What is your Story?

The Gospel – John 4:5-42

5So he 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.”

The Samaritan Woman – What is your Story? –  a sermon by the Rev. Beth Pessah

Do you realize that often we mistake hunger for thirst?   That many times we try to quench our thirst by eating something instead of drinking something.  Weight loss and fitness experts have been saying this for quite some time.  That many of us are actually dehydrated because we do not recognize when we are thirsty.

So let me ask, When we are thirsty what is it that we crave?

DO we know when we are thirsty?  Do we listen to our inner witness and know ourselves well enough to reach for what we really need??
This week in the gospel we hear another familiar story.  This story is about Jesus sitting at Jacob’s well and asking for a drink.

Let’s not miss the contrasts from last week’s gospel about Nicodemus and Jesus.  Nicodemus comes in the night to see Jesus – He is a man of some importance and recognition; having status in the Jewish culture.

This week we hear about an unnamed somewhat invisible woman who comes to the well alone in the middle of the day and Jesus sees her. In fact he more than sees her; he enters into conversation with her.

Nicodemus sought Jesus out, this woman is shocked that a Jewish man would speak to her.  She is a Samaritan and a Woman.  Two characteristics that should exclude her from Jesus’ notice —  let alone that he should speak to her!!  The two passages – the story of Nicodemus and the story of the Samaritan woman assure us that we are not beyond God’s reach – no matter our race, our gender, our history – Jesus sees us and wants to enter into conversation and relationship with us.

The story assures us that God does not just seek out those that have been born into the line of faith.  This Samaritan woman asks Jesus to put to rest the long argued point – which mountain should we worship on?

This is one of the disagreements between Samaritans and Jews.  Because of their different geographical location they each maintained the idea of a holy mountain and disagreed over which mountain was in fact THE holy mountain.

Some people like to talk about the one theological question that bothers them the most and some will even say “when I get to heaven, THAT is what I am going to ask Jesus!”  Her burning question is about where to worship – here or there?  Who is right in this debate?  I don’t think she asks the question to prove that she and her ancestors are right but rather out of a genuine desire to do the right thing – to be assured that she is living a life of faith.

So what is the question that you have for Jesus?  What is the one thing that you worry might be holding you back from living a true life of faith?



Can you lay the question aside; knowing that Jesus is not hung up on you doing “religion” right but rather he wants to know that you genuinely long to be in relationship with him.

God promises in Jeremiah chapter 29 – “if you seek me you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart” – God looks at the heart.

What are you seeking and where are you looking for it?

We heard the Beatitudes a couple of weeks and ago and one of the Beatitudes is “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied”.  This is the thirst that Jesus speaks to the Samaritan Woman about.  A thirst that can only be satisfied by the living water that Jesus provides.    This is what leads to being born of the Spirit and as we hear Jesus say today – to worship in spirit and in truth.

When the disciples come and ask Jesus about food and if he has had anything to eat – HE clarifies further this deep hunger and thirst for righteousness in his response.

“I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  And when they wonder what that means – where did he get food.  Jesus explains, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”

Jesus is fuelled by doing the work of His heavenly Father.  God is His source and He is satisfied by doing His father’s will.

There is an energy that comes from obedience to God.  I’m not talking about fulfilling a set of rules but rather doing what you know that God has called you to do.  Perhaps you have experienced that as you have been faithful to be kind to those around you or to reach out to someone who is lonely or isolated?  I can tell you about a time when Steve and I were living in North Bay – it was a busy time – the kids were quite small – toddlers really.  Steve was working and I was working on a contract basis.  Steve was invited to audition for a theatre group  – he would be the only adult actor with the local teens from an area high school.  He practiced with them at least twice a week all summer long and then performed with them for several performances at the end of the summer.  When the summer was finished the area high school asked Steve to come and be a chaplain – a minister within the school.  This was not a Catholic or Christian High School, but the Principal knew that Steve had built relationship with a lot of the local teens.  So, for that school year he was given an office a couple of days a week so that he could be available in case kids needed someone to talk to.  Many people asked us how did you find the time to do all those practices or how did you find the energy to give to the play over and above all the other work you had to do.  God gave us the strength and the energy because it was his purpose – his call in our lives.
We find joy and peace in fulfilling God’s purpose on earth.  Just as Jesus promised, if we hunger and thirst for righteousness we will be satisfied.

The woman at the well told her story to the people in her community and those people were so impacted that they went to find their story – they went to see if the things that she said about this man Jesus were true.  And we hear their response, Many 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.”

So, what is your story – the one that you could tell over and over again – the one that helps people to know who you are and what you are really about??

Your story and mine may look and sound nothing at all like the woman whose story is told today.  Except that Jesus meets us, too, in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night when we find ourselves outcast or we have isolated ourselves in our misery and our grief.  Jesus meets us, too, and offers us gifts which do not end.  Jesus meets us, too, and sees us and knows us and invites us, too.  And so we tell our stories and as we do we also recall the conflicts experienced and the obstacles overcome that amazingly led us to know the very same powerful love and acceptance the Samaritan woman at the well experienced so long ago.



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A transplanted Canadian living in sunny Florida. An Episcopal priest, wife, mother, dog lover, story teller and avid movie watcher.

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