Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bucket List

It began with the usual "Good morning." Brad immediately followed with, "I'm grateful you're here." The theme this next several weeks would revolve around insights gleaned from the story in John 4 where Jesus encounters a woman at the well.

Announcements to be aware of:
Tuesday there will be a board meeting and the capital campaign committee will address our current progress with the new building project.
Thursday there will be a service at Edgewood Vista at 7:00 p.m. Look for us at Entrance 11.
Joanne shared that the Secret Sisters were revealed this past week. We will be doing the Secret Sisters again in 2011. See Joanne for details.

Darlene's introit led us into a time of worship led by the trio of Chuck, Ken and Darlene. But first, after Chuck read the passage from Mark 4 where Jesus calmed a storm, they sang a moving rendition of "Master of the Wind." Another song today carried the theme, "Keep me in Your will so I won't be in Your way."

An offering was taken, followed by a time of prayer leading into the message.

Bucket List

Brad began by mentioning that he'd intended to bring a handpump well to set next to the pulpit to illustrate his theme over the next several weeks. The message began with an overview of John 4, essentially touching on several highlights from this memorable story.

Brad began with vss. 1-3 which sets up the story by noting the reason why Jesus was heading back to Galilee. In typical understatement, verse four states, "Now He had to go through Samaria." In point of fact, the Jews of Jesus' day did nearly anything they could to circumvent Samaria and there were plenty of alternate routes to avoid having to go through Samaria. The Samarians were half breed second-class citizens. Their religion was also different, though they did embrace the Pentateuch as sacred. Jesus was always breaking down barriers and in this story He behaves no differently.

"Jacob's well was there," John records in verse six. This landmark well is still there, is 138 feet deep and still functional. Jesus was tired from the journey, so He sat by the well and sent His disciples into town to get food.

The statement appears simple but again is loaded with insights. First, the fact of Jesus' tiredness shows his humanity. Despite being God, the Lord laid aside his divinity to become fully human with its limitations so that He would be hot, cold, and tired after a journey like all of us.

It was midday and a woman came to the well to draw water. Brad pointed out that the typical time to draw water would be the beginning or end of the day. Midday was a well's least busy time, but if a person who was interested in avoiding contact with others they might choose this hour of the day to draw water.

Upon her arrival Jesus asks her for a drink. This kind of question was not normal. First, Jews did not talk to Samaritans. Men did not talk to women. But Jesus was, as noted, all about breaking down barriers.

Brad noted that we live in a transactional society. In other words, much of our dialogue revolves around people getting something in exchange for something. Jesus, however, asks us to follow Him and become an interaction society. We interact not to get, but to dialogue and to give, to affirm one another as people, not just use them.

The woman's responses to Jesus during the exchange that followed seems to reveal that the woman had a certain amount of attitude. At a certain point He tells her to go get her husband. When she says she has no husband, He states that she has had five husbands and the man she lives with now is not her husband.

Brad pointed out how she then changed the subject to a new topic: religion.

But eventually even religion will leave you empty. Religion is not about where you worship or places or mountains or temples. It's about truth. And by the end of this story Jesus makes a rare self-revelation, that He is indeed the Messiah.

After summarizing the story Brad asked, "What causes emptiness?" He answered by sharing an anecdote about kids playing. Imagine a boy playing a video game that has obstacles. The younger or least experienced player is stuck. The other says, "Avoid that and go here." Instead of advice it comes across as one kid telling the other what to do. The younger boy snaps, "You're not the boss of me."

This is exactly how we end up empty ourselves, when we say to God, "You're not the boss of me."

Brad then read to us Psalm 32:8-10 from The Message.

8 Let me give you some good advice;
I'm looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

9 "Don't be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track."

10 God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

When we say to God, "You're not the boss of me," it's only trouble for us. Letting Him be boss is the only satisfying life. The first verses of Psalm 32 offer an antidote.

1 Blessed is the one whose lawless acts are forgiven.
His sins have been taken away.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord never counts against him.
He doesn't want to cheat anyone.
3 When I kept silent about my sin,
my body became weak
because I groaned all day long.
4 Day and night
your heavy hand punished me.
I became weaker and weaker
as I do in the heat of summer.

5 Then I admitted my sin to you.
I didn't cover up the wrong I had done.
I said, "I will admit my lawless acts to the Lord."
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Unresolved guilt morphs into shame. Shame leaves us disconnected from community. Guilt is what we experience for our actions, for what we do. Shame is what we experience for who we are.

16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.

Do you remember the children's song, "There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza?" This is the real problem for most of us, except instead of our bucket there's a hole in our hearts. Solomon tried everything to fill that hole, as we read in the book of Ecclesiastes. But in the end, everything this world has to give, everything he tried to fill his heart with ended up falling through. Everything proved meaningless.

As Jeremiah wrote...

13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Broken cisterns... broken wells... broken hearts. Solomon ends the book of Ecclesiastes with a single conclusion: The hole in your heart can only be filled by God.

Psalm 107:9 affirms, "God satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things."

Isaiah 55:1-3 is an invitation to all who are thirsty.

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

Jesus, in His sermon on the Mount, offers hope to all. There are no barriers. Blessed are the empty, blessed are the spiritually busted.

The invitation is to all. As it is written in Revelation 22:17

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

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