simple white fading png image
notre dame montreal

Weekly Bible Study and Worship Resources

Lent 3 (Purple)


Introduction

We often hear people tell us of how dysfunctional family life is these days. Well it is, but of course it always has been. There has never been a time when everything in family life was perfect. How often have I spoken with families coming to terms with things which went on years ago, such as when a woman is told that her older sister is really her mother and her parents are really grandparents. And in the past it is frightening just how much abuse took place in the home and nobody was prepared to believe that it ever happened.


People have always been the same, with wounded and broken lives, some people are just better at pretending than others. It was one such poor broken woman who Jesus met at the well in our Gospel reading today. She had loads of men and broken relationships, no doubt she has the subject of gossip in the village where she lived. Perhaps Jesus had heard the gossip, anyway he knew her life was in a mess and he wasn't afraid to help.

Jesus was not critical of the woman, not self righteous or preachy, instead he offered her living water, hope of a new start and refreshment for her weary soul. We don't know what happened to the woman afterwards but she went and started spreading the word about Jesus. For once here was a man in her life who was really worth talking about.
 

Opening Verse of Scripture Psalm 95:6

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before He was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen  Common Worship

Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfections we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship Shorter Collect

Almighty God, you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all eveil thoughts which may assault the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Methodist Worship 


First Bible Reading Exodus 17: 1-7

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarrelled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"
Then Moses cried out to the LORD , "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

Second Reading  Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel Reading John 4:5 - 42

Jesus and samaritan womanSo 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?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."" Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back." "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."
But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?" "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the 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 labour." Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world." (Reader: This is the Gospel of Christ - Praise to Christ our Lord)

Post Communion Prayer

Merciful Lord, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen


Commentary

Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at a Well.

We know that the Jews from Jerusalem despised the Jews from Samaria. They told stories about how the Samaritan Jews were racially impure, that they came from inter marriage with foreigners. That some Jews did not get on well with other Jews should not surprise us, the history of the tribes of Judaism, the Northern and Southern Kingdom of Judaism, is all one of conflict and falling out. At the time of Jesus there was a continuing hatred between these two distinctly Jewish groups. The Samaritan people still survive to this day, preserving their ancient religious rites near the ancient site of Shechem, and the modern city of Nablus.

The Samaritans are Jews, who regard the Pentateuch and observe the Sabbath strictly. They claim Mount Gerazim as their holy mountain because it is mentioned in the Pentateuch. (Deut 11:29, 27:12). They regard Jerusalem as less significant because it was a later development from the time of King David who wanted to establish his kingdom there. Much of what we know about the Samaritans comes from later Jewish writings which tell us that the Samaritans were descended from interracial relations with foreigners who repopulated this part of the Northern Kingdom after the Assyrian invasion. This is probably not a fair representation, but it gives us an idea of the bitterness which characterised their relations. Other Jews held them in contempt, clearly considering themselves to be better.

It is against this background of conflict that we have the longest discourse in the whole of the Book of John, between Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi, and somebody from another Jewish groups that he was supposed to despise. The writer of the Gospel must clearly attach some importance to this episode and he wants us to know that it is important, it has a fundamental role in helping us to understand Jesus and his ministry.

We know that the woman was Samaritan and the history of these two groups was such that it was unlikely that Jesus would have anything to do with her. The fact that the Samaritan was a woman didn’t help either, this is why the woman asks, "how can you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For a man to speak with a woman in this way was extraordinary, men just didn’t speak with women in this way. But there is more, not only was this a Samaritan, and a woman, this woman had another distinguishing feature which made her an unlikely subject for Jesus to have a meeting. We are also told that she had five husbands!

It is helpful for us to remember some of the other details of this story. We are told that the time of the day was noon. It was in the heat of the day, and the last time that most women would have wanted to do the heavy lifting and hard walk back to the village involved in getting water from the well. The other women went early in the morning or in the cool of the evening, when the work wouldn't be quite as hard, and the drudgery of hauling water would be broken by the fellowship shared by the women around the well. A woman who chose instead to go to the well at noon must have been seeking specifically to avoid that company. It is apparent that this woman was an outcast - even among Samaritans.
I would guess that she was used to whispering in the village wherever she went, having been used and discarded by so many men of the village, and in a culture in which there was little if any privacy, and gossip spread news quickly. As oppressive as the noonday sun is, it doesn't burn like the stares of the others in the village. So she goes to the well at noon, when she can be sure to be alone.
So we see Jesus meeting a woman who simply could not have been much more of an outsider. She belonged to a group which was despised and she was despised by that group!

