A Better Story / Day 1

BIBLE READING

John 4: 3-10; 23-26 (MSG)

Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”…

…“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

SUMMARY OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE FROM PETER LYNAS

We’re thinking about the question, “Who is my neighbour?” looking at John 4 and Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well.

COMPASSION: To reach people no one else is reaching we're going to have to go places no one else is going. Wherever Jesus went, it looked radically different after he had left.

Traditionally Jews wouldn't talk to Samaritans or even associate with them. Nor would a man publicly speak with a woman in that culture. Yet Jesus intentionally initiates conversation with this woman drawing water. He asks the woman a question as a way of opening a conversation. The church needs to become a community that welcomes questions. To do that we must be secure enough in our story to be able to engage meaningfully with alternative and even conflicting stories.

Jesus offers this woman compassion. But he takes it further than that. He offers ‘living water’ which can satisfy the thirst she has been seeking to quench in the wrong places.

Here at CCV ‘Compassion at the Centre’ is so much more than just a building. It’s who we are.

INTEGRITY: Jesus then moves the conversation towards deeper issues of truth and integrity. In the same way, we should always lead with compassion but some point the integrity conversation has to come up. After all, Jesus said the Father desires both “spirit and truth”, not just one or the other.

In the past the church has often signalled that if people want to belong they must first behave as we do. However, in some sections of the church a shift has taken place where we welcome people to belong but never expect their lifestyle to change. This undermines the transforming power of the Gospel. Who you are and the way you live counts before God. It’s the spirit pursuing truth that counts.

In a post-truth world George Orwell’s quote is particularly relevant: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

In our culture the emphasis is on individual truth. My truth works for me and your truth works for you. In a post-truth society language begins to lose its meaning. However without truth there can’t be trust as trust requires we are speaking a common language. When we want justice then we try to find the universal truth in a situation. This isn’t a new issue. When Jesus was on trial Pilates asked: “What is truth?”

N. T. Wright points out that Christianity “offers a story which is the story of the whole world . It is public truth.”

For 1800 years the church knew and told the big story of the Bible. However over the last 200 years this story was truncated and shrunk to merely cover fall and redemption. The Gospel became individualised Gospel primarily concerned with saving the soul rather than seeking the renewal of all things. We need to present the world with the larger story of God’s good redemption.

REDEMPTION: The goal is to help people enter into a redemptive relationship with Christ and see the image of God restored in others. When you live in the light of Jesus’ victory, the future is certain. One day all powers with bow the knee before Jesus.

Jonathan Sacks states: “We are going through one of the most profound revolutions in all of human history … and I sum it up with a single phrase: cultural climate change… Just as literal climate change breaks down old patterns and radically changes weather conditions, this new cultural climate change is causing a series of storms in the West that will upend conventional notions of faith and the role religion plays in society.”

Under the myth of progress, human relationships are being redefined. This change in our culture has huge implications for society, especially in terms of the breakdown of family and community.

This time of fragmentation is also a time of great opportunity. Where there is deep uncertainty among the populace, the church’s response is very important. We can:

  • Fight: Seek to restore cultural domination which won’t happen.
  • Flight: Hide away from the dark world in our Christian ghettos.
  • Fold: Compromise and blend in with the rest of culture.
  • Flourish: Thrive like Daniel and the other exiles in Babylon by living differently while building the city and getting involved in culture.

What unites every human on the planet is “the living water” - everybody needs Jesus.

Jesus moves the Samaritan woman through her story towards redemption showing her that she is more than her failed relationships. She is a child of God, released from shame, fear and guilt.

The role of the church is to be at the well, asking questions and praying that God shows up in power. People deep down know there is more to this world than science can offer and they are hungry for a supernatural encounter. As those who carry God’s presence, we can move people towards redemption through Jesus.

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