Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Displays His Love in Plain Sight” based on selected verses of John 4 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, March 8, 2020
Jesus Displays His Love in Plain Sight
Easter eggs. I’m not talking about the kind you decorate and hide in the backyard. I’m talking about the hidden images in movies. Movie makers sometimes include neat little details that you might initially miss. They are kind of hidden, like Easter eggs. For instance, did you know Alfred Hitchcock made a cameo appearance in 39 of his 50-some movies? So if you were to spot him in one of those movies – you would have found one of those Easter eggs. Just for fun, here a few other examples:
The 1982 science fiction movie TRON. The bad guy is trying to locate and get rid of the good guys. He’s looking at a tracking map. But if you look closer, you can see PacMan.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is opening the stone lid to a vault – and if you look closely…you can see images of R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars. George Lucas wrote both stories. In fact, on the wall behind them is this image mixed in with the other hieroglyphics.
In Toy Story, Woody is trapped under a crate. The crate is weighted down by a toolbox…from Binford Tools. Tim Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear, starred in Home Improvement – a sitcom in the 90’s. His fictional tool company was called Binford Tools.
Easter eggs – images that are hidden…you have to look for them. Ok. Great. When is the sermon going to start? This Gospel account, I think, has a few of those little phrases or words that deliver a deeper message…a few Easter eggs, you might say. They aren’t intentionally hidden but It’s easy to pass over them.
Here are the first four sentences of our Gospel. Lots of words. But take a look at these words. What do they mean? Now he had to go through Samaria.
It turns out, there were different routes from Judea to Galilee. In fact, most Jews, to avoid Samaria, would cross over the Jordan River and once they were past Samaria they would cross back over and head to Galilee. Or they’d get as close to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as possible and head north. Why? Because for a variety of reasons Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. There’s even a parenthetical comment in this Gospel – for Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Literally, they didn’t share with one another…they didn’t share the same space…they didn’t share fellowship with one another…they didn’t share fond feelings for one another.
Jesus had to go through Samaria. It wasn’t just a matter of choosing the fastest route over the scenic route. It was a matter of Jesus, very badly wanting to meet with and talk with someone who needed a change in life…someone who needed love. What was so special about this woman?
We can learn a little bit about her by these words. It was about the sixth hour. This isn’t a happy accident. Jesus knew what he was doing. He had to be there in that town at that well at this particular time. The sixth hour is about noon. The sun is high in the sky. It’s bright. It’s hot. I lived in southern Texas for 6 years. Nobody cuts lawn at high noon. Early morning or later in the day – that’s when you do those daily and weekly outdoor tasks. That’s true for the people living in Samaria too. The women would gather water in the morning and in the evening – during the cool of the day. That’s when the well would have been crowded. That’s when people would have interacted with each other…carried on conversation…shared updates. But this woman doesn’t go to the well when all the others do. She chooses the heat of the day over interaction with people.
I suppose we learn why, from the section of the Gospel I didn’t read earlier. It turns out, after a little bit of honest dialogue with Jesus, we find out this woman had five husbands in her past…and probably five divorces…and she was now living with a man who wasn’t her husband. She just couldn’t get it right. And now she was the talk of the town – in a bad way – and she had only herself to blame.
Can you see why Jesus had to go through Samaria to see her…talk with her…help her? He does the same with us. With the Samaritan woman he knew right where to find her weakness and shame so she would be ready to hear his gospel. Can you imagine if it was you or me at that well that day? It would probably take only a few moments of honest dialogue. What if Jesus said…
- Go bring me you bosses and supervisors. I’d like to see how faithfully you’ve worked when they weren’t looking.
- Go bring me your calendars. I’d like you to show me how much time you have spent on matters of the faith…how much time you have given to those who are hurting and need help…how much time you’ve invested in your marriage…and then I want you to show me how much time you’ve wasted.
- Go bring me your phones and your tablets and computers. Do you mind if I ready your texts and look over your social media posts…and would it be okay if I published your search history in the next church newsletter?
He may not point to five different spouses and five different divorces like he did with the Samaritan woman, but he can point to five hundred different skeletons in our closet. And yet he still desires to come to our town…our well…our home…our hearts. Because he wants to give us living water…his forgiveness…his love.
Easter eggs are those hidden messages you have to search for and maybe…just maybe you might find them every once in a while. The Lord doesn’t take something as important as his forgiveness and his love and hide it. He displays his love in plain sight.
- God sent his Son – and he didn’t keep it hush hush. He sent an angel choir to announce his birth. He commissioned gospel writers to record his words and deeds. The Father himself spoke from heaven, “This is my Son.” It was no secret that God so loved the world; he sent his Son in plain sight.
- Those Gospel writers didn’t hide the bruises…or the crown of thorns. Jesus wasn’t harmed and killed in a dark alley somewhere, but on a hill and on a cross for all eyes of every generation to see – his love for you was in plain sight.
- When he died, he didn’t whisper…but he cried out in a loud voice. Redemption complete! In plain sight.
- And even now, you come to church sometimes with heavy hearts…sometimes preoccupied…sometimes hurting. His love for you is in plain sight. He doesn’t secretly pass you a folded up note like a freshman in high school, he permits an ordinary man like me to deliver an extraordinary message for all to hear – you confess your sins and I get to say, Your sins are forgiven!
- He doesn’t get out his eye dropper and give you each just a small particle of living water – he gives you the whole well…in your baptism ALL your sins are forgiven…ALL of Christ’s righteousness covers you…ALL of God’s love is yours.
- And now, the Lord’s Supper is under a white cloth, but it’s not hidden. It’s there. You can see it in a moment…and touch it and taste it. And the Giver? The same Messiah who met that woman at the well in Samaria. She needed a friend…she needed a Savior…she got both. Here the Christ…the Messiah…your Friend…your Savior meets you here today. He gives you his body and blood…he gives you a fresh start…he gives you a listening ear…he gives you promises that endure. That’s living water for your soul.
Drink it in. Stay hydrated. Sometimes life will take you to the mountain top…sometimes the valley…sometimes the desert. Jesus will always be there…with his love and with his forgiveness – his living water. Drink it in. Stay hydrated. Amen.