It is interesting that we do not know the name of the woman. We have a huge discourse but no name. Perhaps that is helpful, for in so many ways the exchange of words is not just a personal encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan, the words which Jesus speaks are for all people. The woman is in a solitary place, she has little to make herself feel proud, little to help her see herself of value. Yet in her meeting with Jesus, She comes as a person outside society, and Jesus shows her that she is inside God’s love.

Jesus knows what this woman is like, there are no secrets, Jesus is able to look deep inside her heart, as he looks inside the hearts of all of us. Jesus looks and is able to see the things which everybody in the village has gossiped about. Jesus does not criticise or condemn. Where others look with the eyes of condemnation and see sin, Jesus looks with the eyes of compassion and recognises the value of this woman as a child of God. Jesus is not put off by her sin because he knows that there is more grace in God than there is sin in us.    Charles Royden
 

Meditation

Water crops up in the Gospel of John many times. Water turned into wine, water used to wash the disciple’s feet, water in which Jesus is baptised, water on which Jesus walks. In today’s Gospel passage Jesus offers living water to all those who come to Him to drink. Indeed, Jesus’ final post-resurrection appearance is by water where He challenges His disciples to cast their empty net in the water on the other side of the boat. Some of the disciples were fisherman and understood the dangers and possibilities of water. Water was a symbol of chaos and yet also the source of sustenance and survival, a metaphor for life and death and the transformation that takes place between them. When we look at the story of the Wedding at Cana we see Jesus transforming the water into wine. A simple story, quietly told, almost low-key, reflecting the simple, inexplicable, transformation that was witnessed. That same, mysterious, power of transformation is featured in many of the following stories in John, often with increasing drama. The Woman at the Well passage from today’s readings is one of those stories where water and transformation are inextricably linked. It’s that same transforming power of God that we experience in our lives as we live out the final act of divine transformation. The transformation that is the reality of the Lent and Easter story, the transformation of the crucifixion of Jesus into His glorious resurrection and our eternal inheritance.

 

Hymns

  1. Lord of Creation (Tune Slane)

  2. Father I place into your hands

  3. Born by the Holy Spirit's Breath (Tune Fulda)

  4. Restore O Lord  

  5. Lord of the Church

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead


Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfection we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

We pray that in all our relationships you will make us effective channels of your love and forgiveness. Make us awash with your living water so that our home and places of work, our conversations and our actions, are always in touch with the renewing power of God. Amen

We stand alongside all those who are suffering, whether in body, mind or spirit, and long for your healing and comfort, your strength for perseverance and your patience in dark times; we long for your living spirit to envelop and sustain them. Amen
(Prayers of Intercession for Common Worship, Susan Sayers)

Christ give you the grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow Him; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen


     

Additional Material

 

Opening Verse of Scripture—Psalm 51:17
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart He will not despise.

Commentary

Parallel Stories with a difference

There are both some strong parallels and stark contrasts between the gospel reading this week and the one we heard last week. Last week’s reading focused on the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus, this week’s tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria. Apart from the obvious parallel that the readings are both quite long, both start with establishing the identity of Jesus, both also have an opening statement from Jesus about the new life that God offers. There is a question about how this can happen. ‘How can anyone who is born be born again?’ in the case of Nicodemus and ‘…how do you get this living water’, in the case of the woman. In both cases there is a follow up question, ‘How is that possible?’ and ‘Are you greater than our father Jacob?’. Then there is the response and explanation from Jesus about what this new life offers. In the woman’s case it looks like she understood as she asks for some of the water. For Nicodemus it’s perhaps a less obvious outcome, but we do see Nicodemus appear again in the gospel two more times, interestingly just after Jesus speaks about living water and thirst.

  • After the night encounter we next read of Nicodemus when Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles where Jesus upsets the Pharisees by inviting anyone who is thirsty to come to Him, and Nicodemus steps into the discussion with the Pharisees and is told to go and sort things out.
  • The second time is when Nicodemus asks for the body of Jesus a few short verses after Jesus has declared He is thirsty just before He dies.

