31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
December 17, 2017
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“Thanks for showing me God, Mama.” Of all the sweet and meaningful lines in God Gave Us Christmas, that might just be my favorite. “Thanks for showing me God, Mama.”
That is my wish for my ministry as a mother; for my ministry with our children; for my ministry with all of you – that I might show you God.
We come to know God in many ways throughout our lifetimes. We come to know God through the names people use for God. The hymn “Bring Many Names” calls God ‘warm father God’, ‘strong mother God’, ‘old aching God’, ‘young growing God’, and ‘great living God’. In the children’s book, In God’s Name, the farmer calls God ‘Source of Life’; “The man who tended sheep in the valley called God Shepherd. The tired soldier who fought too many wars called God Maker of Peace. The artist who carved figures from the earth’s hard stone called God My Rock.” (In God’s Name, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)
We come to know God through the names people use for God, and we come to know God through the stories people tell – the stories of our personal experiences with God and the stories of our community’s experiences with God, the stories we find in the Bible. Every story we have from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures show us God.
In our passage from Hebrew scriptures this morning, Isaiah shows us that God is the one who provides abundantly for us, the one who welcomes us – whether we have money, whether we have anything to give in return. God is the one who wants us to have good things, to eat and drink good things; to delight in our lives and truly live.
“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you than have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1) “Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” (Isaiah 55:2b-3)
This is who God is – the one who faithfully makes a covenant with us – to provide us with abundance and goodness and life. We only need come.
This is the God we know through the Hebrew scriptures, the one who time and time again walks with God’s people, providing for them, caring for them, faithfully keeping God’s covenant with them.
This is the God we know through the Hebrew scriptures, and the God who has been made known to us in Jesus Christ.
Our gospel passage from John is two verses from the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well – at noon. All of that information tells us a lot about this woman. First, as a Samaritan and as a woman, she would not be an acceptable conversation partner for a Jewish man like Jesus. She was not even acceptable to her own community. She had had five husbands and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. We can assume though that her living situation had more to do with the need to survive than her desire to thumb her nose at society and its moral code; however that did not matter to her community. To them, she was tainted.
So she came to the well in the heat of the day when no one else should have been there, either because she wanted to avoid their judgment or because that was the only time she was allowed to come.
Imagine her surprise to come upon someone else in the hot noonday sun. Imagine her surprise to encounter a Jewish man, who spoke to her and offered her no condescension or judgment but living water.
We learn a lot about the Samaritan woman in this story, and we learn even more about the God we know through Jesus Christ. Our God is a God of kindness and acceptance, one who seeks to correct us but does not judge or condemn us, one who provides us that which will satisfy our hunger in the moment and that which will satisfy us forever.
The stories of our faith show us who God is, and to quote the hymn we just sang, “His name shall stand forever; that name to us is Love.”
All of the names, all of the actions, all of God’s ways of being with us can be summed up with these words, “God is love.”
God is love – however, not love in the ways our world often talks about love. After all, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts nor are God’s ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
And for those who have only known love according to the world, for those who have been hurt by “love”, we need to show them God. We need to show them God’s love. We need to clearly tell them that:
Love is not gift giving.
Love is not coerced.
Love is not about power.
Love is not a commodity to be bought or sold.
And love is not about filling the hole, the brokenness inside of yourself, so that you can feel safe, feel good, feel whole.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
God is love, and God’s love never ends. God’s love for you, God’s love for all people never ends.
God gave us Christmas, God gave us the Christ child to show us God, to show us God’s love. “And God would’ve given us that present, even if it was only for you.” God would’ve given that present for “mean ol’ Maggie the Moose or grumpy ol’ Frankie the Fox…Jesus is a present for everyone, grumpy or happy, mean or kind. God gave us all Christmas.” (God gave us Christmas, Lisa Tawn Bergren)
In these Advent days, we rejoice, we give thanks, we stand in awe that God gave us each, gave us all Christmas. God gave us Christmas, God gave us Jesus to show us God, to show us God’s love.
As you minister to others in these Advent days and beyond, I pray your ministry might be one of showing others God, that as you gather with friends and neighbors, as you deliver poinsettias to homebound church members, as you interact with co-workers, as you read to your children or grandchildren, that you may be blessed to show everyone God, to show everyone God’s love and in turn be blessed to know God and God’s love more deeply yourself.
Blessings of peace and love be upon you this day and forevermore. Amen.