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Jesus Is Pure Gold

One thing I have learned over the last while from Valerie is to be a better tipper. Not that I was cheap or anything, but I would leave a ten percent tip and figured that was enough. I have seen the light! Now I have learned to leave a decent tip of fifteen percent. It's amazing the difference it makes at a restaurant or cafe you attend regularly. People really like to welcome you and make you comfortable. Who woulda thought it?
Here is a story of a waitress who gets a tip she will never forget:

Franchesca Renderos, 22, was working as a waitress on an ordinary Wednesday night in Houston when she was stunned by grace.

At one of her tables sat Doug Brown, a mortgage broker trying to attract the business of six female real estate agents. When Franchesca came up to the table, Doug asked, "What would be the most special tip you could have? A pair of shoes, a purse?" She responded, "No, I need a car."
Jesus answered, ?Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water
I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.?  John 4:13-14

One thing I have learned over the last while from Valerie is to be a better tipper. Not that I was cheap or anything, but I would leave a ten percent tip and figured that was enough. I have seen the light! Now I have learned to leave a decent tip of fifteen percent. It's amazing the difference it makes at a restaurant or cafe you attend regularly. People really like to welcome you and make you comfortable. Who woulda thought it?
Here is a story of a waitress who gets a tip she will never forget:

Franchesca Renderos, 22, was working as a waitress on an ordinary Wednesday night in Houston when she was stunned by grace.

At one of her tables sat Doug Brown, a mortgage broker trying to attract the business of six female real estate agents. When Franchesca came up to the table, Doug asked, "What would be the most special tip you could have? A pair of shoes, a purse?" She responded, "No, I need a car."

Doug looked around his table at the six real estate agents and said, "If you will give me your business, I will give this girl a car." The six women agreed, so he turned to Franchesca and said, "Okay, you get a car." Her response: "Sure. What do you want to drink?"

She didn't believe it until an hour later when a brand new silver Mitsubishi Lancer pulled up, and Doug Brown gave her the keys. Franchesca could hardly contain herself. "Is this happening? What do I say? What do I do?" Doug Brown gave her the words: "You say, 'These keys are mine.'"1

Now that is extravagant tipping! I don't think even Valerie would be likely to suggest I do that. In fact I would be in trouble if I did that. But it's an example of finding a gift far beyond your expectations in a place you would expect it least.

In John's gospel, chapter 4, we read of an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.
Jesus is leaving Judea to avoid a controversy over baptism. He is heading back to his home turf of Galilee.
The Palestine of Jesus time was only about 120 miles long tip to tip and was divided into three parts: Judea in the south, Galilee in the north, but between them was Samaria. Samaria was not Jewish, but inhabited by a remnant of the northern ten tribes who were deported by the Assyrians and the foreign peoples with whom they intermarried. They were a mixture and retained a distorted memory of their Jewish past.
Jews preferred to avoid Samaria altogether, but to do so took a traveler well out of the way.
Jesus and his disciples are traveling through Samaria and come to the town of Sychar where there is a well dug by Jacob. The well is still there. It is deep and contains water that has percolated into it through the subsoil. It is not a spring, but a good well.

It is noon and his disciples are off in the town while Jesus is alone at the well waiting for them to return.
A Samaritan woman comes to draw water.
People have speculated as to why she came at that time of day...the heat of the day rather than in the cool of the day.
It's possible she was a social outcast due to her private life and came when she suspected no one else was around.

Where will you find water?

When she arrives at the well, Jesus speaks to her. He asks for a drink of water.
She is astonished and says, "What is this? A Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman, asking for a drink of water!" Whether she is really surprised or saying this in sarcasm is not clear, but Jews had as little to do with Samaritans as possible. And it was protocol for Jewish men not to address even a Jewish woman in such a way.
There were a group of Pharisees who would not even look at a woman in public, but would shut their eyes when they saw a woman approaching. They were called the "bruised and bleeding pharisees" because they would prefer to walk into a wall or a tree than look at a woman in public.

Jesus says to her, "if you knew who was speaking to you, you would ask him for living water and he would give it to you."
She replies, " You have no bucket and this is a deep well. Where are you going to get this living water from?"
The term "living water" can be understood in two ways. In one way, living water meant a bubbling spring, perhaps an artesian well, and it has a spiritual meaning referring to the way God satisfies our spiritual thirst.
Apparently the woman took it at its first meaning and is a bit insulted.

