The harsh chill of the past few days let up and our day began with above zero weather out in this neck of the woods. Pastor Shannon's warm welcome helped defrost any chill left over from the past few days.
The theme of these several weeks was highlighted in his opening remarks. We're studying the story in John 4 about the Lord's encounter with the woman at the well. The message today would be about surrender.
The one important announcement today was with regard to next Sunday. Susie and Gwen, with the youth of the church, will be doing some painting to liven up the Sunday School rooms. Think fun, food, friends, bright-colored paint and hippie art! Bring a bag lunch and a change of clothes. Snacks will be provided.
Ed Newman played an introit on the piano to lead us into worship, which was led by Brad and Elsa this morning. Leonard read from Mark 1:14-20 after the offertory. We then presented our needs in prayer to the creator and sustainer of the universe.
Leaving Our Water Jar Behind
Brad began by giving a re-cap of last week's highlights. It was a remarkable situation, Jesus breaking barriers not only by talking to a woman, but also a Samaritan woman with a shady reputation. She's come at mid-day to get water, but after an introductory exchange Jesus points out that drinking from this well will leave you thirsty again, but "I can give you living water," He says.
Then, He goes past the external surface of things and drills into her deeper situation, speaking very directly. It's our tendency to spend (or waste) a lot of energy trying to conceal our secrets. Jesus directs the conversation toward unburying the truth, getting down to the heart of the matter.
Once the truth comes out, many people feel a great sense of relief. For this reason Brad directed us to I John 1:7-10 which talks about confessing our sins and walking in the light. We were all urged to go before God to unburden ourselves in this way. But it can also be very healing to find someone we can trust to share our struggles with and confess our sins. As verse nine in this passage states, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Returning to the story, we find that after Jesus revealed to the woman who He was, she left her water jar to head back into town to tell people about Jesus. Brad asked what our water jar was? What is it that we're doing that we need to leave behind? Is it the intoxication of thrilling work? Pleasure? Addictions of one kind or another?
Brad invited Duayne Anderson and Gwen Cressman to take seats in front of the congregation to be interviewed regarding their various paths from childhood to following Christ. Gwen shared how she was raised by parents who were missionaries in Cameroon. She remembers life in the bush and seeing her father preach the Gospel. Duayne shared that his parents were not church-goers, but his mom and dad modeled Christian values. They sent him to Sunday school. Even though his parents didn't attend themselves, he knew they were believers. He later went to youth group at Westminster Presbyterian.
Brad asked, "Was there a time in your life when you made a decision to follow Jesus?"
Gwen described her difficult year at a boarding school while in third grade. Yet it was during this time she came to understand that, "Jesus will never leave me or forsake me."
Duayne explained how the seeds that were planted while younger resulted in his being baptized later with his wife Cindy. Duayne mentioned something about failures, but "Christ has always been there for me."
Brad then asked, "Is there an area of surrender that is a struggle?"
Gwen shared how there have been seasons in her life. She said the Lord has revealed many things at various times. She's been learning not only how to speak up but when not to speak. Duayne commented on his failing each day in some ways and that surrender has to be daily. He said the hardest thing is learning to let go... forgiveness.
Brad noted some of the common themes in their stories. Then said, "What the world has to offer will not quench our thirst. Surrender is a lifelong journey. The woman at the well had to surrender if she was to receive living water.
The new path is not a quick drink. The Greek word used in this phrase is "a perpetual fountain... once for all and forever."
A quote from Malcolm Muggeridge provided a fitting summing up:
"I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets—that's fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland Revenue—that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions—that's pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time—that's fulfillment. Yet I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing—less than nothing, a positive impediment—measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. What, I ask myself, does life hold, what is there in the works of time, in the past, now and to come, which could possibly be put in the balance against the refreshment of drinking that water?"
After meeting Jesus, the woman at the well ran back into town saying, "Come, see a man who told me everything I did!" She was stunned not because He knew her, but because He knew her and still offered her living water.
In closing, Brad said, "God knows your story, and He loves you still."