March 15,2020 The Third Sunday of Lent (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: Do You Hear His Voice?
Our reading in Psalm 95:1-9 opens with the word “joy” occurring 3 times in the first two verses. As he continues, the Psalmist revels in God’s power in creation and reaches his crescendo with the heartfelt shout, “Let’s go to church!” I can’t remember ever being that excited about sitting in a pew on a Sunday morning, but this guy is. That’s because he has a relationship with his Creator God. He sees himself as a sheep of the Lord’s pasture and as Jesus, The Good Shepherd, said, “My sheep hear my voice.” In verse 7, he invites us to join him in a relationship with God. We can hear His voice also…if we want to. The Psalm ends with some advice: If you want to hear His voice, don’t be like the hard-hearted Hebrews, who tested the Almighty at Meribah and Massah in the desert. We find that account in our next reading in Exodus 17:1-7. Which leads us back around to the question, “Am I a sheep at all?”
Up to this point, so much has happened as the Lord led the Children of Israel in their Exodus: God freed them from Egypt with the Ten Plagues, He saved them by parting the Red Sea and destroying Pharaoh’s army, The Lord turned brackish water pure for them to drink at Marah, and gave them manna from heaven to eat. Each obstacle was designed to encourage a trusting relationship with Him. God takes them from one destination to another by leading the camp in a cloud pillar by day and a pillar of fire by night. The next stop: Rephidem…and another test.
There is a water shortage, no small thing in the middle of a burning desert. People are dropping. Livestock is dying. The Almighty wants them to remember all that He has done for them in the past, while they trust, pray, and wait for another Divine intervention. They don’t do this. Instead, they choose, “Let’s have it out!”
“Hey, Moses, we’re thirsty!”
“What do you want me to do about it? I’m thirsty too. Have faith. God will take care of us.”
“Faith nothing! You screwed up! At least in Egypt, we had water! You brought us out here to die!”
Shouts of temper mixed with murmuring threats. Moses reaches out to the Lord. “Please help me God! It’s getting ugly down here!”
The Lord came through with instructions. “Get your staff. Grab the elders and take them along with this mob to the rock at Horeb over there. Strike it and water will rush out for everyone. This leadership and these people will know that I am God Almighty.” The Israelites drank and lived to fight another day, but they failed the test. Moses named the place Meribah and Massah because, when things got tough, the chosen people of the Lord showed their hard hearts by complaining, “Hey God! What have You ever done for us lately and what took You so long?” They proved that they lacked the vital relationship with their Creator that the Psalmist had in our earlier reading. They were not sheep. They were goats! Sheep go to heaven; goats don’t. Even though they are both in the church, one day the Lord will separate the two. Let us be the true sheep, remembering the goodness of the Lord and trust the leading of God, our Shepherd. When things get tough let’s not insult the Almighty out of fear and lack of faith by saying, “That was then, but this is now!”
When you read today’s gospel in John 4:5-42, you find that Jews had nothing to do with half-breed Samaritans, men didn’t talk to women unless they had to, and if you’re an adulteress, even the other women shunned you. That is why this Samaritan woman goes to the well in the noon heat, while the rest of the wives draw water in the cool early morning. This way she doesn’t have to bear their upfront snubs and backbiting whispers. Today, Jesus waits for her. She is a lost sheep and He wants her in the fold. She just wants to get her water and be left alone.
“Could I have a drink?”
She almost drops her pitcher in surprise. “Are you asking me to do you a favor?” she says defensively.
“If you’re talking about favors, I could give you living water,” replies Jesus.
“C’mon. Who do you think you are? You don’t even have a bucket. How are you going to give me this living water?”
“I’m not talking about this water. I’m talking about eternal life water.”
“I’m for anything that saves me a trip to this well every day,” she says.
“Go call your husband.”
“I don’t have a husband.”
“You’re right! And the five other guys were never your husbands either.”
“Whoa! How did you know? You must be a prophet. I’ve got some church questions that I think about on my lonely trips to the well.”
“The important thing is to worship God in spirit and in truth from your heart,” Jesus answers.
“I hear that the Messiah is coming and He will have all the answers about spirit and truth.”
“I AM,” He informs.
“OMG! OMG!” she drops her pitcher and runs back to town, “Hey, everybody! You gotta come see this. You won’t believe…!”
Meanwhile, the disciples have come back from their shopping trip into town. They arrive just in time to see the woman running back to the village. They look at each other, shrug their shoulders, and say, “Look, Master! We have bagels!”
“Bagels? Twelve Jewish boys go into the hood and no one asks why you’re there? You didn’t tell them about your ministry, your mission, or about Me? You only get directions to the bagel shop? There are bigger things here, men. Look! That one Samaritan woman is bringing the whole town over to see us. Forget the food. We’ve got work to do!”
Jesus stays with the townspeople for two days. Many believe along with the Samaritan woman and become sheep in Jesus’ fold. Let us keep our Lord and His lost sheep a priority in our thinking.
Our epistle in Romans 5:1-8 sums up today’s readings. When you have peace with God and are justified by faith in Christ, you stand in the grace of God, which is enough for any situation. Trials only make your relationship with the Lord grow as they drive you closer to Him. We have confidence in the future because we have the love of God and the power of His Holy Spirit in our hearts. God is for us! Nothing proves this more than Christ dying for us while we were helpless sinners like the Samaritan woman. If you hear His voice today don’t harden your heart. Trust in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. Be one of them.