Third Sunday of Lent - A Well In The Wilderness

 


This year we are experiencing a very different kind of Lenten journey.  Our theme is "Wilderness," which is appropriate on so many levels.  First, it's appropriate because Lent is essentially a symbolic way for us to enter into the story of Jesus' 40-Day preparation in the wilderness prior to launching his public ministry. 

But it's also appropriate because it feels as though we have been traveling through the wilderness over the past year, can I get a witness?  

Here's the cool thing, though... and this is what we hope to lift up throughout this entire journey together... There is life in the wilderness.  There is growth in the wilderness.  We get a chance during these wilderness wanderings to become the people we long to be.  

Today we are going to focus on what it means to tell the truth in the wilderness, but more importantly, telling the truth about ourselves. 

And what does it mean to tell the truth about ourselves?  Let me illustrate this in a couple of ways.  First, I'll tell the truth about some things that I need to face facts on, just to show how it's done. 

I will never play professional golf.  
I will never be the coach of the Denver Broncos.  
I will never climb Mt. Everest. 
I am too chicken to go sky-diving.  
I will never be the lead singer in a rock and roll band.  
I will never fully appreciate tennis.  
I will never win the lottery.  

See?  I told the truth about myself, and man does it feel good.  The problem is, none of those things really get at the heart of who I am, or what I really think about myself.  

I beat myself when I can't do things well.  
I identify with my sports teams and when they fail, I feel like a failure. 
I wonder just how many things in life I won't ever do because I'm starting to see less years ahead of me than behind me. 
I wish I wasn't afraid to do things that scare me. 
There are so many things that I feel I'm not good enough at, so I don't try them. 
I like to think I'm willing to take risks, but I am really risk-averse.  

Now before you start wanting to pat me on the back for being real with you... those truths aren't really all that deep.  In order to get real about who we really are---we sometimes need a push.  Or more specifically a place.  

Years ago, a website was launched entitled PostSecret.  The site was set up so people could create a virtual postcard, and anonymously share things on it that they would have never shared publicly---truths that were painful, filled them with shame, or that they couldn't share without repercussions. 

Here's a few of them. 

Sometimes you have to go through something hard before you can confront the truth about who you are.  Wilderness moments can do that to you.  When everything gets stripped away, and you find yourself without a safety net, without the comfort of the stories you've told yourself about yourself.  

Many of us walk around with pain, shame, guilt, and baggage of all kinds and we keep telling ourselves stories about ourselves that aren't true---even as we do everything we can to keep up appearances for everyone else.  

And then the wilderness happens.  And we find that those old stories just don't work anymore.  Sometimes it takes a wilderness moment to face the truth about who we are.  

Today we are going to explore this idea, and we're going to be doing it by telling a familiar story from a different angle----the story of Jesus and the Woman at the Well.  

5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 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.[a])

10 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.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 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.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”

Being known gives her the freedom to know.  

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

The truth changes her---turns her into a witness, sets her free.  

The wilderness is where we can tell the truth about ourselves because it is there that we encounter the One who truly knows us, and loves us. 

So, what have you been telling yourself that isn't true?  

The Samaritan woman had a narrative for her life that had defined her, it left her in shame, isolation, uncertainty...   

What thing in your life has left you with that story?  

Story of a man haunted by the people he killed in WWII

Story of a woman torn apart because of her resentment of a husband who was dying. 

Story of a friend who called his mother on Mother's Day high on crack.  

Here's some truth that you need to hear right now... 

You are not your mistakes.  You are not your missteps.  There is no condemnation--no judgment... Just truth, reconciliation, mercy, and love.  

You may have been wandering in the wilderness with your story... but you are not alone.  The One who meets you in the wilderness when everything feels lost is the One who not only knows the truth about you, but also the One who sacrificed everything to set you free from that story... to set you free to speak the truth about yourself... and to know that you are covered in grace.  

The wilderness is a place to tell the truth.  


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