Scripture: John 4:1-42
When I was in high school, I found things to be tough. When I look back, I can see it started in junior high. As I became more and more focused on sports, I saw less and less of my friends from my earlier childhood. There’s nothing abnormal about this, people grow and change all the time, and they choose different paths in life.
The problem was, as I moved into a new social circle, growing apart from my friends, I found it increasingly hard to fit in. I was a jock who was enjoying technology, a lot. Now remember, this was the late 80s and early 90s. It’s not at all like today. The internet was just beginning to emerge as a tool in schools and large businesses. My high school was one of the first in the country to get internet access. And back then there were no pictures, it was all text. People just didn’t understand this new technology. But I was having a lot of fun figuring it out in the computer lab.
Others didn’t understand technology. People didn’t use technology. And very, very few homes had computers. Not at all like today.
I was a geek living in a new world. A world which didn’t think like I did, it didn’t share the same passions I did. I felt a bit like an alien lost on a strange world. I just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
The jocks saw me as a nerd. The nerds saw me as a jock. I don’t know if it’s any easier now, I hope it is, but back then it was rare and hard to have a foot in both worlds.
My circle of friends was very small. Mostly we hung out because our girlfriends were good friends. But at least there were some I could sit down and have lunch with.
And not fitting in well made me an easy target for bullying. Not physical, but psychological. A lot of which came from my teammates on sports teams, which made it even harder because up to that point, sports was my happy place, my escape. And eventually even that joy was taken from me.
It was tough. My marks suffered because of it. In fact, it took me years, even most of my time at university to get over the struggles I encountered in high school.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve forgiven those who hurt me a long time ago. And I hope they are having great lives and are happy. I really do.
But, it’s not fun at all. It’s not something I would wish on anyone, yet it still happens today. People, because of their personality, because they are different, because they don’t fit neatly into the nice little boxes we like to put people in, because of these things people are left on their own to struggle through life.
I wish I could say the world has changed over the last 30 years and that everything is better, but I know better than that. If the world was a better place for those who don’t fit societal norms then we wouldn’t have had 3 teens commit suicide last year in this school board.
There has to be a better way to treat people who are different than us.
Jesus himself encountered someone like this in his ministry. He was travelling between cities with his disciples and they stopped for lunch near a well. Jesus rested by the well while his friends went into town to pick up some food.
As Jesus sat by the well, a woman from the village approached.
This doesn’t sound like an odd encounter when you initially consider it, but it is. The time for gathering water is first thing in the morning. You get up and you head out to the well to retrieve your water for the day usually with the other women. But this woman has come out in the heat of the day, alone.
This tells you she is different. She is not welcome to the well when others are around.
Jesus then talks to her. This too is odd because Jews and Samaritans do not associate with each other, and especially between the sexes.
Jesus sees her isolation and loneliness and offers her hope. He can see she is in need of something in her life, something far greater than she has been able to find. So he shares with her a story of hope.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
She takes the bait and desires to never be thirsty again. Does she realize that Jesus is offering her far more than water? Maybe, maybe not, but she does realize that if she never needs to come out to the well for water she won’t have to face the isolation and loneliness of coming when no others will be around. And if she can avoid the risk of facing those who mock her and bully her, she will take it.
In my case I even strongly considered quitting my high school basketball team. A team well on its way to winning a second provincial championship in three years. We were unstoppable. I was torn because I loved the game, but interacting with people was hard. I wanted out, but couldn’t bring myself to actually quit. I guess I was a bit too stubborn to give in that easily. Or maybe it was my pride knowing we were about to win it all. I don’t know for sure, but when the final whistle blew and we won the championship, I packed my bag and quietly left the locker room, choosing to travel home with my family instead of celebrating with my team. The long season was finally over and I felt relief.
For this woman to hear Jesus promise to her that she would find relief for her pain of loneliness and rejection, I know she is going to take it. I know I would have taken the offer if I were in her shoes.
She has had 5 husbands. We don’t know the specifics of her situation, but the fact there have been at least 6 men in her life (including the one she is now living with) shows her life has not been an easy one. She has been passed from husband to husband for whatever reason, much like a piece of useless property.
Jesus takes this opportunity to share with the woman his true identity. He is the Messiah, not just a prophet as she may think. He is the Promised One of God. He is the one she, and her people, have been looking and waiting for.
She goes into the village and shares what she has experienced at the well, and people believe her and follow her back to meet Jesus.
In the meantime, the disciples have returned with some lunch and sit down with Jesus.
Jesus begins to teach them about what has just happened, in a non-direct way. He begins to share with his friends about what he has come to do. And the Samaritan woman is the perfect example.
John 4:34-38 says this as Jesus responds to his friends about why he is not hungry.
