Affirmation Station L4L.07

Affirmations - Heart - Red

Image by Gurumustuk Singh via Flickr

The WORD

‘Please, sir,’ the woman said, ‘give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.’

‘Go and get your husband,’ Jesus told her.

‘I don’t have a husband,’ the woman replied.

Jesus said, ‘You’re right! You don’t have a husband – for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!’” John 4:15-18 (New Living Translation)

It’ll feel a bit awkward, but read back through this text as a conversation – out loud! Try to feel as Jesus and the woman might have felt…

The Word for us today comes from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus strikes up a conversation with this woman whose past is probably part of the reason she is filling her bucket at the well alone, in the heat of the day.

Jesus had every opportunity to point out the error of her ways.

The woman had every opportunity to run the other way. Yet neither one did.

Well, you might say that Jesus asked about the woman’s husband in order to reveal her sinful nature, right? After all, He does proceed to describe her history in enough detail to convince her that He was, at the very least, a prophet.

I want to propose another motivation for Jesus’ approach: What if Jesus asked the husband question just so that He could say to her, “You’re RIGHT!

Think about it… Even in today’s culture, a woman who has gone through five husbands and a live-in probably doesn’t receive much affirmation from the people around her. She gets pointed at because of her choices. She is shunned because of her reputation. She is ‘wrong’ at every turn of every failed relationship, and she is probably surrounded by reminders of those failures no matter where she goes.

Today was no exception – she had no friend or family member to gather water with; the ‘right’ people had already been to the well in the cool morning hours, so she had made the dusty trek alone.

It’s not as if Jesus asked the husband question often – this is the only time we hear of such a thing in Jesus’ ministry. He wasn’t trying to sell her something – say, a timeshare – where His spiel could only be presented if both husband and wife were there to sign (or refuse to sign) on the dotted line.

What if Jesus asked the husband question simply to be able to show her the grace she didn’t deserve; ascribing to this broken woman the value she didn’t know she had?

He asked a question that, if answered truthfully, would allow Him to say, “You’re RIGHT!” to someone who only knew how to be wrong.

The APP

I’ve had the privilege of serving as a volunteer for Youth Specialties at the National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. One of my roles in the past has been on the Affirmation Team – a small group of servants whose mission is to affirm, appreciate and encourage youth workers – many of whom arrive at Convention as walking wounded, having been beaten up by the very ones they live to serve.

One of my very favorite A-Team responsibilities was the Affirmation Station – a table set up in the middle of a traffic area, stocked with poster-sized paper and markers. A place where paid and volunteer church staff could create signs to express their love, care and appreciation for the soul-weary co-workers they were attending the event with. The A-Team would routinely stop by the Affirmation Station to hang the posters, and by the end of the week we invariably would have run out of wall space.

Affirmations like these covered the walls, written to build people up and remind them how important they are:

David Jones is the BEST youth pastor in Tennessee!

Mt. Vernon Presbyterian LOVES their Sr. High staff!

What you’re doing MATTERS, Kara! You’re making a difference in Alpharetta!

My life was changed forever because my youth leader CARED!

When Jesus chose to affirm the Samaritan woman that day, He gave back the beauty, intelligence and worth that the living of her life had stripped away.

She was all wrong until Jesus reminded her, “You’re RIGHT!” His affirmation, and the conversation that followed, left her (and many others) changed.

Look around you today.

Look for those who seem all wrong.

Look for those who have been hurt, lied to, beat up and compromised.

Look for those whose past is ever-present, and then follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Set up your own Affirmation Station and make it your Lenten mission to paper the proverbial walls of your home, your workplace and your community with healing words of hope and desperately needed messages of love.

It doesn’t get much more literal than that.

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What’s On Tap? L4L.14

By Clareen BarrettThe WORD

Today’s Literal 4 Lent post is based on John 4:5-42 (click here to read the text online).

For many of us, this is a familiar story. It’s always tempting, with familiar stories, to fall back on what we already know about it. Sometimes these previous learnings can keep us from being open to a fresh, new picture of the truth that God wants to paint with His Word.

I like visuals. If I can connect a learning with a picture in my head, it’s more likely to stick. The picture above is of a painting done by my friend, Clareen Barrett. What I like about this painting of Clareen’s is that it sets the scene for us – it’s actually her vision of what this well in Sychar might have looked like – but you’ll notice that something is missing…

Neither Jesus nor the woman are in the picture.

Whether or not she painted it this way on purpose, I like how it invites me to place MYSELF in this scene – an invitation to step into the story WITH Jesus. To join Him there, sitting at the edge of the well.

We’re going to do a bit of text-weaving today, as we consider the literal applications of Jesus’ words at the well. Exodus 17:1-7 is important to a new understanding of this story, and it begins with these words:

“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded…”

Which reminds me, I was in Las Vegas last week! Now, I know that the biblical Desert of Sin probably had less neon and fewer temptations than the desert that is Las Vegas, but don’t miss the irony as the story of the Israelites unfolds.

