This is my attempt at having an ongoing conversation about the Word of God, life and ministry - especially thoughts on the daily lectionary and the movement of the Spirit of God at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church (although everything contained herein is strictly my own thoughts and not the view of GSPC) or something like that
Monday, March 28, 2011
You can't always get what you want . . . .
Good Afternoon all. Below is the message I shared yesterday with Good Shepherd. The john 4 passage is a really long one, but I think it is important. Having said that, it is a familiar story, and I pull out the points I am talking about in the text. I have pasted it here, if you want to read it in its entirety. The message is a continuation of our series on submitting to God, this week focusing on giving over our desires and requests to God.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
John 4:5-42 (The Message)
4-6To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) 9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water." 11-12The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?"
13-14Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."
15The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!" 16He said, "Go call your husband and then come back." 17-18"I have no husband," she said.
"That's nicely put: 'I have no husband.' You've had five husbands, and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough."
19-20"Oh, so you're a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?"
21-23"Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
23-24"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
25The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story."
26"I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."
27Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
28-30The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, "Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?" And they went out to see for themselves.
31In the meantime, the disciples pressed him, "Rabbi, eat. Aren't you going to eat?" 32He told them, "I have food to eat you know nothing about." 33The disciples were puzzled. "Who could have brought him food?"
34-35Jesus said, "The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn't you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I'm telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what's right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It's harvest time!
36-38"The Harvester isn't waiting. He's taking his pay, gathering in this grain that's ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. That's the truth of the saying, 'This one sows, that one harvests.' I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others."
39-42Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman's witness: "He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!" They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, "We're no longer taking this on your say-so. We've heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He's the Savior of the world!"
As we are continuing to look at submitting every aspect of our lives to God.
Today the focus is in submitting our petitions or our requests to God.
On the face of it, this one seems like a no brainer. I mean, who else are we going to give our requests to? Isn’t submitting our requests and petitions to God what prayer is all about (or at least partly what it is about)
And the passage from Matthew 7 we read a few minutes ago seems to seems to reinforce this idea:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
But I think actually submitting our requests and petitions to God is about more than just the asking for what we want
And, as all of us already know – asking for something of God – whatever it is, is never quite so simple as ‘seek & you will find, ask & it shall be given, knock & the door will be opened.
We ask for things from God all the time that we don’t get. This is a simple, undeniable fact of life, one that we have to come to terms with.
For as long as we go on pretending that getting what we ask for is always as simple as knocking on the right door, we will miss the ways God is trying to break into our lives while we wait to be given what we want.
Submitting our petitions or requests to God means not just handing our wish lists to God, but actually handing over our wish lists and letting go of the expectation that we might get exactly what it is we have asked for.
But really submitting our requests to God can move them from simply something we want to something that God is able to use to transform us and change the world around us.
As we look at our story from John 4, there are three specific places where I want us to focus. Three particular points that help us understand the details that fill out God’s invitation to Ask, seek and knock.
We pick up the story with Jesus hanging out at the local well, waiting for the disciples to return with lunch.
A local Samaritan woman enters the scene – now we don’t have to be too clever to figure out her motivation, she is there to get water (it is, after all, a well)
And here we have the first real request: but it is not from the woman, it is from Jesus. Jesus asks her for water. This is how it works in our relationship with God.
God is always the first actor in relationship with us. And God wants us to submit our lives to him. But even though God could make us do whatever – forcing us to submit all of our lives to him
But that isn’t God’s nature. Instead God sent Jesus to us. Jesus life serves as an invitation to relationship with God and a petition to willingly submit our lives to God.
Submitting our lives and our petitions to God begins with responding to God’s invitation.
When this happens in the gospel passage there is a change – the woman is no longer being asked a question – instead after hearing about this ‘living water’ that Jesus is talking about, she is intrigued by what he has said and she asks him for this water
She realizes and believes that Jesus has something to offer her. She knows that he has something she needs.
So, she submits her request, asking for the living water.
But it’s is very rarely as simple as lodging a request and receiving what you have asked for.
And that is the case here too – the woman likely still had to travel to that well every day for the rest of her life.
But in that moment Jesus gave her access to sustenance that even his own disciples had not yet received – or better, had not yet understood.
The living water Jesus gives to her is the same as the food that keeps him fed and sustained – to do the work of God or to be who God called him and created him to be, wherever he was.
That is the spiritual food Jesus ate and the living water he offered.
Interestingly, He doesn’t tell her that she isn’t good enough yet to get the water.
In fact, in his description of how we are to submit to and worship God, Jesus makes it clear that we are not to have any pretenses when we come before God. We are to come to God as we are – honest about who we are.
When we do that, and when in doing that we submit our lives and give them to God, then God will take our lives and transform them.
When we allow God to reorder our lives. When we allow God to restore our vision, so that it matches his. When we submit all of our lives to God – then our needs are met, and our petitions and requests are answered in ways that we couldn’t have imagined.
Again this is what Jesus is trying to explain, he is sustained and fulfilled in following the call of his father. Submitting to the will of God.
We are here as the result of Jesus submission to God. We are here and we have the invitation to eternal life with God because Jesus did not simply list his requests to God, but instead submitted them to God, giving them up so that they might be transformed into God’s will.
It isn’t likely, of course, that any of us will have the impact on our world that Jesus has had. But we can make a massive impact on the lives of our families and friends and the world around us.
To understand how this works, we need only to look at the Samaritan woman in our passage one more time.
After her encounter with Jesus, she returns to her village and can’t stop telling everybody about what she has just experienced.
She is evangelizing her village, not because she is intending to per se, but rather because her experience of God is so fresh and her transformation so complete that she simply can’t keep quiet about it. She has to share what has happened to her – it is good news!
People begin to believe in Jesus - and long for the same transformation – simply because of her witness to them
She then persuades Jesus to stay a few days in the community and even more people are brought into a relationship with Jesus.
This is what happens when we submit our desires, our wants, our requests and our lives to God:
Transformation happens within us, through us and around us. When we submit to God we get to be part of God’s work in and through this world.
God takes our submission and uses it to do more than we can know or imagine - the Samaritan woman is changed, restored and transformed but it doesn’t stop there.
Many in her village come to know and be in relationship with Jesus through her.
When we let go of our requests, petitions and desires and submit them to God, we don’t usually get exactly what we ask for. But that is because God’s vision for our lives and for the world around us is so much bigger, clearer and better than our own. Submitting to God opens us up to a reality we wouldn’t have dared to ask for or even could have imagined without God.
Ask, Seek Knock.
Ask of God – and God will ask something of you. Asking you to submit even your wants and requests to him.
Seek God – and you will find that God’s plan for you and the world is often different than yours
Knock on the door to a relationship with God – and you will find that a world of change, service and sacrifice awaits.
But you will see that you have:
Received maybe not what you have asked for, but in the grace, peace and love of Jesus Christ so much more than you could have imagined.
You will find that in giving up what you want, and accepting where you are and who God has called you to be that you might not have the life you were seeking, but that the life you have has eternal meaning and real significance here and now.
And you will see that in giving over your requests and your life to God what is opened to you is the door to a whole, full and fulfilled life as part of the kingdom of God now and forever.