“Unprepared” – Rev. Tony Romaine – 03/15/2020
One time I planned a day long hike for my wife and myself. We were planning on hiking out to a place called Rabbit Ears, were going to eat lunch out there, then return home. Since we knew this trip was going to be a long one, we packed not only our lunch, but plenty of water to drink along the way. We had a very nice trip, but on our way back to our car, we noticed a group of hikers coming toward us that had not packed anything. Knowing they had quite a bit of hiking ahead of them in the Summer heat of the mountains in Colorado, and that they had only a little bit of water and that was it, we gave them what water we had not used and some bananas too boot. But the thought that kept going through my mind was how unprepared they were for this long journey they were on.
Unprepared is probably exactly how our ancestors who we hear in the Genesis passage for today must have felt when they had to journey through the wilderness and did not know where their food would come from or where they might get water. All they knew is that they had to get out of Egypt and follow God’s call into the wilderness. But what they were truly unprepared for was how God would work in their lives and provide for them all they would ever need.
Unprepared is exactly what the Samaritan woman at the well was for Jesus that day. As we hear in Gospel passage, she is so stunned that a Jew would even be talking to a Samaritan, let alone a stranger at a well. But the most stunning thing Jesus does for her is to tell her everything from her past that only she would know about. Demonstrating to her that He is a prophet, until the time she says to Jesus that she has heard one will come who is to be called the Messiah, where Jesus responded, “I am He.”
Unprepared was she also because she was being offered the living water of forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love that only Jesus can provide, water which will quench the eternal thirst of our sinfulness, water that will never run out. And in an act of great significance, but is so often overlooked, as this stunned Samaritan woman, who has just been personally welcomed into eternal life through Jesus, returns to town to witness to all there…she leaves her water jar behind! What need have we of any other water when we have the Word of Jesus?
As I give this message today, we are in the midst of two seasons which leave us unprepared: Lent and, a new one to us, Coronavirus. As a person who does not believe in luck and seeks to find how God is working in everything, I do not want to tie God’s will into any virus or pandemic. However, the fact that this is striking us in the midst of the season of Lent cannot go unnoticed. At the time when we are fasting, praying, meditating, spending time reflecting on our existence and our soul-journey with God, we are now also having to be separated, distanced, away from what is normal, and take precautions that leave us at best feeling unprepared and at worst panicked.
See, we like to think we are very different from the ancient Israelites who were berating Moses and asking him why he led them out of Egypt into this wilderness where they have no food or drink. Sure, they may have been slaves back in Egypt, but at least they had stuff to drink and to eat. But we are not like those people, those people panicked and turned to the only thing that they knew as normal. Those people questioned why God would ever leave them to be in this wretched desert. Those people did not trust that God would provide. But are we very different from “those” people at all?
And are we different from the woman at the well? Perhaps we say to ourselves, “If Jesus were talking to me, I would know it was Him!” Or we say, “Why didn’t she just trust and believe it right away when she saw Him, of course he was Jesus!” Or we say, “How come the townspeople had to invite Jesus to their town to preach, why didn’t they just trust the woman’s testimony?” And again, are we very different from the woman or the townspeople? Would we know it if God was talking to us through a Savior? Would we know it if God were talking to us directly? Would we trust someone who witnesses the faith to us that her testimony is true, or are we a “see it for myself” type of people?
Alright, I think we know the answers and that is why I ask these rhetorical questions. But here is the hope amidst our journey that comes from our passage in Romans: God sent Jesus, Jesus came, and did so even before we could know, even before we could believe; in our total un-preparedness, God saved us. Which begs the excellent question, why?
God sent Jesus, who willingly died for our sins upon the Cross, because we are always unprepared. Whether we willingly sin or unknowingly sin, our hearts need the reconciling love of Jesus Christ to save us because there is an imperfection to our humanity that prevents us from being totally prepared. At any point in time, we are the lost in the wilderness who are doubting our God and asking for food and water, or perhaps even asking to be enslaved by the sins of our creature comforts as we deny that God can or will provide, or are denying God and worshiping our false idols of government or television or celebrity who we think can provide for us. At any point in time, we are the Samaritan woman by the well, trying to hide the sins of our past, trying to hide the sins of our present, trying to be something we are not and being called to the Cross through Jesus who knows the depths of our souls.
But the hope in this, is that at every point in time, we are loved by Our Creator who knows every hair on our head, every inch of our bodies and who loves us beyond compare. The hope is that though unprepared, though imperfect, though sinners, though guilty of treating our neighbors as enemies and our friends as strangers; the hope is that Our God saved us by a grace we cannot obtain on our own, by a power not found through food or water, by a forgiveness that runs deeper than the deepest well, and by a love that can outlast any season, any virus, any wilderness we may be going through.
This is the hope in the eternal Christ who has saved our souls for eternity through the Easter we will one day celebrate, and hope that we will once again come together as a congregation and be able to worship and see each other and perhaps even embrace that we made it through an unprecedented wilderness; that we survived by the grace of God.
And in these times, in this wilderness, of Lent and Coronavirus, when we feel most unprepared, we must use our God-given wisdom and scientifically appropriate precautions to limit our exposure to each other. However, we can still pray, we can still call one another, we can still love, and we can still be together in this journey through the blessing of a phone call, a letter, a card, a note, a mysterious bag of groceries, and yes even an extra package of toilet paper left for those who need it!
I am just as guilty as the next person of being against the distancing modern technology affords. But, we too often forget that medical improvements, modern technology, and the devices we use that indeed can separate us; if put to the right purposes can also be used to draw us together.
This is the blessed perspective that we all too often forget in these times of peril. Yes, if we want, we can fall into despair and depression. But if we hope, if we have faith in God, if we trust in Christ’s promise, then we can make it through by relying on God’s Word, God’s Grace, and God’s Love through each and every one of us.
We are amidst a wilderness; we are on a long hike that seems to have no end. But let us not despair, for we know that there is an Easter light on the horizon, we know that our God will not forsake us, we know that when we cry out to God for help in the middle of life’s trials and tribulations, that God hears our prayers. And when all seems lost, we know and trust and believe in Jesus who is living water, food without end, and eternal love everlasting!
So we are unprepared, we are in over our heads, we perhaps feel we are on a long hike without the basics to get us through, parched, hungry, thirsting for normalcy; then let us turn to Our Guide, Our Provider, Our Eternal God! For God has given us the eternal water of Jesus Christ, the manna of our Daily Bread, and God is longing for us, loving us, even when we are unprepared, Amen!