The campaign season is once again upon us, and we are bombarded with opinions, talking points, debates, and discussion on important issues from every side. By it’s very nature, it is a polarizing time, as we choose our candidate or issue of choice and dig in. Continue reading
“So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” —John 4:5-7
Let anyone with eyes to see, see, and everyone with ears to hear, let them hear.
This story has always fascinated me. There are a hundred ways to look at this passage. Even the title of this weekly article was derived from this passage. Jesus tells us that the Father is looking for worshipers who will worship “en pneumati kai aletheia,” in spirit and truth. As we seek to worship God, it is helpful to know how God wants to be worshiped. But that is a topic for another day.
Today I want to look at something else; Jesus saw potential in the woman at the well and invested in her. This is true, but I think it may even go deeper. Jesus saw her as a person of great worth to God. Culture saw her as an outsider for her gender, morality saw her as an outcast because of her behavior, Prejudice saw her as unacceptable because of her race, but Jesus saw her as valuable because of her Creator.
How many people do we pass every day, and fail to see their worth? How many people do we just miss; who are either invisible to us, or worse, judged and shunned because they are “beneath us.” From the drive-thru attendant at the fast food restaurant, to the checkout clerk at the grocery store, we have dozens of brief encounters with people of value every day. How can we be like Jesus in those interactions?
Well, what did Jesus do? First, He was mindful of his surroundings. He knew that in every place there is opportunity to bring healing and wholeness to a broken world. Second, He broke convention and exceeded expectation by engaging a person that He could have easily ignored. He acknowledged that she had value to Him, even if it was just as a means to get water (though we know He saw her true value as a person). Third, He shared life with her despite the cultural strikes she had against her.
What does this look like in our context? Well, that is your homework this week:
Identify the “wells” you visit this week. Maybe it’s the store, maybe it’s the sanctuary at Faith. Where do you come in contact with invisible humanity? Take note of the name-tags, or unfamiliar faces and engage that person. It may be the most important minute of that person’s day, or life. Listen to the Holy Spirit as he guides the conversation. The Spirit knows exactly what that person needs, and will drop hints to you if you are listening. Share the life that God has given you. You never know how chance encounters can affect the destinies of a person, a town, or a nation.
“Suppose a brother or sister is without … daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” —James 2:15-16
A traditional part of the Lenten devotion is almsgiving. By caring for those who have no other means, we participate in the providence of God. Almsgiving makes the statement to God that we know he provides for our needs. We give, even out of our want, to provide for others, knowing that God will provide also for our needs. This almsgiving is a gift beyond the tithe that provides for the needs of others.
Homework this week: Consider making a gift to “Pastors Alms,” a fund that helps cover the immediate needs of people in our community.
Consider bringing an extra dish to the Pot-luck this Saturday as we feed almost 60 college students who will have no other source for dinner.
“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” —Matthew 17:1-2
Peter, James, and John were in the inner circle. Jesus would tell and show them things that he didn’t reveal even to the other disciples. They went everywhere with him. They saw the masses fed, the sick healed, and the dead raised. Jesus was doing things that only the prophets of God had ever done before. It was clear to them that Jesus belonged in the ranks of the holiest men known to history.
But for all that they had seen, nothing could prepare them for that day on the mountain. They expected this was just another “small group meeting.” They would pray for one another and for the Kingdom of God. Can you imagine their surprise when before their very eyes Jesus was transfigured? He shone like the sun, and his garments became pure white (no more dinginess from the dust of the road). Then out of thin air, Moses and Elijah, the champions of the law and of the prophets, appear with Jesus. If this isn’t enough to shake them, they then hear a voice from heaven proclaiming that Jesus is His son, and that they should listen to Him.
I’m sure this isn’t what they expected when they woke up. They had been with Jesus every day for almost three years; they had served with Him, taught with Him, walked with Him, done everything with Him. They thought they knew everything about Him. But before we judge them for their blindness, let’s ask ourselves the question. “Have I seen Jesus?” We too serve with Jesus, we’ve seen Him as we work in mission and as we’ve sought justice for the oppressed. But have we seen a Jesus that shines? Have we seen Jesus in the splendor of holiness? Have we heard the voice from heaven declaring that Jesus is His son, and that we should listen to Him?
Lent is sandwiched between this moment of splendor, and the moment of God’s greatest glory, the cross. In one we see in His radiance that He is holy and blameless. In the other we see His divine sacrifice for our sakes, that we might be blameless and holy too.
As we enter the season of Lent, this season of self-examination, let us call to mind both our Lord’s transfiguration and his crucifixion. It is in this picture, when we truly see Jesus, that all of our work for the Kingdom of God finds value.
I’ve told you my personal definition of worship, but let’s press a little further today. I’ve often thought that “Worship” is a funny word. Take a look at it. W O R S H I P. Have you ever wondered how those letters came to represent our adoration of God? Maybe I’m just a little too analytical, but I’ve often wondered from where we derived that word.
If you’re thoroughly curious now, and even if you’re not, here’s the answer. Worship comes from Old English. It is derived from two words, worth + ship. The original meaning is “to ascribe worth to.” When we worship God we are attributing worth to Him. It is important to note that worship does not measure the actual worth of a person or object, but rather how much worth is ascribed to that person or object.
By showing up on Sunday morning, you are saying, “God, you are worth at least two hours of my time and attention.” By volunteering in the church or in any Christian mission, you are saying, “God, you are worth a few more hours of my time and energy, and your kingdom is important to me.” By giving your resources and finances to the church or any Christian mission, you are saying, “God, you are worth my money. Your kingdom is so important to me, that I would gladly give financially to support it. Not only that, but God, you are worthy of my trust. I trust that you will provide for my needs as I provide for your kingdom.”
We, in the human race, have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives. “Over here I have my work, over here my family, over here are my hobbies and over here is the church.” We have separated life into the sacred and the secular. To God, however, all of our life is sacred. Our worship should reflect that. Worship shouldn’t be what we “do” on Sunday and Wednesday, it should be a constant flow of attributing worth to the one who is worth everything! My goal is that someday the worth that I attribute to God will come close to matching His actual worth.
Your homework this week is to examine your worship this past month. How much worth have you been ascribing to God? Does it come close to matching God’s actual worth? Pray and ask God how your worship should change to reflect His worthiness in the following five areas: your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.
“Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” – Deuteronomy 6:5