From this we can perhaps infer that somewhere between his first nocturnal encounter with Jesus and the rest of the story, Nicodemus came to faith in the Messiah he had encountered that night. Both Nicodemus and the woman of Samaria would appear to speak about Christ and the good news of the Kingdom in their own ways which would have lasting impact on the communities in which they lived. However there are also great differences in the stories.

  • When Nicodemus is establishing the identity of Christ he makes an acknowledgement that Jesus is a man of God. Nicodemus would also have been seen as a man of God and he wants to establish a strong link between them, it’s as if he is saying, ‘We’re on the same side’. In contrast the woman quickly establishes that they are different. He is a Jew, she is a Samaritan.
  • Nicodemus was also a man of great status. Eric Royden wrote the commentary for us last week and in his notes he pointed out that Nicodemus was a Jewish leader and teacher, a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a man and came from the right family and the right race. The woman on the other hand had was not a man, had very little status, even in her own community, and was probably an outcast of some sort as she was at the well at the sixth hour. Some believe she may have gone to proposition Jesus as He was alone and seemingly looking for a drink.
  • Nicodemus goes away apparently silent and we hear no more about his silent journey of faith. The woman on the other hand, cannot stop speaking about her encounter, and we read that many Samaritans in her town believed because of what she said.
  • One story is predominantly about the need to be born again (literally born from above) the other focuses on the result of what this will mean.

Shortly after the encounter with Nicodemus and the woman of Samaria John reports that Jesus returns to Galilee, specifically Cana, where he reminds us that it was Cana where Jesus had started the transformation business by the first and overarching sign of turning water into wine. We know that John does not just throw his gospel together and the conversations with Nicodemus and the woman of Samaria, sandwiched as they are by references to Cana must be linked together. Seen together they are about the need for a new life in Christ and the outworking of that new life which can be seen in everyone who accepts Christ. They are about invitation and acceptance, initiation and ongoing growth. Once could be seen as creating a bit of chaos out of the order of Jewish religious life, one could be seen as creating a bit of order out of a chaotic life with five husbands and the rest. Perhaps a clue comes in the exchange between Jesus and the woman when they are talking about the different centres of worship, Samaria and Jerusalem. Jesus says that salvation comes from the Jews but that God is Spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth by all those who truly worship Him and in that context the specific time, space location and rubric of our worship cease to be relevant. Jesus then underlines why he can make this statement because in the next verse He states for the first time in John’s gospel a phrase that will increase in significance each time we read it. When the woman is speaking about the Messiah, Jesus replies, ‘I am’. The ‘I am’ that created the works and brings about its transformation is speaking to you. I am the Messiah. The old has gone and the new is dawning. The conversation with Nicodemus and the woman both start in ancient tradition, the Jewish law and its interpretation for Nicodemus and the well of Jacob for the woman of Samaria. They end with the ancient being transformed into the new, with the old ways being challenged with both chaos and order as the impact of the ‘I am’ begins to take hold of the world. Sam Cappleman

 

Who are you?
By telling the woman at the well who she is, Jesus shows her who He is. By confirming her true identity, He reveals his own, and that is how it still happens. The Messiah is the one who shows us who we are by showing us who He is, even if He has to cross boundaries and break a few rules to do so. He challenges us to drop our disguises and to meet with Him where we are. And in acknowledging who He is, we have no choice but to acknowledge who we are, perhaps in a moment of full disclosure which can be as painful as it can be healing.

In the Gospel reading today we have Jesus' longest-recorded conversation in the Bible, and to cap it all it's with a Samaritan woman. On many counts it seems extraordinary that it took place at all: a man and a woman in public; a Jew and a Samaritan; a transient and a citizen; one offering living water and another caught in the ceaseless rounds of drawing water at the well. It would seem bizarre to many at the time. But true dialogue with God transcends sex, race, and tradition because His love cuts across racial and cultural prejudice. Today’s Gospel has many levels of meaning. As always in John the central character is God and God’s gift of life through the invitation to live in the holy space of the Father’s love. A love which we see affirms women and engages and loves sinners. In what was a man’s world, John describes a woman as the supreme example of someone stepping out and exercising ministry, but doing so with the fragility and hesitancy and perhaps inadequacy which happens when ordinary human beings (of both sexes) begin to engage in ministry. An image of someone who, being transformed is prepared to step out in faith, so that others may experience God’s transforming love.  Sam Cappleman

