Welcome to worship for this 3rd Sunday in Lent, landing on March 12, 2023!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. In the bulletin, you’ll find the order and words of worship, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The words that you need to know will also be on your screen, and the sermon is also on this page under the worship video.
If you would like a fuller at-home worship experience, you are invited to have a lit candle in your space from the start of worship all the way to after the sending hymn when the altar candles are put out. You are also welcome to participate in communion by having something small to eat and drink nearby ready to consume at the appropriate time during the service. Further instruction will be given at the correct time.
May God’s abundant blessing be upon you today and always!
Living God, through your Word and the power of your Spirit, may your good news permeate in our hearts, lead us deeper into faith, and bring us to receive the peace of Christ, the Saviour of the world. Amen.
Have you ever encountered anything that was literally unbelievable? I mean like actually, totally, just can’t grasp it whatsoever unbelievable? These days we throw the term around so much that we pretty much label darn near everything as unbelievable, from the slightly surprising to the completely plausible, from the weather being the weather to time flowing at its constant pace but catching us off guard, from how our children and those younger than us age at the same exact rate as we do to how awful they can act sometimes, all of this somehow is called unbelievable in our regular everyday language.
But if you think about it, in these our modern times it seems like nothing really is all that unbelievable. These days of technology doing things that we never thought could be possible, these days where you can find anything in the vast reaches of the internet, these days where those that are found in the extreme polar ends of whatever spectrum are so extreme that it’s been said that you can say anything about them and people would believe it.
Did you catch that? It’s been said that those at the extremes these days, as in the fanatics, the fundamentals, the folks that reside on the far poles of religion, politics, and whatever other hot topic out there are so extreme, that you can say anything about them and it would be plausible. Well, plausible if you’re not part of that camp, that is. But when something is said, especially derogatory, about the side that you’re not on, it is believable to you. So whatever side you’re on, left or right, conservative or liberal, pro this or anti that, you can and probably have fallen for anything that has been said about the opposite opinion and their representatives, because the picture in your head about them as being so irreprehensible and awful has been painted so clearly that nothing bad about them even surprises you anymore.
I found this unbelievable, to be honest.
But then it actually happened to me. I forget the exact details, but I remember reading a click bait article about someone that was part of a denomination that I don’t particularly favour doing something that I don’t particularly condone, and I believed it. And then later on I was told from a very reputable source that the whole story was fabricated, and I believed it at first anyway. Easily as well, might I add.
This mentality that we just somehow naturally have poses a huge problem for creating relationships, for bridging gaps, or even having open dialogue with the other side because it’s been so ingrained in us to not want to believe that they could ever be anything better than the absolute worst. We cannot believe that they could ever be good or smart or moral. We will not believe that they could ever be understood, listened to, or anywhere near being right. We are unable to believe that even they could ever be loved by anyone, not us at least, and probably not even God.
Now that is hard to believe.
God would never be on their side. God would never be ok with them acting the way that they do. God would never meet them where they are, reveal to them the truths of God’s grace and redemption, and give them the living water from which we will never thirst again.
Oh wait. Isn’t that literally what happened in today’s gospel lesson?
This story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well has so many unbelievable aspects in it, so many unbelievable details, so many people dealing with their unbelief.
It starts with Jesus treading into the enemy Samaritan territory, unbelievable.
Then he talks to a Samaritan… a sinner… a female no less… unbelievable even by her.
The disciples catch this episode and they can’t believe what just happened.
And the townsfolk heard the woman’s testimony and just like that they believed her. But that right there is the real unbelievable part, there is no way they would just drop everything and trust the word of a marginalized outcast that was outcasted to the margins of their outcasted and marginalized society.
So at face value, this whole story is unbelievable. So many things about the story goes against everything the early hearers and readers of it would have known about society, the natural order of things, the way life is just lived. Almost every aspect and detail that is told would have drummed up nothing but disbelief, dismay, and doubt. Doubt, until we remember who we’re talking about here.
I mean, this story and interaction with the Samaritan woman would be unbelievable if it were anyone else doing the interacting. It would be unbelievable if we didn’t know anything about Jesus’ teaching and mission and work in the world. It would be unbelievable if Jesus wasn’t all about loving others and especially “the other”.
Which is what Jesus is all about.
So of course this unbelievable story suddenly becomes believable. Of course Jesus would plausibly treat this woman with dignity and grace. Of course, our understandings and paradigms of the world are challenged yet again by the truth of God’s inclusive love and welcome.
Because really, deep down I’d say that we’d all much rather leave the Samaritan woman on the margins. We’d much rather discount the Pharisees and the other pompous bigwigs that aren’t on the same side as us. We’d much rather cancel those whom we dislike, distrust, and disagree with.
We’d much rather not love those that we find unlovable.
But that is where God comes in, meeting us and all people just where we are, and provides for all the living water that quenches our thirst, lifts up our hearts, and joins us all together in a way that we wouldn’t have thought possible, through inclusivity, equality, and a humble peace that welcomes us all into God’s grace.
See as unbelievable as some people can be to us, God continues to meet them just as God meets us. As unacceptable we can find those of other opinions and political parties, God continues to forgive them just as God forgives us. As unlovable we can sometimes deem the world, God continues to love the world enough to send Jesus not to condemn it as we would have hoped, but much to our surprise, to save it instead.
This isn’t to say that we should just be totally naïve to the evils of the world and that some people can commit, that we should just overlook the unbecoming behaviours that some partake in, that we should just pretend that the world is just fine the way it is in all its brokenness and sin, but it is to say that even in the evils, even in the disagreements and strife, even in the hate that we might feel toward the other, God enters into our lives, shows us an endless love full of grace and truth, and brings us together as a diverse but united body of Christ. Not united in terms of opinion, paradigm, and even belief, but in the loving mercy revealed to us all through the cross and the living water that refreshes our souls.
And so just as the Israelites grumbled and complained and wondered if God was with them or not because of the plight they found themselves in, so do we sometimes find it unbelievable that God could be with us, with those whom we dislike and disagree with, with this world that is just so broken. But just as God provided for the Israelites in the unbelievable way of abundant water and blessing gushing from a rock, so does God surprise us with abundant blessing, inspiring hope, and unending love coming forth from sometimes the most unlikely of places.
So as we continue through this season of Lent, may the gracious character of God full of truth and mercy move us to see that even the unforgiveable can be forgiven, the unlovable be loved, and the unbelievable be believable in God’s welcome and provision and life. Thanks be to God. Amen.