From Fear to Trust
Updated: Mar 15
Pastor Brian Rajcok
Sunday, March 15, 2020
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. The past few weeks have been a bit scary, and things have really ramped up in the past few days. With the coronavirus spreading worldwide people are concerned. Grocery stores are running low on items like hand sanitizer. Schools and colleges are closing. Sports seasons are even ending early.
Here at St. Matthew we’ve taken precautions like canceling worship activities for the next three weeks, but you can join us virtually as you’re doing now. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety about all this, and it is certainly best to take all possible precautions to make sure people are safe.
And it is in the midst of this global anxiety that we hear this Gospel lesson about a woman who probably lived in much fear and anxiety herself. A Samaritan woman, a member of racial group looked down upon by Jews in Jesus’ time. A woman who was judged by her own people for having had five husbands when in ancient times that meant either her husbands died or divorced her because women couldn’t initiate divorce. It likely meant abandonment and stigma, probably not that she was loose or unfaithful. And based on ancient law she was likely living with her dead husband’s brother. That was the safety net for widows, but it was still a bit shameful to need to depend on your brother-in-law to survive. This woman in no uncertain terms was an outsider who would have been looked down upon by her own people, and especially by Jews like Jesus.
And yet Jesus initiates conversation with her. Jesus reaches out to her. And the setting of Jesus’ encounter with this outsider is in stark contrast to His meeting with the religious insider Nicodemus in the previous chapter. In John chapter 3 the insider Nicodemus initiates conversation with Jesus in the middle of the night. In John chapter 4 Jesus initiates conversation with this outsider at high noon. This obviously can have a literal meaning. But on a deeper level, John includes such details to reveal how the Good News is so much easier for unprivileged outsiders to see.
Jesus came to bring Good News to the abandoned and outcast like this Samaritan woman. And Jesus also came for well-educated insiders like Nicodemus. He offers healing and welcome to the outcast, and He challenges the insiders to transformation and rebirth. And really there’s a little bit of insider and outsider in all of us. When we’re feeling abandoned and suffering, Jesus comes to us with a gentle word of hope. And when we’re feeling confident and on top of things, Jesus invites us to let go and trust whatever the Spirit brings. Jesus meets us wherever we are, in the middle of the night or in the bright noon day—and speaks a word we need to hear. A word of comfort and hope, a word of transformation and rebirth.
To this Samaritan woman at the well Jesus offers life-changing hope. This one conversation inspires her to have the courage to enter her city and proclaim the Good News of the Messiah’s coming. She even uses the same words Jesus did when He called the first disciples: “Come and see.” And notice the profound little detail: she left her water jug at the well. She didn’t even bother to continue her chore of fetching water because telling people about Jesus was so important!
(All of those little details have meaning, especially in the Gospel of John).
Having a conversation with Jesus transforms this woman’s life. And for us 21st century Christians, having a relationship with Jesus transforms our life too. We too are given joy and courage to proclaim the Good News. We too are given hope and comfort in times of anxiety and fear.
Jesus speaks to us in our anxiety and fear. He comes with words of hope and comfort for those worried about the coronavirus or loved ones who are vulnerable. For those who are disappointed about having to cancel long-awaited trips or who need to adjust college or work schedules. For those who feel anxiety about going outside, or who go to crowded grocery stores and find see empty shelves. No matter what you’re feeling in the midst of this, know that Jesus is holding you and offering you words of comfort and hope.
God is looking after us. And we get through this together by looking out for one another. Like the woman at the well who became a witness for Jesus, we too are called to carry Christ’s message of love and acceptance into the world. Even at this time when we’re warned to stay physically distant from each other for health reasons, we can reach out in other ways and make sure no one feels isolated. We can welcome the outcast and stay connected. We can share God’s love with our neighbors and offer assistance to anyone in need. We can take extra time to pray and to dwell in the presence of God. We can use this time of Lent to reflect on how we can be God’s hands and feet in the world, welcome the stranger, and share words of comfort and hope with those in need.
So at this time I invite you to remember that Jesus Christ is your rock. The living water flowing through your life. And whatever happens, you can trust that this man the Samaritan woman told her townspeople about is truly the Savior of the world.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.