Loved Anyway

shockingLent 4A Change of Habit: Loved Anyway

John 4:5-42

March 23, 2014

 

“He told me everything I have ever done.”

 

There was a television show from the 1950’s and 60’s

the reruns of which have been on cable again.

The name of the show is “I’ve Got a Secret.”

(Maybe some of you saw the originals!)

 

It’s a game show with a panel of celebrity guests

who have to guess the secret of the contestant.

The secret is something unusual or humorous or embarrassing that the person has done.

If the contestant stumps the panel after a round of questioning,

they win (get this) a whopping $10!

 

Most of the secrets from the TV show are rather benign…

…an unusual job someone once had,

or an odd hobby.

 

Nothing really embarrassing,

nothing shameful.

Nothing like the secret of the woman at the well.

We never learn her name…

but I’m guessing her name was very well known in the town of Sychar.

 

She was the one people talked about.

They avoided her;

they didn’t want to be near her –

as if somehow her secret could be contagious.

 

Some of the merchants refused to do business with her.

Mothers warned their daughters about her..

they used her as an example of what Not to be.

At one time not so long ago some of the older women remember,

she did what the other women in town did…

She too once made the trip to the well with her jugs early in the morning

before the heat of the day.

 

It’s not like they would talk to her of course.

And they made sure they whispered when they talked about her;

they turned their backs so she wouldn’t hear them.

 

There was occasionally someone who would spit at her…

but really, how dare she show her face in town after…after….

Well to be honest, no one really knew what it was exactly that she’d done,

but she had been seen with man after man

and everyone knew she wasn’t married to the man she was with recently!

 

And why did she take up that odd habit

of going to the well at noontime instead of with everybody else?

It was much too hot to be carrying water then!

That was just more proof that there was something definitely wrong about her.

 

If you don’t know the woman at the well,

you know someone very much like her.

 

She’s the kid who starts yet another school partway through the year

and people kind of guess what happened to make her change schools so often…

and it isn’t good.

 

She’s the woman in front of you at the grocery store

who runs her food stamp card,

and you look in her cart at what’s she’s buying and shake your head.

 

She’s the man who walks in your neighborhood

and wears a coat when it’s too warm out,

and needs a shave (and probably a bath),

And whom you’ve warned your other neighbors to watch out for.

 

Oh yes, we all know the woman at the well

or someone like her.

 

It’s funny…at one time we used to see that particular one all the time,

but now as we think about it,

they haven’t been around recently…

and maybe it’s just as well.

 

It seems safer somehow without them.

We just never felt comfortable around them.

And, they probably never felt comfortable around us either.

 

The woman at the well had a secret…

A secret that others thought they knew.

A secret perhaps that she was longing to talk about…

with someone…

 

But there was no one who was open to hearing her story,

and she grew tired of all the whispering, and pointing, and avoiding,

so she did what was easiest…

even easier than carrying two jugs filled with water

at noontime…

She got into the habit of going to the well when no one else was there.

 

I think there is a desire within each of us to be known…

to be open about ourselves,

to have our shameful secrets shared with someone who is safe,

with someone who will still care about us even after they know.

 

Unfortunately, not all of us find that person.

 

In 2004, A Canadian man started a blog in which he posts

secrets that people send him.

 

Thousands of people have sent him postcards containing anonymous secrets over the years.

He chooses some of them to post on his blog.

Apparently if you don’t have someone you can trust with whom to share a secret,

it’s helpful for many,

to just tell it anonymously.

 

Some of the secrets which have been shared are quite poignant.

Others seem hardly worth keeping as a secret at all.

 

There are things like,

“Even vegetarians think of meat from time to time. I know I do.

I suffer from an eating disorder and I fear my mother’s suffering.

My insomnia is going to get me fired.

I can’t stand my stepmother.”

 

The woman at the well has a secret.

It’s a secret so powerful that she makes a habit

of avoiding people because of it.

 

But then comes Jesus – and Jesus changes her habit.

Jesus meets her at the well.

Jesus isn’t embarrassed to be seen with her,

to talk with her.

(In fact Jesus has a longer conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well than he has with anyone else in the entire Bible!)

 

Jesus seems to know her secret.

He says, “You have had five husbands

and the man you are now with is not your husband!”

 

Jesus knows all of that,

and yet offers her something more from the well than just liquid water.

 

He offers her living water that will not be quenched –

the love of God which never dries up,

the fullness of God which is like a never-ending spring welling up within her.

 

Jesus breaks her habit of shame.

He releases her.

 

And then she runs and shares what has happened to her with anyone who will listen.

“He told me everything I have ever done!”

…and the ending is implied…

“And he loves me anyway!”

 

“He loves me anyway!”

Listen again because all of us need to hear this message:

He loves you anyway.

 

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past…

He loves you anyway.

 

It doesn’t matter what you’ve said in the past…

He loves you anyway.

 

It doesn’t matter what you’ve thought in the past…

He loves you anyway.

 

It doesn’t matter what secret you’re carrying…

He loves you anyway.

 

He loves us,

So that we can love others.

Amen.

 

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