and stand by our side as we wend our way forward.  We may well not recognize all that lies before us as familiar.  But we know our God does not back away from change, but goes with us into the flow, encouraging us to let life and love gush  through us to the world.

 

That’s in fact what this woman ultimately does.  She is excited about Jesus, about his insight and his respect for her, about his promise of life and his declaration that he is the Messiah, the one promised by God, who will bring God’s ways to earth.  She is filled with the excitement of the good news she has heard and trusted, and she goes and lets her world know.  She doesn’t offer theological truisms; she offers her story, her witness.  I met a man who changed me, changed my life, altered my understanding of who I am because of who he is.  Come! See for yourself!

 

That’s all we’re doing.  We’ve met this Jesus and he’s changed our life.  Because of him, we can face uncertain days – days of strange viruses and strange worship experiences.  Because of him, we can choose to live out of his love even when fear and despair seek to claim us.  Because of him, we can offer grace, abundant and gushing grace, to all God’s children, even when they are mean or selfish or afraid.  Tell your stories, friends.  Let the gushing grace, the living water of eternal life, the abundant love of Jesus shape who you are and how you live, through change, through fear, through whatever life brings your way.  Jesus is yours, for the whole world, now and forever.  Amen.

 

 

 

Exodus 17:1-17

17 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. 2The 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?” 3But 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?” 4So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5The 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. 6I 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. 7He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

 

8Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. 13And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword. 14Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner. 16He said, “A hand upon the banner of the Lord!  The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

 

 

Psalm 95 (UMH 814)

O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

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!

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

For forty years I loathed that generation and said,

    “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.”

Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

 

Romans 5:1-11

5Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and 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.

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For 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. 11But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

 

John 4:5-42

5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7A 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.) 9The 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.) 10Jesus 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.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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.” 15The 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.” 16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But 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. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

27Just 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?” 28Then 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?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him. 31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do 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. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They 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.”

 

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