The Israelites’ Desert of Sin DID have temptations; in particular, when they found themselves without water, their intense physical thirst tempted them to demand that Moses GIVE THEM WATER! Things got pretty ugly between them, with Israel grumbling and complaining to the point of being ready to kill Moses if he didn’t come through.

Now, keep in mind that I am remembering Vegas, but this behavior of God’s people reminds me of the way in which we belly-up to the bar to quench our “thirst” (or, if you’re short like me, you elbow-up to the bar…).

Israel had been rescued by God, fed by God, and sustained by God up to this point, yet their THIRST threatened to get the better of them. WE argue with and test God, just like Israel did, sometimes even to the point where we find ourselves asking “is the Lord here with me or NOT?

The people of Israel were not satisfied that their thirst was being met by God, so they looked to Moses – the MAN – as their source and provider. When our THIRST isn’t met to OUR SATISFACTION, we look to quench it with whatever is available, too. And sometimes that means bellying up to the bar for a large draught of what’s on tap.

The place where this happened, in the Desert of Sin, was a place called “Rephidim.” Ironically, “Rephidim” in Greek means “Refreshments,” which is exactly what Israel was thirsty for.

In this story, the good news is that God comes through for Israel, in spite of their complaints and ugliness. God leads Moses to a rock from which He brings fresh, clear water for His people to drink. God IS FAITHFUL to provide ‘refreshment’ to His people, just as the woman at the well provided for the physical refreshment of Jesus by meeting his need for water to drink. But there’s MORE to being ‘refreshed’, isn’t there? More than a cup of water or a cold & frothy brew?

The water that poured from the rock in the desert was refreshment for a physical thirst. Scholars have suggested that this scene out of Israel’s history is the physical representation of a harder-to-grasp spiritual truth, and since we’re into visuals today, get this picture in your head…

The ROCK is Christ Himself, our salvation and the best picture of God we have on earth. The staff or walking stick that Moses uses to strike the rock is the Law – the old covenant – the system of rule-keeping laid out for the Jewish people in the first 5 books of the Old Testament. The act of hitting the rock with the staff is a picture of the crucifixion, where the system of Law lashes out at the human representation of God Himself, and He is pierced.

But as it was for the Israelites, what resulted from the piercing was a cleansing flow of life-giving water. For them, drinking water. For us, Living Water.

Romans 5:5 says that “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.” The Living Water Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman about IS the Living Spirit of God that gushes up to eternal life! Draughts of love, where what’s on tap will NEVER run dry!

When she dropped her buckets at the watering hole that day, the Samaritan woman brought all of her ‘stuff’ along with her, and she was met by the Well-Tender Himself – the one who knew exactly what would provide the refreshment that she needed, and knew exactly how to get it.

And when He took a seat at the well on that day, Jesus did so in the face of a set of rules and conventions that made even His PRESENCE there a blatant disregard for customary Jewish behaviors and social norms of the time. Not only were the Jews to steer clear of Samaritans, but religious rule-keeping also dictated that men were not to ‘socialize’ with women. To top it off, Jesus was a rabbi and a teacher. No self-respecting holy man of the day would have been caught in the company of a disreputable woman, especially one whose ill-repute had much to do with many men.

Apparently, Jesus had no problem with breaking the rules of men in order to do the work of God, no matter what the consequences might be.

When we belly or elbow up to the bar, we each come with our own set of issues, too – just like Israel in the Desert of Sin. Just like the Samaritan woman at the well. We bring our complaining, our history, our doubts, our wrong turns, our failed relationships, our bad choices.

Physical thirst will be temporarily quenched over and over and over again, but it will always come back. It isn’t a question of whether we thirst, but of what we thirst for. What’s on tap at the bar is going to change, because someone else decides what choices you will have when you ask – ‘what’s on tap?’

What’s on tap at the ROCK is always going to be the SAME – always fresh, always clear, LIVING WATER! Romans chapter 5 goes even further in describing what’s on tap for those of us who need more information – for those of us who hear the words ‘Living Water’ and have to ask, ‘what’s That MEAN?’

When we break it down, there are at least seven things on tap when we belly-up to the ROCK, according to Romans 5:1-11, and they are:

  • ACCESS to God
  • BEGIN to develop the CHARACTER of God
  • KNOW the LOVE of God
  • RECEIVE RECONCILIATION with God
  • ENJOY the SECURITY of God
  • PEACE with God
  • STAND in the GRACE of God

ACCESS. CHARACTER. LOVE. RECONCILIATION. SECURITY. PEACE. GRACE.

A CLeaR SPRinG.

No matter WHO you are.

No matter WHAT you’ve done.

God’s LIFE-GIVING water is always on tap.

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