Sunday, May 25, 2008

R.S.V.P. Needed!

This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer and with it, the season of BBQ’s and pool parties. This was a weekend I looked forward to with great anticipation when I was in high school. Throughout high school and college I had the summer job dreams are made of. Each summer I was blessed with working at a neighborhood swimming pool. I looked forward to long summer nights and sleeping in just to enjoy the day by the pool – EVERY DAY. In the dry arid Colorado summer months, sitting by the pool was the only chance of refreshment for us kids. In the heat of the day, nothing was quite like jumping into that pool.

It was in the heat of the day that our Gospel reading is set this morning. John tells us that Jesus came to Jacob’s Well in the desert of Samaria, “being wearied from His journey, [and] sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour [or noon]” (John 4.6) I remember what noon was like in the hot Colorado summer. Can you imagine what the heat was like at noon in the desert? So Jesus was sitting there when a woman, we call her Saint Photini in the Orthodox Church, shows up to draw some water. He asks her for a drink because, as John tells us, His disciples had left Him alone to go shopping. (John 4.7-8)

I suppose that she was looking forward to that fresh water so much that she must have been startled when Jesus asked HER for a drink. After all He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan and a woman at that. She said, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (John 4.9) John goes on to detail the exchange between them as she slowly realizes that Jesus is the Messiah. Here she was minding her own business simply looking forward to getting some fresh water and instead she meets God and is forced to respond to His questions about how many husbands she had. It doesn’t sound like a refreshing jump in the pool to me.

Poor St. Photini. She had three strikes against her – she was a Samaritan, she was a woman, and she was an adulteress – and all she wanted was some fresh water. She didn’t have anything going for her and YET God chose to encounter her. Our lives can be like that sometimes. There we are, minding our own business just wanting our “fresh water” relief from our struggles or sins in life when we meet God face to face and we, like St. Photini, are forced to respond to Him.
No matter who we are, no matter what we have done, no matter if we are ready for it or not, God has chosen today, right her and now in this Church to encounter US and we need to respond. Just a few minutes ago, we encountered God Himself in the chalice when we received Holy Communion and we believe as Orthodox Christians that none of us, not one, is worthy of that encounter just as St. Photini was not worthy to encounter Him at Jacob’s Well, and we must respond.

We encounter God in many ways today – when we hear the Gospel proclaimed; when we sing the beautiful hymns of the Divine Liturgy; of course when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist; AND when we encounter our fellow human beings on the street – and we must respond. A response is never optional. God doesn’t send His invitation marked, “No Response Necessary.”

St. Photini responded by going into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4.29) When was the last time any of us in this Church did that as a response to God? When was the last time we invited a friend or relative to Church to encounter God for themselves? I must confess it has been a long time since I’ve done that.

St. Photini was looking forward so much to that fresh water that when she received the promise of something even better she was hooked. She not only encountered Christ at Jacob’s Well, she responded, she chose to engage Him in a dialogue. The more she knew about Jesus the more she wanted to know until she realized that she was face to face with God. The same can happen to us if we have the desire that she had.

If we desire God, we can encounter Him and engage Him in a dialogue just as she did. The best way for us to encounter God is in His Word – we must learn to read the Bible and engage Him in a dialogue like St. Photini did. This week, if you desire to see God face to face, open the Bible and you will see Him. Start with a brief prayer, “God speak to me,” and begin reading. Read just five minutes each night before you go to bed this week and God will speak to you. I promise, and you will be hooked just as St. Photini was.

Anything you choose to read will speak to you on some level and then... all you have to do is respond. God will inspire you in your encounter and He will expect a response, so be ready. He may not expect you to tell the city like St. Photini, but He might expect you to smile and greet everyone you meet on the street as if you were the happiest person on Earth. And you have every reason to be happy. Christ is Risen! so we can live for ever – all of us no matter how much we have suffered! Isn’t that worth sharing with others?

Ultimately, our response to God rests in our willingness to share the Good News of His Resurrection with anyone and everyone we meet. It doesn’t seem fair that we get to be so happy knowing that there is “fresh water” we can drink when so many of our fellow human beings are suffering from spiritual thirst around us.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there really was nothing like jumping into that pool in the hot Colorado summer, but just as St. Photini was forced to engage God and respond to questions about her marriage; we too have to leave the refreshment of the pool and engage God in our struggle. The pool was refreshing, but eventually we all had to go back into heat. Divine Liturgy this morning has been our jump in the pool. We have encountered God and now it’s time to get out and face the heat of the day and respond to Him. Let’s go out, and if it gets too hot this week, just remember we can always come back next Sunday for some refreshment.

Christ is Risen!

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