Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another wonderful theological surprise

I LOVE opening my Bible and reading something again for the first time.  The Lord revealed this sweet little surprise this week and I am still reeling.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. John 4.23 
I know this verse well.  It is one of those old familiar verses as much a part of my Christian vocabulary as John 3:16.  It is the verse tucked into the middle of worship services, and to be honest I was never quite sure if it was intended as a warning or self-congratulation . . . often it made me a bit self-conscious, uncertain whether I met the criteria?  I felt like I needed to do a mental check-list and make sure I had my doctrine all in order . . . Other times the verse seemed to be used in contrast to people or doctrines NOT like us, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are . . . ."  

So I admit that I knew this verse well but it was not one of my favorite verses, leaving me usually feeling guilty or self-righteous, one or the other.

But when I ran across it again this morning I was shocked to realize the context of the verse which apparently I had never paid attention to before.  In fact these words were spoken by Jesus and do you know who they were spoken to?  The Samaritan Woman!   Spirit?  Truth?  What did she know about Spirit or Truth? A woman, a sinner, an outcast. . . For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans (her words, she already knew she was unacceptable in every way).  When the disciples returned and found Jesus talking with her they were shocked! . . . (Why talkest thou with her?)! (Unworthiness confirmed.  Not a likely candidate for such high standards of worship).

I have played both roles in my understanding of worship.  I have spent too many worship services battling the anxiety that I am not acceptable . . . one of those uneasy feelings that leave me trying to pinpoint what it could be exactly but only knowing that I don't feel worthy.  I have also been a disciple hall-monitoring for Jesus, sticking stars on those of us who are in and x-es those who are out.

I wonder how the Samaritan woman understood Christ's invitation to worship the Father in spirit and in truth?  Jesus' message to her?  That he already knew her, intimately, had come to her personally, waited for her, wanted to satisfy her empty life.  The Messiah, sitting eye to eye, with a woman, a Samaritan, a sinner.  Mercy.  Grace.  Redemption.  Hope.  Thats. All.  

The woman then left her waterpot and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, and see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? . . .

Isn't this all that any of us really want?  To be sought-out . . . thoroughly known . . . set free from our past . . . a new and meaningful life.  Could it be that true worship is as uncomplicated as this?  A redeemed life. . . Spirit and Truth.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

At this point in the story I doubt that this precious woman had much figured out about spiritual formation, or the pillars of Jewish study, or at what place in dispensational theology the Messiah was expected to come or if he met all of the prophetic criteria for being the Messiah . . . in fact if she had known all that, she would have realized that she was not even included in that invitation to worship, that Jesus had come only for the Jews.  According to Jewish understanding of prophecy, this woman should only have expected judgment.  But Jesus had a completely different definition of Spirit and Truth worship. 

In fact, (this is so fascinating to me), the people who DID know all about Truth, who DID have all their doctrine sorted out and DID understand prophecy and WERE well acquainted with their history . . . they MISSED Jesus!  In chapter 7:  Art thou also of Galilee?  Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.  And every man went unto his own house (vs.52,53).  End of discussion.  Case closed.  Jesus is from Galilee.  NOT the Messiah.

And Jesus says, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes (Matt.11.25).

I am tired of worship that excludes, and complicated, self-righteous Truth.  I am tired of religion.  I met Jesus at my own empty well.  He gave me living, springing-up, everlasting life water.  And that changed everything.

Oswald Chambers this morning says much more simply what I am grappling with:
In spiritual relationship we do not grow step by step; we are either there or we are not. . . It is a question of obedience . . . God's revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience.  You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. . . The only way you can get to know is to stop trying to find out and by being born again. . . One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam. . . it is not study that does it, but obedience. . . . God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already.  Beware of becoming "wise and prudent."

What do you think?  Considering the context how does this verse strike you?  (BE NICE)!  Is it only me totally blown away again by Jesus?


Heather of the EO said...

NO, it's not just you. I had my own recent re-visit to the well in looking at these scriptures. And you've given me even more to chew on here. I love it. I love that this story strips away all my guilt, the feeling that I don't measure up.

So often I fall into this mentality of not crossing enough t's or dotting enough i's. The story of the woman at the well shakes me by the shoulders. I love it.

Thank you! (:

Anonymous said...

jess, i love love your last couple of posts! exactly part of what God has been working on in our lives! i wouldn't even know where to start or stop. the youtube video gave me so much comfort and drove me to tears. i know that often God's way doesnt looks successful or wise or even make sense in human eyes...that is where we are right now...nothing looks good or successful or really makes much sense, but, honestly, matt and i feel so satisfied and free in Christ...and it IS NOT because of "health wealth and prosperity". and the excerpt from chambers...mmmm. mmm. good.!!! luv you guys

Anonymous said...

oh, ya...i love what chambers says about our spiritual relationship NOT being a step by step process...we either ARE or WE ARE NOT. it is more about surrender than studying the Bible inside and out....more about BEING born again than trying to figure out HOW and how much we can get by with and still feel like a good Christian. yadda yadda yadda...=) luv you again =)

charrette said...

This is beautiful! I revel in these quiet moments of revelation! and so true...they often come through the DOING rather than the analyzing.

I have thought often about the irony of those who supposedly "knew" missing the person and the very idea of Jesus.

I was also struck by this:
The woman then left her waterpot and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, and see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? . . .

Isn't this all that any of us really want? To be sought-out . . . thoroughly known . . . set free from our past . . . a new and meaningful life. Could it be that true worship is as uncomplicated as this? A redeemed life. . . Spirit and Truth.

I love that her response to her newfound knowledge and freedom was to SHARE it with others. So often I shy away from that, assuming I'm not a good enough example to lead anyone to Christ. Or assuming they don't want what I just happen to have. But she was a Samaritan...and yet so briming over with His fullness she couldn't help herself, had to share! And who doesn't want to be sought out, recognized, set free.

When you have a minute, I have an interesting post on my other blog that goes along with this idea of being known, seen recognized. Here's the address: http://parkinpage.blogspot.com/2008/07/no-one-goes-unnoticed-in-his-eyes.html