How about this past week? This time last week we thought we had seen and heard quite a bit of information about this Corona Virus. But we now know that was just the tip of the iceberg. While the events unfolded, I began to wonder if we should abandon the sermon series on the African-American Spirituals and begin to preach on some different texts. But then it occurred to me that these songs were written at a time in which the enslaved population had lost all of their freedoms. We have not lost all of our freedoms and this crisis is still miles and miles away from being like the hardships the slaves endured in this country. However, we are moving into places in which we have many, many questions, life as we had known it is very different. We are being asked to stay-in and if we can not then the government will make us—for our own protection. We should want to do what is best for those that are around us.
The African-American Spirituals speak of times that are similar where we are seeking God, asking questions of God, looking for signs from God, and ultimately to be delivered by God. The spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jehrico” is a song of deliverance. And so is this song, Didn’t Old Pharaoh Get Lost?” It is sung by the Golden Gate Quartet, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRyP8_0OEr8&list=PLkxAz4eWhqee_rQmJ0p_CHWYx1WWLI6Ke&index=10&t=0s
Powery in his book “Were You There?” writes of the song
“This is a spiritual of great faith and a testimony of triumph. Repeatedly in the refrain, we are told that old Pharaoh got los’ in the Red Sea, alluding to when the children of Israel escaped out of Egypt led by Moses. It is a story of deliverance. A story of triumph by the hand of God.”
Our gospel lesson today is a reflection of God interceding on the behalf of those who are on the margins. Listen for the word of the Lord. John 4:5-42
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) This was a really big deal first she arrives at noon. Respectable women do not come to the well at noon. They come later in the day when it is cooler. Jews and Samaritans do not interact—let alone ask for a drink from something that their hands or lips might touch. There is no hand washing for 20 seconds, no hand sanitizer and definitely no thought of social distancing. Finally, an interaction between a man and a woman at the well was symbol of courting. Men and women gathered at the well, like we see in bars today—when they are open.
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Here the woman is pontificating a little bit. The well was a gift from God and because she was Samaritan. God had chosen them to have the mountain where God resided and the water was blessed by God even before the days of Moses. All the Jews had were a man-made temple and the ark of the covenant had already been stolen to the antiquities—there was no guarantee that God was even there.
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” The woman is intrigued by this possibility. Maybe it is like the water we know of today. That comes through pipes and is readily available. When we turn on the faucet, we never have to think about it unless it doesn’t work. And how nice that would be so the rest of the village does not see her toting water at noon and the embarrassment that it brings.
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” So the cat is out of the bag. We do not know for sure why she has had so many husbands whether they died and she was passed around from brother to brother? We do not know if she was unlucky in marriage. But we know that many people have had many conversations about that woman and her lifestyle right there at that very well. It is difficult for her to have any decency left according to the mores of the day.
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” Jesus is offering deliverance to the woman but she is not sure who Jesus is yet. He hints and says I am which is the same name that Moses heard when he saw the burning bush. John the gospel writer records Jesus saying I am eight times. Jesus is delivering this woman even though she is not a Jew. Yes he came to the Jewish people first, but the time is here he says where true worshipers will know the Father.
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
Things are about to get sticky with the disciples now on the scene. They know all the social distancing rules. Jesus is not following them. The woman in here excitement ran off to tell the rest of the people. She is not sure he is the Messiah but is willing to let them all see for themselves. She is sharing in the same deliverance that she received from Jesus and giving it to the rest of her villagers.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Thus, the gospel story continues. We have physical food but we also have spiritual food. He tells the parable of the sower and the reaper. They need each other to get the harvest in. They need to work together for the good of the harvest. We too must work together for the good of one another and the spreading of the message of God’s love. Jesus is the reaper and is gathering us to himself for eternal life. With this new way of living we have an opportunity to act in Christian ways or to buy all the toilet paper. We can stay in our we can be defiant and refuse to look out for the well being of others. We can make statements that put one side against the other, or we can make the best of the situation and seek to serve our friends and neighbors.
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
“How has God delivered you? What is your story? What is your testimony of how you have seen and heard the living God at work in your own life? God worked then and still works today. Let it be known to others of how God has moved in your life. Tell the story. Testify! That way, others will know that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Let us pray: Dear delivering God, open up our stammering tongues to let the world know how you have brought us out of my bondage and to safety. Fill our hearts with a testimony of triumph. Amen.