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
The Samaritans, including and especially this woman, are looking for something. They are looking for God in their lives and are desperate to find him.
So when Jesus says, “Look around, the fields are ready for the harvest!” he is right. And it’s not just the Samaritans, but it’s also the crowds that follow them around from village to village. It’s the people who come running to the city gates when word spreads he is near. It’s all these people who are hungry for something in their lives which they cannot name, but know it when they find it.
God is doing work. All the time, God is preparing the hearts of men and women to receive him. He has been planting seeds for thousands of years. Well much longer than that really, he’s been doing planting seeds in the lives of his lost children since creation.
All that is needed is people to go out and bring in the harvest.
Jesus even shows how easy it is. Offer people hope. Simply let them know there is an answer to their questions. There is a helper for their problems. Being alone is not the solution, because there is someone who is ready and more than able to walk this journey with you.
The benefits to taking part in the harvest are huge. Jesus tells us that the rewards for the reaper are just the same as the sower. That is, we are one with God. If God and Jesus are doing all the planting, then we, who are the people who help bring in the harvest, we are receiving the same reward… eternal life together in the presence of God. Along with all the others we bring in with the harvest!
What a great promise! Introduce people to Jesus, and you will be with Jesus! All of us together!
Sadly, some people never find this hope. They just keep following the same lonely path, searching for direction, searching for something they felt they have lost, and never really finding it.
I followed that path for years. Leaving Acadia we moved to Ottawa and I began a career. But again, I never fully engaged, I never fully felt part of the team. I was still carrying scars from high school. As a result, I never fully reached any sort of potential. I still felt lost. Something was still missing.
Then Jesus found me.
I was invited to church. Then I was invited to help in the church using my skills in technology. And in the same way the church helped me realize there was much more to life than just “getting by.”
My life changed as I met Jesus and brought him into my life. My attitude towards work changed and I began to enjoy it, and through more effort began to actually get promotions and more responsibilities. And more money!
Then God called me to change my life more drastically, and work towards ministry. To help others find the joy I received in my life.
Jesus invited me to take part in the harvest.
Just as he invited the Samaritan woman to take part in the harvest.
Just as he invites all of us to take part in the harvest.
Sometimes the opportunity just falls in your lap!
Just the other day I had a random message from someone I haven’t talked to in probably 5 years, if not more. He lives somewhere on the west coast of the States now. And he told me his life is going really well, but feels like something is missing. He wanted my help to find a church.
I don’t know if this guy ever really went to church. I suppose he might of for a bit when he was a child. But that was a very long time ago. He probably hardly even remembers it.
But last week he felt an urge to try something new, something which might fill the gap he was feeling in his life.
I was awestruck. I asked him the name of the city he was now living in and I googled churches in his area and found what look like a couple of good churches I thought I could recommend.
I don’t know if he’ll go, but I hope he does.
I’ve been where he is. Life is feeling pretty good. Money is coming in. Bills are getting paid. Family is great. But in the midst of all the material goodness, there’s a hole that money, or career, or sometimes even family cannot fill.
God can fill that hole if we open ourselves up to the possibility of his great love for us.
It doesn’t mean all of our problems will go away. But it helps knowing someone is with us on the journey. And in God, our companion in life, he is the one who has a great plan for us.
In high school I had no idea what my life would look like in my 40s. I could not fathom it. Certainly standing in front of a group of people asking them to let Jesus into their hearts was no where in sight at that point in my life, because Jesus wasn’t in sight at that point of my life.
But he is now. And I hope he is in your life as well.
I also hope that we, as a group of people who know Jesus, and as a people who make up this church, as a group of people who are about to sit together and discuss the work of this church for the next year, or decade, or century… I hope we are willing to be part of the harvest Jesus has planted and prepared.
Are we ready to gather the harvest? Are we needing to be gathered ourselves? That’s for you to decide.
God has a plan for this church. God has a plan for you.
Let him speak and let him lead the way into hope, love, peace and joy, and life everlasting.
How does the story end for the Samaritan woman? She is the one who leads her whole village to Jesus, and they encounter the Messiah they have been waiting for. Their lives are forever changed because this woman, this outcast of society, shared that she had met her Lord and Saviour.
May our lives be forever changed through an encounter with Jesus Christ. May Sydney Mines be forever changed. May Cape Breton be forever changed, all through an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one who gives life.
Let us pray,
You bring life. You bring hope, peace, and joy to those who welcome you into their lives. You show us what is missing, and you welcome us into our heavenly family.
May we follow in your way, in the way our Father has planned for us, bringing in the harvest you both have planted, loved and cared for.
Help us to see those in need of the invitation to join this holy family, and be with you in glory for all eternity.
We ask these things in your most holy name. Amen.