Text: John 4:5-something or other
When I was growing up there was a song, “I will follow him, where ever he may go; he’ll always be my true love, my true love, my true love. There isn’t an ocean so deep, a mountain so high as can keep me away.” There were lots of other young girl in love songs: all with the same theme that there was a guy out there that would make you happy, complete, fulfilled. All you had to do was find him and then keep him interested and happy and you would be happy. I think this idea has been around for thousands of years. I think it’s what propelled the woman to go to the well in the middle of the day. You see wells were where women and men found husbands and wives. Moses finds his wife at the well. (It does take a little prodding from Zipporah’s father to make that match.) Issac’s servant finds Rebekah at a well. Jacob finds Rachael at a well. And so the woman comes hoping for better luck at the well. She’s had five husbands. We don’t know what happened to her husbands. Perhaps she has been left a widow five times. Because bad things happening to you then was seen as a sign of sin, people may have thought she was a sinner, but the text really doesn’t say that or that she was a sinner. The encounter with Jesus begins the way the other stories of women at the well begin. The man asks for a drink of water. So far, so good. But Jesus tells her that what she is longing for will not satisfy her. What she is looking for will not fulfill her. Before she meets Jesus, she hasn’t found what she is looking for.
U2’s song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” is a lament. The song begins as if it is a love song. They are looking for a person, the singer. They, too, have climbed the highest mountains looking for you. But, still haven’t found what they are looking for. And then the song shifts and it becomes clear that the singers are looking for God and the realm of God.
I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I’m still running
You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it
And yet, he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Some folks have looked at the words of this song and concluded that the group has lost its faith in God, in Jesus. But, others have seen something else in the song.
It is a lament for the kingdom that has not come yet, the promised realm of God, the time when there will be no difference among peoples, the time when we all will be one. The song is a song of grace, of salvation. And it is a lament for what is here, but still not yet.
I have run across this saying several times in the last few months: “God loves you just the way you are. And, God loves you too much to leave you just the way you are.” This is a statement, in personal terms, of the fact that God’s kingdom is not yet. The kingdom is not here because we are not yet the people God wants us to be.
There is a heresy in Christianity that all we have to do to be saved it to believe in Jesus. So far, so good. The heresy part is that after that we don’t have to do anything differently in our lives. What Presbyterians say is that we are saved by grace alone. We cannot earn our salvation. But, we are called to lead transformed lives, shaped by God and the Gospel in response to God’s grace in saving us: in bearing the shame as U2 would say. Our lives should reflect the grace of God’s salvation.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives his followers one commandment, only one: to love one another. That’s all. But, what a challenge that one commandment is. To simply love one another, to love all our brothers and sisters. If we took that commandment seriously, the kingdom would be here. When Paul Johnson, the former secretary of the Treasury went to Africa with Bono, he was amazed at the lack of clean water there. He estimated that it would take about $25 billion to provide clean water. I don’t have his book in front of me, so I may be wrong about the numbers and the details, I think that was for all of Africa. A small amount compared to the budget of the US. And he couldn’t get folks interested in providing that amount of aid. Imagine if we took that commandment seriously, what would Memphis schools look like? First, there would be more money. But, more importantly, the schools would be integrated. Teaching would improve. The lament of U2’s song that the kingdom has not come is not a lament of God’s failure, it is a lament of our failure: our failure to follow Jesus’ commands.
The grace that God gives us in salvation is also the grace we need to lead transformed lives. God’s grace is sufficient. The kingdom is here: we are the ones who must see it and live it. Amen.