 

Communicating with the Real Power
In the gospel reading today we have Jesus' longest-recorded conversation with in the Bible, and to cap it all it's with a Samaritan woman. On many counts it seems extraordinary that it took place at all: a man and a woman in public; a Jew and a Samaritan; a transient and a citizen; one offering living water and another caught in the ceaseless rounds of drawing water at the well. It would seem bizarre to many at the time. But true dialogue with God transcends sex, race, tradition, and place and liturgy.
Jacob's Well, where the conversation takes place, was dug by Jacob some 2000 years before Jesus met with the Samaritan woman. Jesus has returned to the source of His own history and has a conversation with the woman that breaks into three parts around her history, a conversation about herself, about her relationship with her husband, and about true worship. He offers her the opportunity to take hold of His truth in her life so that she may know the power of the Spirit of God in her life, whatever her history or background. He make plain that this truth will only become a reality when she shares it with others, otherwise it will become stagnant. It becomes real when it is experienced, not when its just discussed. The first part of the conversation is about the power of the Spirit, the second is about truth. The final part is about communication with God, through which we experience the power and truth of God in our lives.
Just as at the wedding in Cana, just as through His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus demonstrates that true, real and inner transformation can only ever come through faith in Him. The conversation starts by the source of the old life, Jacob's Well, and ends by inviting the woman to tap into the source of the new.

Meditation

Water crops up in the Gospel of John many times. Water turned into wine, water used to wash the disciple’s feet, water in which Jesus is baptised, water on which Jesus walks. In today’s gospel passage Jesus offers living water to all those who come to Him to drink. The Woman at the Well passage from today’s readings is one of those stories where water and transformation are inextricably linked. The transformation that is the reality of the Lent and Easter story, the transformation of the crucifixion of Jesus into His glorious resurrection and our eternal inheritance. John tells us that it was about the sixth hour when the encounter takes place. John will use this phrase again in his gospel, when Jesus is handed over for crucifixion and is hanging on the cross. Again Jesus will be alone and say He is thirsty. The story of the encounter with the woman at the well is a foretaste of the drama that will be realised on the cross, a foretaste of the living water and the Holy Spirit being poured out as the Spirit which He offers the woman is given for all people.

 

Hymns

  1. Praise my soul

  2. Colours of day

  3. For the beauty of the earth

  4. I'm feeding on the living bread (on service sheet)

  5. How great thou art

  6. In Christ there is no East or West

  7. For I’m building a people of power

  8. Praise my soul

  9. I come with joy to meet my Lord
     

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead.

 

Father, wherever the church is dry and parched may the water of your Spirit well up to refresh and renew, to bring life and strong new growth. Make us more aware of our thirst for you, so that we come to you ready and eager to receive your living water. Amen

Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfection we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

We pray that in all our relationships you will make us effective channels of your love and forgiveness. Make us awash with your living water so that our home and places of work, our conversations and our actions, are always in touch with the renewing power of God. Amen

We stand alongside all those who are suffering, whether in body, mind or spirit, and long for your healing and comfort, your strength for perseverance and your patience in dark times; we long for your living spirit to envelop and sustain them. Amen (Prayers of Intercession for Common Worship, Susan Sayers)

Christ give you the grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow Him; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

We pray that in all our relationships you will make us effective channels of your love and forgiveness. Make us awash with your living water so that our home and places of work, our shopping and our leisure centres, our conversations and our actions, are always in touch with the renewing power of God. Amen

We stand alongside all those who are suffering, whether in body, mind or spirit, and long for your healing and comfort, your strength for perseverance and your patience in dark times; we long for your living spirit to envelop and sustain them. Amen (Prayers of Intercession for Common Worship, Susan Sayers)

Christ give you the grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow Him; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Sermon:


The woman at the well (Acrobat pdf format)

Additional Material

The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman turns out to be a love story after all, for only one who loved you knows you as you are and not as you pretend to be. Only one who loves you knows your deepest desires. Only one who loves you can look at your past without blinking. Richard Lischer