“A noble man”
One morning in 1888, a man baptized and confirmed in a Lutheran church named Alfred Nobel picked up a French newspaper and was shocked to see his own obituary. A news reporter had made a mistake. Actually Nobel’s brother had died, but the reporter got it wrong and did the story about Alfred. But in the story Alfred Nobel saw himself for the first time as the world saw him, “the dynamite king.”
Alfred had made a fortune manufacturing explosives. He was described as a rich industrialist, but there was no mention of his real passion for a peaceful world. From that day and unbeknown to his family, friends or colleagues until after his death, Alfred Nobel began to make arrangements for the purpose of his huge estate and began to arrange for the Nobel peace prize to be given each year to one who had contributed much to the cause of world peace.
A great story of how God can transform the works of this Christian from something that could fuel warfare to something that can fuel world peace.
The legendary American country and western singer Hank Williams in 1953 died from heart failure aggravated by alcohol and drug abuse at the age of 29. A man with “tortured soul”, but a man who from the pain and though it didn’t subside wrote these words:
“I wandered so aimless a life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear saviour in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.
I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.”
A great story of how God can bring his saving peace into and amongst even the most self-destructive of hearts and two great examples how unlike the other false God’s of history that demand their followers change their ways that they be entitled to go up, our God, God the Father that came down to us to meets as we are. God the Father that gave our world his Son Jesus the Christ to not create or strengthen the barriers between the unworthy and his kingdom, but to smash them apart that we see the truth as recorded in today’s Gospel because in Jesus talking to the Samaritan women he is shattering many cultural, religious and social barriers, as no self-respecting Jew would dare start a conversation with a Samaritan, never mind a female one at that.
Those two criteria alone would place her at the bottom of the heap, spiritually unclean and not to be associated with. But Jesus in interacting with this woman is not so much purposely breaking the protocols of the day to prove a point to her or the disciples; Jesus talks to the Samaritan women simply because she was there and he doesn’t act in an assumed role in order to accomplish an evangelistic goal. The reason Jesus acts how he does is because that’s simply who he is, and he doesn’t meet her in judgment or as a second rate citizen,
but meets her as a child of God that needs to be re-united to the Father. However it is not all one way traffic in Jesus just meeting the judgments of others against her as she shows some bias herself in the tone of her reply to Jesus request for a drink.
There is a cynical note of “what you a Jew, the Jews who consider us dirt, but now that you need us, we’re okay then. Jesus ignores her comment; he wants to win her not the argument. He does not ridicule, accuse or judge her, but meets her where she is at and gently and patiently leads her on a faith journey, where he causes her to take a second look at herself, at her prejudice’, her assumptions and her sins in order to reveal himself-and his life giving water. Yet recognizing and confessing Jesus as the Saviour, as great as that is, still is not the ultimate end toward which Jesus is calling her.
Throughout the Gospel Jesus repeatedly says that his mission is to accomplish the will of the Father. He has come to point people to God, to bring them to God. Perhaps the most significant part of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan women is the move from their discussion about the spiritual water that Jesus himself is, to their discussion about true worship.
The move in this direction is not coincidental, because the worship of God in spirit and in truth is at the heart of Christian theology. While we know from the Gospel, that over the next two days, many other Samaritans come to confess Jesus as the Saviour. To become saints in Christ, and though they still are sinners, they are forgiven sinners.
This Gospel story ends and we don’t hear of these people again, but it would be foolishness to assume that having been saved in Christ, that everything was perfect for the rest of their lives, or that they were in no need of any further spiritual strength or growth. That would not have happened for them and it doesn’t happen for us.
Like the Samaritan women-Christ’s meets us where we are at and has a conversation with us, exposes us: our prejudice, our assumptions and our sins-so that he can reveal himself.
Like to the Samaritan women, the change in us comes about because of Jesus revealing himself to us, not because of something we do, or something we want to believe.
The change comes not from us, but from Jesus. We are not saved because Jesus reveals our sin, but because he reveals himself to us, so he can bring us forgiveness and salvation, and bring us to faith, and keep us in faith.
Jesus is not a party to the much quoted Australian tall poppy system-of building them up, then bringing them down as we can handle that by ourselves and though we continually fall short, Jesus continually comes to us where we are at, and just where that place is, where we are at spiritually can change as we travel our earthly journey.
It’s like putting our finger in a stream, stresses-heartache, joys; struggles are all around us, are part of us-and move us in different directions. It’s not one size fits all. Just like our gifts can be unique, so to can be our shortfalls and shortcomings, and in them Jesus adjusts to us and comes again and again to us where we are at, comes to us in our sin, and comes to us in our needs.
The only constant is the cause and the cure, Sin and Christ. Sinners in ourselves, yet saints in Christ. That’s our deal, and because that is our deal-we are continually pulled between the two, and this side of heaven-that grating between the two in our lives will continue and that is why we are here today brought together in the Truth of Christ, to praise and worship our Lord, and to be in His presence
To hear the Word of God and have faith in his promises that no matter how we see ourselves, or how we feel, God covers us with His grace. God the father who today in worship meets us where we are at, in joy or in sorrow? Spiritually high or low, and says to us
come and receive my gifts and be strengthened.
We see the baptismal font and are reminded of the promise. That in faith we are given eternal life. That in faith we accept Holy Communion as the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and are strengthened in body and soul to life eternal.
That in we repentance and belief we are forgiven. That through no skill of our own, or our efforts, or good works or even our love to God, the work has been done for us in Christ that God does not see each of us as we see each other, but sees us glowing in the righteousness of His Son.
That’s the Grace the Lord brought to a Samaritan sinner, and that’s the Grace the Lord has brought to you who know the truth, that in Christ, and in Christ alone that no matter where you came from, today you are saved and no matter where you go, be it as an Alfred Nobel, a Hank Williams or a Samaritan women, He will go with you and lead you home. Amen