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Lent reflections (3)

March 7th, 2008 by isaac · No Comments

Here’s another Lenten reflection.
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Lent 3: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42.

The story of God and Israel is a love affair—God longs for intimacy with Israel. God delivers Israel from Egyptian slavery and begins a journey of intimacy, a courtship. But Israel turns out to be quite the tease. At every turn in the road, Israel reminds God of their sojourn in the house of Pharaoh: Did you take us from Egypt so we might die in the wilderness? (17:3, cf.14:11-12 and 16:3). But Israel takes a further step away from intimate union with God by refusing to address God at all. They make their requests known to Moses, not God. “The people quarreled with Moses” (17:2); “The people complained against Moses” (17:3). The people make their Lover distant. But God is hopelessly in love: God hears through the grape-vine (i.e., Moses) and provides water for the people anyway. Our God loves us, his people, with a gracious hand that provides even when we make ourselves distant from his embrace.

The Psalmist invites us with joyous songs to enter into God’s intimate presence: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving” (Ps.95:2); “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (v7). And when his love is unrequited, sure, God gets angry (see v11). But it is the anger of one whose love for us is maddening, one whose heart longs for intimacy with us, one who is deeply wounded we refuse his intimate embrace.

The story of the Samaritan woman displays God’s longing for all people—a desire that breaks through any divisions, all boundaries. Jesus says to her, “Dear woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:21, 23). The woman must no longer travel to the Samaritan holy mountain, nor to Jerusalem, in order to feel the presence of God. God’s Spirit is available in the valleys, along the roadsides, in the shunned villages where Samaritans live.

God’s love is an overflowing spring, pouring from unexpected places—like desert-scorched rocks, and a Samaritan woman. It’s the Samaritan woman, a dangerous and impure woman on the disciples’ estimation (v27), who turns out to be the faithful witness (v39f).

The Apostle Paul pushes God’s gracious overflow of the Spirit of love to radical levels: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God desired us even “while we were enemies” (v10). As Paul says elsewhere, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Tags: theology