Gospel: John 4:5-42
5[Jesus] came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.  7A 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.) 9The 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.) 10Jesus 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.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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.” 15The 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.”  16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But 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. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 27Just 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?” 28Then 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?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him. 31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do 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. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”  39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They 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.”

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

I titled today’s message, “Overcoming Adversity,” because the woman in our Gospel reading is one example of overcoming adversity. I honestly was not thinking about the adversity that comes to us because the new mutation of the corona virus is now spreading in countries throughout the world, making it a pandemic.

I was thinking about a woman who had to go to the well in the heat of the day because she was likely shunned by the other women who had not gone through five different husbands and now had to live with one who wouldn’t marry her.  I was thinking of a woman who had to couch her proclamation as a question whether Jesus might be the Messiah in order to improve the chances that people would actually come and see rather than just discounting her because of her situation. I was thinking of someone who was smart enough to understand all sorts of things, so that she could engage Jesus in extended conversation, but had still been knocked down by life time after time after time (after time after time after time).  What is it like to overcome that kind of adversity?

But we are faced with a different kind of adversity today.  A new mutation of an old virus is resulting in death for some.  It doesn’t even display any symptoms in others, and also seems to have a fairly long incubation period, so we don’t know who might have it.

Some seem to be unconcerned.  They may be attempting to reduce unhealthy panic reactions. All of us need to remember that God will stay with us through this, that the living water of Jesus Christ will sustain us in this life and (eventually) carry us into the next.  We will hope and pray that this virus will not roar through this area bringing death as it has done in other places, and there are things we can do to help to forestall that, both for ourselves, and particularly for those who might be more vulnerable.  It’s how we share God’s love.

  • We can stay home if we believe we might be infected, or if we believe we are among the vulnerable more likely to die if we become infected.
  • We can wash our hands thoroughly and often, which means wetting our hands first, adding soap, scrubbing palm and back and between fingers, working the soap under our fingernails (on both sides), and remembering our thumbs (both outside and under the nail), then rinsing, drying with a clean towel, and turning off the water without touching the handle.  If you’re doing all that, you don’t have to sing or pray or recite verses, it will take you 20 seconds.  But you can do that anyway, it doesn’t hurt!
  • We can sit further away from one another. 
  • We can contact one another by phone, by computer, and by mail—though if you are particularly vulnerable, you might want to spray your mail with disinfectant first, and wash your hands afterward!
  • Remember to phone regularly to those who live alone.
  • We can refrain from shaking hands or hugging, doing our best to maintain several feet of distance between ourselves and others.
  • We can remember that we do this particularly for the other, who may be more vulnerable to infection than ourselves.  Even if we are not worried for ourselves, we can show our love for others by waving, bowing, or nodding without touching.
  • We can wash our hands thoroughly and often (should I go through the procedure again?).

Today’s Bible story includes a reference to contamination that we discount, because we find it ludicrous that Jews should have been afraid to drink water that had been handled by a Samaritan.  The fact that Jesus stayed two more days within the community without apparently worrying about contamination confirms the silliness of that fear.  However, this does not mean that it is silly to be concerned about this virus that we cannot see (at least not without a powerful microscope).

Faith is unlikely by itself to keep you from becoming ill, either with this virus, with cancer, or with any other disease, infection, or injury out there.  Faith may, however, help you to show adequate care and concern for others around you, so that you may help to delay the spread of this disease to allow time for better treatments to be developed, and so hospitals and other care centers are not overwhelmed with high numbers of people needing care.

We encounter all kinds of adversity in life, and some of us see more adversity than others.  Yet, still we live.  Still we are able to proclaim the love of a God who enters into every adversity with us, walking with us, and strengthening us with hope and promise.  We walk with a God who dies for us, and who renews life through and after every adversity, and renews life finally again after death. 

Yes, we live in a time of adversity, and it will bring great trials to many, particularly those who live paycheck to paycheck, and whose jobs may be suspended in times of quarantine.  Let us overcome this adversity by loving one another in whatever ways we can, in ways less likely to convey this virus, in ways that help the hungry to eat, in ways that ensure those in poverty will not be evicted because of this pandemic, in ways that prove our faith in Christ Jesus, in God who is living water, the source of all love.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen