A Commentary on John 4: 5-42

The second and third Sundays in Lent juxtapose two characters unique to the Gospel of John.

Last week, we were introduced to Nicodemus who comes to Jesus by night and lasts all of nine verses in his conversation with Jesus before fading into the night from whence he came. This week narrates another character’s encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well. The contrast between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman is striking. Given the fact that they appear one right after the other in the Gospel, we are meant to notice this contrast in all of its detail. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, an insider, a leader of the Jews. He is a man, he has a name, but he comes to Jesus by night. The character to whom we are introduced in this week’s text is a Samaritan, a religious and political outsider. She is a woman, she has no name, but she meets Jesus at noon, in full daylight. And the contrast between their conversations with Jesus is even more extraordinary. Whereas Nicodemus is unable to move beyond the confines of his religious system, the Samaritan moves outside of her religious expectations and engages Jesus in theological debate. Whereas Nicodemus cannot hear that Jesus is sent by God, the woman at the well hears the actual name of God, “I AM”. While Nicodemus’s last questioning words to Jesus expose his disbelief, “How can this be?” the last words of the woman at the well, also posed as a question, “He cannot be the Christ, can he?” lead her to witness to her whole town.

The more salient disparity between Nicodemus and the woman at the well frequently directs our preaching of John toward reducing Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman to that which exemplifies Jesus for the outsiders. “See, Jesus did not come for the important people of the world, like Nicodemus, but for the no-names, the down-trodden,” and, as some older commentaries misinterpreted the Samaritan woman, “the five-time losers.” But then we have to wonder, could this meeting at the well really be about us, for us? If we are honest, do we truly think of ourselves as outsiders? Are we really the marginalized of society, those who are easily cast aside, those about whom others might say, “why is he talking to her?” Perhaps the extraordinary aspect of this text is not simply that Jesus is for her, but that she becomes a witness for him.

The Samaritan woman at the well is not a passive recipient of Jesus’ offer. She immediately recognizes the societal barriers and boundaries that keep her in her place but at the same time challenges Jesus’ authority over and against the ancestors of the faith. Like Nicodemus, she first interprets Jesus’ words on a literal level, but she is able to ask for what Jesus has to offer rather than question the possibility. She is not certain that Jesus is the Christ, but she does not let that stop her from leaving behind her water jar, going into the city, and inviting the people to their own encounter with Jesus. She demonstrates what can happen when we actually engage in conversation and questions about our faith. The woman at the well shows us that faith is about dialogue, about growth and change. It is not about having all the answers. If we think we have all the answers, if we are content with our doctrinal constructs, if we believe more in our own convictions that the possibility of revelation, we will be left to ponder whether or not God will choose to be made known.

We will have to wonder when and if we will finally feel confident enough, secure enough, and knowledgeable enough, to invite others to “come and see.” We will be forced to admit how many times we have overlooked opportunities for giving testimony about the Savior of the world, satisfied that “Jesus is for me.” The Samaritan woman at the well is an example for us, not as one who claims “Jesus is for me, too,” but as one whose labor helps bring in the harvest. She responds to Jesus in such a way that leads Jesus to reveal his true identity to her, and in doing so, her own identity evolves. We learn from the Samaritan woman that in our own encounter with Jesus, not only are we changed, but that which God will reveal to us will change as well.

The Gospel text suggests in a number of ways that it is not about what we know but who we know.  It is about having an encounter, experiencing the light of Jesus’ truth and love shining on our past and our future, and then having the courage and the wherewithal to drop anything that isn’t that and go share what we know (not what someone else knows, just what we know) as witnesses to his abundant grace gushing up to eternal life in us.

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Compiled in remembrance of the work done by Fr. Gould, and his efforts to help us better understand the Lessons and Gospels.  Text paraphrased and condensed from a writing by Karoline Lewis – Associate Professor of Preaching and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching

Mel

For whom the Bell Tolls

by the Rev. Robert Olsen

Something happened a few weeks ago – people of every race, religion, economic background – reacted with prayers and memories to the news of Kobe Bryant’s death in a
helicopter crash. Now as a marginal King’s fan, Kobe wasn’t one of my favorite  basketball players, when he came to town it meant the Lakers and usually not a good outcome for the Kings. Even so, It was heartening to see the teams and players around the league honoring him at his passing and learn how much he did for the community.

I titled this month’s article from one of Ernest Hemingway’s books and the John Donne
poem. You didn’t have to be a sports fan to know who Kobe Bryant was, but what of the other individuals on that flight, including the pilot. Most of the news focused on Kobe and his daughter, but there were other parents and children on that flight. Two of those lost in the crash were Sarah Chester and daughter Payton. Sarah was a trustee of St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, San Juan Capistrano, where her daughter attended. I’m sure if I did enough Google searches I’d find other links in common with us at St George’s. I don’t do it very often, but occasionally I’ll read the obituaries and am constantly struck by number of things we all share in common.

Events like this reminds me that our days are numbered and we don’t know that number. I’ve been fortunate, my brother called me when, we were stationed in Germany, that my mom’s health was failing and if I wanted to see her I’d better get home soon. I took his advice and was able to be at her bed side when she passed. While there were many years separating her passing and my dad’s, he learned a lesson from that and for the last 4 or 5 years of his life, I’d get a phone call around dinner time a couple of times each week. The calls were just a few minutes, nothing ever important, but when he passed I felt comforted that nothing had been left unsaid. I felt that same comfort when our son Robert passed away at home a few years ago, he and I had talked the night before, I knew he was excited about an art show he was preparing for and that he was ready to help me plant tomatoes in our garden.

Not knowing the days we have, we should strive to live each day to be the person that God has intended for us to be. Reaching out and loving each other as he loves us.

While we still have each other, this is the time to talk and visit, not waiting for someday. I pray that we pray for all for whom the bell tolls, including ourselves.

5TH Annual Re-gift Sale is coming in March!

GET READY!
5TH Annual Re-gift Sale is coming in March!

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Sponsored by St. George’s Round Table in support of Veterans, Homeless, Out
Reach & In Reach

Everyone is invited to participate, so start collecting NEW or LIKE NEW items. Please price your own items and bring to St. George’s Parish Hall. We will be
announcing the date of the sale so check your Sunday bulletins!

The Gift of Lent

by The Rev. Raymond Hess

Lent means various things to different people. For some, it is a very serious season for
repentance, fasting, and prayer. For others, it is a more joyful time of preparation for Easter. Another way to think about Lent is that it is a gift to us from God.

It is hard to be deeply focused on our spiritual life all the time. Our lives are full of
challenges and distractions. For me, Lent is a gift of time to grow in our faith. Lent is similar to Advent as a time of preparation, but it is longer and has a more serious feeling about it. I love Advent, but it always seems to go by very fast. Advent is full of things like sending cards, decorating our houses, and buying gifts. In Advent, we are distracted by the early celebration of Christmas around us, beginning right after Halloween. Lent does not have these distractions. We may have some things to do to get ready for Easter, but not nearly as much as for Christmas. We have the possibility in Lent of really taking some time to be more open to God.

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Our parish mission statement is “Growing in God’s Love.” Lent is the gift of time from
God to grow in God’s love. How might we do this? If your life is already very full of activities, perhaps the best way for you to grow in faith is to take some time to be quiet and still. Taking a walk or listening to music can be ways to focus on God’s presence with you. There are other spiritual practices which can be helpful in Lent – prayer, study, worship, and service for others in need. The Forward Day by Day booklets or other Lenten reflection booklets can be very helpful in your study and devotional practices during Lent. Joining in our Sunday worship regularly is a great Lenten discipline. Lent is also a season for self-examination and repentance, where we can experience God’s forgiveness and new life. Our Prayer Book provides for individual confession with a priest. If any of you would like to do this, please contact me at the church or by email at rhess1947@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.

I am thankful that we are part of Christian tradition that has the observance of the Church Year, with the different seasons. When I understand Lent as a gift, I see the season as a positive opportunity to focus more deeply on my relationship with God in Jesus and on my relationships with other people. As our Ash Wednesday service says, “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent.”

First Things First

by the Rev. Ray Hess

It’s easy to get sidetracked in our lives. We easily can put off the really important things and become tied down with activities that really do not matter. I like to paint watercolors. This is an important thing in my life that makes a difference for me. Yet it is so easy for me to do all kinds of other activities and not sit down to paint. I’m a fan of Stephen Covey, who wrote the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of his principles was “First things first.” In other words, make the most important aspects of our lives first.

In I Corinthians 13:13, Paul said, “And now faith, hope, love abide, these three; and the
greatest of these is love.” Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor. Love is the central part of our lives, the “first thing.” Loving God and loving others are the most important things to do; everything else is secondary.

When Bishop Megan visited our parish in January, she met after the service with our vestry. She asked us if we have a mission statement. We knew that it was printed on the cover of each By George newsletter but had difficulty remembering it. The mission statement is at the top of each newsletter: Growing with You in God’s Love and Service. A shorter version is Growing in God’s Love. I think that I can remember this!

I hope this year to make this excellent mission statement more central for our parish, so that each of us would have this on the tip of our tongues. Growing in God’s love is our “first thing.” In February, we have Valentine’s Day, which celebrates love, especially romantic love. This is a good month to focus on God’s love as we see it in Jesus. Jesus’ kind of love is self-giving love, which seeks the good of the other person. As Paul said, “Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Corinthians 13:5-7).

This month and through this year, I encourage us to focus on growing in God’s love. We are a very caring congregation already. How can we grow more deeply in this love and caring? How can we bring this love to the community and world around us, so that others can experience God’s love? Let’s make God’s love the First Thing in all that we do!

Poinsettias for Christmas

Untitled-4Poinsettias for Christmas

$15 — includes all Christmas Decorations—Altar arrangements—Christmas tree—Swags —Candles—Wreaths, etc.
All gifts are gratefully received by our Altar Guild.

The names of the honorees and donors will be listed in the bulletins on Christmas Day and the Sunday following. To be listed, donations must be received by the 3rd Sunday of Advent (December 15th ).

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Christmas Services

Angel star

 

Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 24 – 7:00 p.m.
Christmas Eucharist
followed by “Happy Birthday Jesus” party in the parish hall. Father Ray will preside and preach.

5th Day of Christmas

Sunday, December 29 – 10:00 a.m.
Festival of Lessons and Carols
A Sunday worship service with many Bible readings and Christmas Carols.

12th Day of Christmas

Sunday, January 5 – 9:00 a.m. & 10:30 a.m.
Christmas Eucharist
A Sunday worship service celebrating the season of Christmas. 

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Where your Heart is

by the Rev. Bob Olsen

A couple of weeks ago, during his sermon, Fr Ray noted his Mazda MX-5 had been backed into by a neighbor. Having his “baby” dinged up was disconcerting and that it took some time for him to remember things are things and it is our relationship with God and others that is important. I apologize in advance if I’ve misquoted his sermon. While he didn’t quote Matthew or Luke – “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” it got me to thinking about the things in my life and their “importance.” Now we named our little red sportscar Ralphie, after the main character in “A Christmas Story” as I mentioned to Sandy the evening we got the car I might not be able to tuck the car under my pillow as Ralphie did his Red Rider BB-Gun, I could snuggle up to the owner’s manual. Anyway, about three months after we bought Ralphie, a fellow backed into me in a parking lot. Needless to say, I was upset that my almost brand-new baby had been damaged. However, I discovered it was hard to stay angry when describing how our car was hit by a boat. Oh, the guy who backed into us was towing a boat and the prop put a gash in the front of the car. No one was hurt, the car was drivable, could be fixed and while Ralphie was my baby, it was still just a car.

Over the years I’ve had other vehicles hit – our ‘59 Triumph TR3 (Sandy’s car when we got married) by a fellow in a hurry to get to the police station to apply to be a policeman. I still wonder how that interview went. Or when Sandy told me our brand-new 1971 Toyota Station Wagon had been hit by a Columbus Georgia garbage truck, the image in my mind was a crumpled heap of blue metal. No one was hurt, our little car was drivable with just a little dent in the rear fender and the City owned up to the accident. When telling people our car was hit by a garbage truck – not your everyday occurrence, I couldn’t help but chuckle.triumph-spitfire-convertible-car

Being a California boy coming of age (meaning 16) in the 60’s meant cars and driving has played a big part in my life. However, among the good qualities I learned from my dad, I keep cars for at least 10 years or 100,000 miles and maybe a bit longer. As such, regardless of naming them, or going to sleep with the owner’s manual under my pillow, they have always been simply transportation. I think that has helped me keep “things” in perspective, there is nothing I own that I couldn’t do without, not so for the people in my life.

