A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on March 20, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether Even Messed Up People Can Have a Faith Like Abraham’sJohn 4:5-26Do you think it was easy for Abraham to have a strong faith?  Let’s look at the pros and cons.  God appears to him and says, “I will bless you (that implies forgiveness); I will make you a blessing to others; I will take care of you and protect you; you will have lots of descendents and one of them will be the promised Savior.”  Not a bad way to start out your day.  And now let’s look at why having a strong faith might have been hard for Abraham.  How could he have lots of descendents?  At the time he didn’t even have one, plus his wife, Sarah, had not been able to have children and now she’s past menopause.  So, what does God do?  He makes them wait another 25 years.   We too have received many wonderful promises.  Through our baptism God told us that He has washed away our sins, He has given us His Holy Spirit, and we are His for time and eternity.  But what are we experiencing?  Sometimes it’s shame and guilt that won’t leave us alone.  Or we feel powerless against sin even though we’ve prayed and prayed about it.  And then we look at our life.  We have health problems, money problems and relationship problems, just like everyone else in this sinful world, except maybe worse.  It’s not easy to have a strong faith like Abraham’s.  It’s not easy to go through all these things and still feel completely safe in God’s hands, just like Arabella, Audrey, and Hailey feel completely safe on their mommy’s lap.   This morning in our gospel reading, we met a woman who was as messed up as anyone could be.  She wasn’t married to the man she was living with.  After 5 divorces, she was kind of burned out on marriage.  She was also kind of burned out on religion.  She knew there was a God.  She had even done some searching.  But everyone she had talked to seem to know less about God than she did, plus over the years she probably had picked up a few goofy ideas of her own.  So, what were the chances of this woman ever having a faith like Abraham’s?  Very good actually, when God gets involved.  In fact if this messed up Samaritan woman can have a strong faith, so can we.  Our text this morning shows us how.  1.  Our sins give us an unquenchable thirst.  2.  Our Saviors offers us living water to quench our thirst.  We read, “5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.” Normally Jews would not travel through Samaria.  On their way back and forth between Galilee and Judea, they would always go around.  That’s because the Samaritans hated the Jews and the Jews hated the Samaritans.  However this time through Jesus had to go through Samaria.Here’s why.  We read on in our text, “7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)”  Jesus had loved this woman even before the creation of the world.  Also He had been pursuing her, her entire life.  She just didn’t know it.  Or, even if she did, she was too busy going the opposite direction away from God.  However, Jesus knew that the time was just right, and so He arranged to arrive at a well outside at Sychar around noon, and be too tired to go into town with His disciples to buy food.  We read on in our text, “9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)   10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.  “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Sin had this woman at the end of her rope.  Normally in those days women would walk to the city well together – it was social outlet for them.  This woman came alone while everyone else would have been eating lunch with their family.  Also, there was a well inside the village, but she went to go to a well outside the village.  So, what does that tell us?  More than that she was avoiding others.  It tells us that sin’s solutions to whatever our problems are leave us empty and guilty inside.  And then if we go back to the well of sin to deal with our emptiness and guilt, everything gets worse.  Eventually our sins can affect our relationship with family and friends, and it works both ways.  They’re disgusted, and we can stand how they look at us.  Anyway this Samaritan woman tried to deal with everything by just focusing on the here and now, even if it was just not having to work as hard on common chores.  We read on, “16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  17 “I have no husband,” she replied.  Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”  Notice how Jesus moves from things physical to things spiritual.  God does the same for us in our life.  After we have experienced the futility of trying to peace through earthly answers, and after things get bad enough, Jesus comes to us in His Word and shows us what our real problem is.  The problem is the sin that’s within us and which shows itself in how we think, act, and talk, and also in our failures.  When God’s Word shows us our sins to us, it doesn’t leave us any wiggle room.  In fact I’m reminded of when a child is naughty, and the parent will cup both his hands around the child’s face, and says, “Look at me.”  God also says to us in His Law, “Look at me.”  But what do we still try to do.  We try to wiggle out of our guilt by justifying ourselves or just changing the subject or by looking for own way back to God.  We read, “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  We don’t know what this woman’s motives were in asking this question.  Either way sin gives us an unquenchable thirst for forgiveness, and yet if we turn to other way to deal with it than to God, that’s like drinking sea water.  It makes us even more spiritually thirsty and ultimately it kills us.We read, “21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”   25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” It’s not enough to go just go through the motions of our faith.  Faith needs to be based on the truth, and it needs to be real.  Jesus Himself gives us such a faith by giving us His Holy Spirit.  So, then, here is the truth on which our faith is built. God, the Son, fulfilled all of God’s Law for us by living a righteous life in our place.  And God, the Son, suffered all our shame and punishment for us.  So, is there a sin in your past that makes you wonder if you are really, truly, at peace with God?  Of course there are, we all have them, unless we’ve successfully justified them or blocked them out of our minds.  But the good news is Jesus is still pursuing us, and when we’re ready, Jesus  says to us in His Gospel, “Look at me.”  Let’s look to Him through His Word, especially now in our Lenten services.  See the forgiveness of your sins.  Or today, touch and taste your forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper.  Since forgiveness is all God’s doing through Christ, having faith that we are forgiven really shouldn’t be that difficult, but it is.  For example in Abraham’s case, it says, “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”  If you know something about Abraham’s life, you might accuse Paul of messing this up.  The Bible records three separate incidents of when Abraham did waiver his faith.  One was when he had a son by a slave woman instead of waiting for a son through his wife.   Anyway, here was Paul’s point.  We are not saved by the strength of our faith, nor do we need a perfect faith in order to make it to heaven.  What we need is to keep our faith connected to Jesus, even it’s as thin as a piece of scarlet thread.  Yet such a faith is able to save, because Jesus is strong to save.  Furthermore since His perfection is our perfection, in the eyes of God, through Christ our faith IS perfect.  How does that make you feel?  In the eyes of God you have a perfect faith, and therefore be assured that your sins are forgiven; He is making to be a blessing to others; and He is pursuing you and taking care of you until you’re safe in heaven. However if all that’s true, why the encouragements in Scripture to keep growing in faith?  Why can’t we content ourselves with just having a thread thin faith?  There are storms and temptations out there.  Also, the encouragement to grow in faith IS NOT about being able brag about how good and sincere we are.  In fact when we do that, we’re actually drifting from Jesus.  Rather the encouragement to grow in faith is all about Jesus and learning how wide and high and deep is His love for us.   Now as we do that, do our problems go away?  Don’t count on it.  The woman in our text still had to carry water every day.  In fact sometimes our problems can get even worse, as God tests our faith, like He did to Abraham.  Still, while our earthly lives may or may not get easier, our spiritual life soars, and we’re at peace with God.  Also, more and more we will find contentment in whatever our situation.  In fact in both good and bad, we will see God’s hand in our life and how He’s pursuing us with His covenant live.  Then as we see that, we will realize that yes, even messed up people can have a faith like Abraham.      

Back to Sermons by Topic