Here is this uppity Jewish man saying he has living water when he clearly cannot even get a drink on his own.
So she asks, "And do you think you are better than our father Jacob who dug this well?'
If Jacob couldn't find a spring what makes you think you are better?

Jesus tells her that his living water will be like a spring that comes from within. Once she has that she will have eternal satisfaction.
She asks if she can have some of this water too.

Jesus says, "go get your husband and then you may have some."
She admits she has no husband.
Jesus says simply, yes that is right. You have been in five relationship and the man you are with now is not your married husband.

Where can I find God?

She now can see that this is no ordinary traveler. He sees into her soul and recognizes her longing and her need.
Without condemnation, he simply establishes it as a fact.

She asks an unusual question: "Samaritans worship on this mountain, but you Jews worship in Jerusalem."
The Samaritans had re-written Biblical history to suit themselves. When Joshua came to this territory, God told him to build an altar on Mt. Ebal, opposite Mt. Gerizim. Mount Gerizim was called the mount of blessing and Ebal the mount of cursing. But God said to put an altar on Ebal and make sacrifice there for their sins.
The Samaritans believed it was on Gerizim that Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice him, but it was Ebal.

She is really asking a simple question..."Who is right about God?"
She has moved from "where will you find water to where will I find God?"

Jesus does not discount the Biblical truth and says, "we Jews know who we worship."
But he goes on to say that it is not going to be a matter of what mountain or what temple. None of that will matter.
What will matter is what is in the heart. Coming to God in spirit and truth is all that is needed to find God. Not a road map to the right altar. Not the right parentage, gender, status  and not even the right social history.
Ask in sincerity and the water of eternal life is for anyone, anywhere anytime.

Jesus meets her at her point of strength

What Jesus does with this woman is that he meets her at her point of strength. He knows what her life situation is and could have challenged her on that straight off, but he doesn't. He asks her for a drink of water.
He doesn't really need her to give him water, there were various options, only one of which was to wait for his disciples to return with the sheepskin water bag which would be used as their bucket.
This was Jesus normal approach. He met people at the point of what they could do.
The main exception were people like pharisees who thought they knew it all and were doing what they should.

Jesus meets Zacchaeus and asks for a dinner invitation. He could have pointed out all the man's failings, but he tells him he wants to come to his house for dinner. I bet Zacchaeus was famous for his dinner parties. When Jesus came, Zacchaeus' house was full and by all accounts it was a great time.

He tells a blind man to go wash his eyes in a pool.
He asks a paralyzed man what he wanted Jesus to do for him.
With the Syro Phoenician woman, he coaxes her from a position of helplessness to a stance of strength.

Sure, God values humility and a broken heart. That means he wants us to recognize who we are and what we need. But God does not grind us into the dirt for our failures. God does the most amazing thing with his human creatures. He meets us in a way that values our humanity, not one that diminishes it.

This is the season of lent and a time of repentance. I shared a thought with our prayer group last Wednesday and now I will share the same thought with you today. We all need to examine ourselves and ask if there are ways in which we diminish one another in our speech or our actions. Who do you gossip about? Who do you criticize behind their back? Who do you treat with less than total respect? Whose full humanity are you guilty of squashing or of overlooking? Whose aspirations do you consider as less important. Whose opinions do you discount? If there is anyone, and as I spoke to the prayer group I said that in my opinion everyone in the room including me was guilty and needed to repent, and I invite you all to do the same.

A writer named Chuck Broughton tells of something he saw on the subway:

I was riding the crowded subway in New York City. Every 10 to 15 seconds or so, someone behind me shouted unintelligible words. The first time, I ignored them. After several outbursts, however, I turned around to see that they were coming from a disheveled man behind me.

Sitting fairly close to him was a woman reading a newspaper. As I watched, he reached out, touched her knee, and quickly brought his hand back. Not getting any response, he did it again a few seconds later. It seemed like a game a small child might play; each time, his face showed that he was pretending not to have touched her. No one said anything, but those sitting near him exchanged nervous glances and began to inch away.

I was caught off guard by what happened next. The woman put down her paper and looked at the man. I expected her to rebuke him. Instead, she politely engaged the man in conversation. "Do you know where your stop is?"

He nodded that he did.

"Do you need any help getting to where you need to go?"

He shook his head no.

I don't know what motivated this woman to treat a stranger on the subway with such kindness. But the way she asked these questions showed that she was genuinely concerned for his welfare. She chose to respond to him as a real person with real needs, not just as an annoyance on her commute.