So this article doesn’t become a book, I’ll mention just two. Even though Biblical Archaeology Digest is the last of the magazines I’m getting for Fr Zea, I still think of him often as he saw the good in everyone. He loved God and all of his neighbors, even some that I thought of as “difficult.” Fr Bob Gould had much that same quality, a gentle soul whose greeting and good bye always include “love”. I pray that I and all of us can follow their example.

A Representative Democracy

by the Rev. Raymond Hess

As we celebrate Independence Day in our nation, it is helpful to remember that the Episcopal Church is organized in a very similar way to our country. This was no accident; many of the people who designed the structure of our new nation in the late 1700s were members of the new Episcopal Church, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin. Their desire was to form a church that was governed by its people. This is what happened!

The Episcopal Church is set up as a representative democracy, where people at the parish level elect leaders to represent them. Each parish has an Annual Meeting where members of the vestry (the church board) are elected by parishioners. The Annual Meeting also elects delegates to the Diocesan Convention, which makes decisions for the diocese. Our St. George’s delegates for 2018 are Sandra Crenshaw, Aaron Adkins, and Becky Freie. Alternates are Mel Rose and Deb Hess. The Diocesan Convention meets once a year, and this year will be at the Redding Civic Center in Redding on November 9-10.

The Diocesan Convention elects Deputies to General Convention, which meets every three years to make decisions for the whole Episcopal Church. Each diocese elects four clergy and four lay deputies. All diocesan bishops also are voting members of General Convention. General Convention moves around to different cities across the United States. General Convention meets this year in Austin, Texas from July 5 – 13. I was a deputy from our diocese at the General Convention in 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was an amazing experience to be part of this gathering of thousands of Episcopalians!

In the Episcopal Church, our bishops are elected by the people, not appointed from on high. Bishop Beisner will be retiring in June of 2019. A profile of our diocese has been created for prospective candidates, and a nominating committee has been formed. The nominating committee will present a slate of candidates to our diocese later this year. On February 9, 2019, there will be a special Electing Convention of our diocese at Trinity Cathedral. Those who are current diocesan delegates will vote to elect our new bishop. The new bishop will be consecrated at a service on June 29, 2019.
As you can see, our Episcopal Church is set up as a representative democracy, where power comes from people in local congregations. As with our nation, the whole structure depends on active, informed people who get involved in our church’s life. Please keep our representatives and our church governance in your prayers for God’s guidance.

Happy Independence Day!independence day

Come, Holy Spirit!

by the Rev. Ray Hess

On May 20th, we will celebrate the third major feast day of the church year – the Day of
Pentecost. This is least known of the major feast days. Christmas and Easter are very well known, but many people have no idea about the meaning of Pentecost.

Pentecost!

The Day of Pentecost is about the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early followers of Jesus. According to the author of Luke and Acts, the disciples were in Jerusalem on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, a spring harvest festival that is fifty days after Passover. As the disciples gathered together, there was a rush of wind that filled the house, tongues of fire rested on each of them, and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were able to praise God in various other languages. People gathered around the house could hear them speaking in the native language of each one.

Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church. The coming of the Spirit empowered the first disciples to do the mission of Jesus – to preach, teach, and heal as Jesus did in his ministry. The presence of the Holy Spirit is described in various ways in the New Testament. The common meaning is that God is present and active in our lives, not far off in a distant way, but within us in a very personal, intimate way. The Holy Spirit knows no boundaries. People in all cultures and nations can know God’s presence through the Spirit.

Pentecost Sunday is a powerful reminder to us at St. George’s that God is present with us, both as a Christian community and individually. The power and guidance of God is available to each of us.

It makes all the difference for us as a parish to be open to the guidance, love, and power of the Holy Spirit.

I wish us all a powerful experience of the Spirit this Pentecost!