23/3/14 8am John 4:5-42

5 So Jesus 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 the sixth hour. 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.) 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." 11 "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 flocks and herds?" 13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 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." 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." 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." 19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." 21 Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, 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 worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in 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 who speak to you am he." 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ ?" 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." 33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?" 34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour." 39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world."

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Jews whom he told it to would have thought that there was no such thing as a good Samaritan. The races hated each other, generally.

It helps know something of the history of the Jews and Samaritans. There had been hundreds of years of theological dispute, provocation and violence. For example, about 25 years before, some Samaritans had desecrated the temple in Jerusalem at Passover time by scattering bones in it. Later, in 52 AD Samaritans massacred some pilgrims from Galilee.

Samaritan religion closely resembled Judaism, but on key issues its followers had gone their own way. They accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament, and insisted that Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, was the proper place to worship God. Jews and Samaritans usually avoided each other and a devout Jew would not go near Samaria. However, Jesus wanted to reach across these barriers. This is why verse 4 said he ‘had to go through Samaria’. It was due to an inward compulsion rather than this being the only route he could possibly take.

After Jesus had challenged the woman about her relationships with married men, she tries to distract Jesus by changing the subject, bringing up the Samaritan argument that Mount Gerizim and not Jerusalem is the right place to worship God. Jesus counters this by saying, verse 24 “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Worship is reverent honour and homage paid to God. The Greek word “proskuneo” means to bow down to Gods or Kings.

Jesus is saying that God cannot be confined to a particular place and he is not confined to being a material being, like one of the false idols worshipped by other religions. However, in Jesus, God has become a man so that we can understand what God is like, and what we are meant to be like. If we want to know what God is like we look at Jesus. If we want to know what God wants us to be like, we look at Jesus.

True worship is about worshipping God in spirit. Not man made rituals and laws, but united with God through his Holy Spirit who wells up within us to pour out our praise and worship to him. The Holy Spirit, who Jesus refers to as “living water” bubbles up within us, enabling us to approach God in truth, aware of our own shortcomings but also aware of our status as forgiven sinners though Jesus death and resurrection. We need God's Spirit to worship him sincerely and wholeheartedly.

We cannot say that God can only be worshipped on Mount Gerizim, or Jerusalem, or St. Albans Abbey, or St. Martin’s Church or St Mary's church. However, this does not mean Christians should not come together to worship! Whilst we can worship God in our hearts and actions wherever we are, this does not mean that we should settle for this alone. We need to come together with other believers to worship, to pray, to learn, to share, to grow, to support one another and to witness and minister to the world.

We live in a very consumerist age, so that many people think that they are entitled to have their desires met and to be happy. This has resulted in some Christians coming to the conclusion that true worship is what meets their particular preferences, and that worship should be measured by how it makes them feel. Whilst it is great when worship makes us feel good, the problem with using this as a measure is that it can make what we use to worship into an idol. So, modern Christian worship songs or the Book of Common Prayer, can become an idol, something that we worship instead of God, when it should be a vehicle to help our public worship.

Using feelings to assess our worship also ignores who our worship should be directed to. We are worshipping God and so the question should be “How does God feel about the way I have been worshipping him today?” not “Has the worship today made me feel better”. If we pursue this, second route, then our feelings become the idol that we worship.

I remember that Chapel Worship at Theological College used to alternate between the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Service Book, which preceded the Common Worship liturgy we use today. One student, not used to the Book of Common Prayer declared that he was not going to let this be an obstacle to him worshipping God! We may, actually, get more from a service we are unfamiliar with, because familiarity can blind us to what the service is saying. An example of this is the Lord's Prayer, in whatever version. This was a pattern prayer given by Jesus to his disciples to help them not get involved in repetitive, meaningless, prayer. Yet how many of us think about, say, what it means to hallow God's name, or to ask for his kingdom to come, as we repeat the familiar words?

Worship is a lot more than what happens in a church building on a Sunday. God calls us to respond to Him with all of our life all of the time. We see this in Jesus summary of the law, that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love other people as ourselves.

We also read of this in our Scripture passage for the year; Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Worship is showing God how much he means to us. We should do this publicly in church services and in small groups. We should also do this with all of our lives all of the time. The sacrifices that were made to gods at the time Paul wrote his letter were dead. Paul encourages Christians, who are dead to their sinful life but now have life in the Spirit, to live for God, so their whole life is an act of worship. Just as a sacrifice was wholly committed to its role, so the Christian is to be completely committed to God. Every day of the week for 24 hours a day. Not just for, say, an hour on Sunday.

These words are from a 19 year old Christian called Carol*. “We are worshipping when God has been glorified in us. To worship is to bow down, place yourself in God's hands and submit yourself utterly to him. This can be in prayer or singing his praise but can also be reflected in our actions – when we serve and put others' needs before our will, that is bowing down, that is worship.”

May God's Spirit inspire us to bring glory to Him with our lives as an act of worship every day, and all day.

* “Young people + worship A Practical Guide” Edited by Mark Montgomery Church House Publishing.