The incident reminded me of how the Apostle Paul saw people: "We regard no one from a worldly point of view" (2 Cor. 5:16). Many people on that subway car?including me?had looked at the man from a human point of view. In contrast, the woman who spoke to him reflected the perspective Paul described. She addressed him as a person who had inherent worth.2

<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->If God lifts up the broken, who are we to put them down?
And your brother or sister in Christ with an attitude may just be covering up some very painful wounds. Don't add to them.
Like the song says,  "Try a little tenderness."

Jesus leads her to something better

Jesus meets the lady at her point of strength, but leads her to her point of need:
She has had five husbands.

I was in a clinical group once that was using this passage as a case study and everyone was giving their opinion as to what was happening in the woman's life and in the encounter with Jesus.
People were offering opinions about her making bad choices, having  poor self-esteem, as well as reflecting on what her economic condition might be that she needed a husband, and so on.
I thought about why someone would have five relationships, and a thought crossed my mind....optimism!
She had a deep need and kept believing that this new person just might be the one.
Some people might call that an addiction or codependency.
But the thing I really like about her is she doesn't stop believing in the possibility of love.
She is just looking in all the wrong places.

I think Jesus connects with her at this point too. He offers her an answer to her deep down thirst that will finally satisfy.
William Barclay says that he thinks this version in John is just a summary of a much longer conversation.
Barclay is one of my favorite commentators and preachers, but I disagree with him on this.
I think this is probably close to a verbatim.
Why I am even saying this is that I am astonished at how readily this woman responds to Jesus promise, but she is not the first or the last. Some people are just quicker than others to see in Jesus something they had not seen before.

What you often see in people who go from bad relationship to bad relationship is that the person somehow has blinders on so that they cannot recognize the real goods when they meet it, and pass it up in favor of the same old, same old. Sometimes its fear of letting go of the familiar.
But she recognizes the real goods and responds.

So did Zacchaeus. I don't think Jesus had to negotiate for hours to get a dinner invitation, and Zacchaeus responds.
On the other hand, there is the account in John chapter five of the paralyzed man beside the Bethesda pool.
Jesus asks what he wants. The man says he cannot get into the pool fast enough. Jesus tells him to take up his mat and go, he is healed. The man does so, but inside nothing seems to have changed. The last we see of the man is that he is at the temple ratting out Jesus to the pharisees who are angry that Jesus healed him on a sabbath.

The woman meets Jesus and inside, something falls into place.
That is not true for everyone.

Jesus offered her a spring of life from inside herself. She would no longer need to look for validation and love from others, at least not in a dependent kind of way. She may choose to give her love, but she will no longer be needy, craving it from anyone who will give her the time of day.

Jesus meets you and me and respects our humanity. Jesus respects the image of God he sees in you and me.
But he leads us to our point of need.
Ultimately it is the same for us all. We need unconditional love that sees us as we are and love us as we are, but which leads us to what we can be and to the source of life that gives us the means to be what we can be.

Inside each one of us is a longing for something better.
When some met Jesus they recognized in Him the source of that fulfillment.
But some did not, and there lies a tale of tragedy.

What will it be for you?
Will you begin by regarding others around you not as a solution to your need, but as the creation of God?
Will you look at Jesus as the source of your fulfillment, not just a temporary fix along the way?

To the extent you look at others and at Jesus from a selfish or self centered point of view, it is lent, the season of repentance.
To the extent that you feel that unmet longing, Jesus stands near and offers you forgiveness and the water of eternal life.

When I think of the woman I think of a caricature of a salty old prospector panning for gold. She has a bunch of empty claims and disappointing creeks, but she still has an eye for pure gold and the minute she hits the motherlode she knows it.

Where can I find God?
Right here and right now when I turn my heart toward Jesus.

Jesus is the source of life.
Jesus is pure gold.
Jesus will turn you into pure gold.
There is nothing you can exchange that is not more than worth it. Your sins, your pride; your sense of failure or your sense of satisfaction. Nothing compares.
Why wait?


Preached  Sunday February 27, 2005
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia

Notes
1. "Houston Waitress Gets Tip of Lifetime: New Car," TheNewOrleansChannel.com (1-20-04), cited in
preachingtoday.com
2. Chuck Broughton, "Reflecting God's Nature," Discipleship Journal (Jan/Feb 2003), pp. 35-36
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