Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sentenced to Life!

Some years ago I asked one of my colleagues at Providence what tense our Easter formula is in: Christ is Risen! She replied that the formula is subject, verb, complement. Risen is not so much what Christ did; it is the very nature of who he is. We remember his resurrection, and we celebrate the truth that he is life itself.

The Resurrection turned the disciples’ lives upside down. Death was swallowed up in life. Sorrow was overwhelmed with joy. Despair gave way to hope as they discovered the reality of Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” They thought that the crucifixion was their own death sentence, and they found they had instead been sentenced to life! To explore this basic thought we look briefly at John 20 and Acts 2, and then in more depth at 1 Peter 1.

John 20
In the first part of the chapter, Mary Magdalene, and then Peter and John, come to the empty tomb. Jesus appears first to Mary. Then the verses we read: That evening Jesus appears in a locked room with the disciples and commissions them to continue his ministry. Then a week later he appears to the disciples again, this time including Thomas, who states a basic point of these appearances, his recognition that Jesus is both Lord and God.

One notes an undercurrent of disbelief, not just in Thomas’ scepticism, but in the fact that the disciples knew well that dead people don’t rise. They took some convincing! The long ending of Mark (not found in the earliest manuscripts) states it explicitly:
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterwards Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
The late writer of this ending names the undercurrent of doubt, which took repeated appearances of Jesus to dispel. In the end they realised and affirmed with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

Acts 2
Peter preaches his Pentecost sermon to the Jews gathered from around the world for the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). In these verses he says:
Jesus was God’s man among you, through whom God acted.
You had him killed.
God raised him from the dead. This action shows that Jesus was God’s chosen one.
All of this shows us clearly that Jesus was God’s Messiah, and God has made us (the disciples) witnesses to his life, death, and resurrection. Peter quotes from Psalm 16 to make his point, showing how Jesus had taught them to read Scripture through his life.

The implication of this sermon is that the community of Israel finds its fulfillment in the Messiah, and that the ministry and message of the disciples continues the ministry and message of Jesus himself. The people’s response was to turn in repentance to embrace the risen Messiah.

1 Peter
A few words about the context in which Peter wrote: John reflects on events that he saw. Luke (in Acts) reports on events that he had researched. Both are writing about the time immediately after Jesus’ resurrection.

In this letter Peter is writing about 30 years later. As I read the commentators, it makes the most sense to me to say that Peter, the impetuous disciple and one of the leaders of the apostles, wrote this letter to people in what today we call Turkey around 60-64 A.D. During this time Nero was Caesar in Rome. He claimed divinity for the emperor at his death; Christians pointed to the man who died and rose from the dead and called him, “Son of God”. Nero feared Christians because they owned Jesus as Lord and would not say that Caesar is Lord. Just as American border officials take their cue from the President’s public announcements (so that immigrants are afraid), Roman officials in Asia took their cue from Nero’s public stance (and Christians knew they were in danger.

Peter and Paul were probably both executed in this time of persecution, so that this letter probably comes near the end of Peter’s life. Here at the beginning of the letter he gives the words we heard earlier.
Verses 3-5: Words of praise for God’s great mercy, given to us through the resurrection of Jesus, by which have “an inheritance that can never die.” This inheritance is in Heaven, and we have the certainty that we will live forever there.
Verse 6: In the meantime—now—we are experiencing great trials, but our joy is deeper than our trials.
Verse 7: Trials prove that our faith is genuine. These present troubles become the source of our greatest praise.
Verses 8-9: We love God (even without seeing God) and know such great joy because we know that God is in the process of giving us salvation.
Verses 10-12: The prophets told us long ago that trials leading to victory was the pattern for God’s Messiah, and therefore also the pattern for us, the followers of the Messiah.

Peter’s Point
The basic point of this passage is found at its centre: We experience great trials in the present, but our joy is deeper than our trials. Peter sates the basic reason for our joy and peace at the beginning: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” That is, we have life in the presence of death because Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus sentences us to life.

This connection between joy and trials is a repeated theme in the New Testament. In Mark 13 Jesus told the disciples that the glory of his return would follow great persecution. Joy and hope come out of despair and grief. In Romans 5 Paul sounds the same note:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

In James 1, James the brother of Jesus repeats the same idea:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

This theme of joy in suffering runs throughout the New Testament. We could have looked at Romans 6, or 2 Corinthians 6, or 2 Corinthians 12, or many other passages. The early Christians were ready to die, and they went to their deaths singing praises to the God who had saved them. Their joy ran deeper than their sorrow. Their peace was the peace that passes understanding, the peace that Jesus had promised them before he himself went to the cross. They knew the power of love, even though they lived in a world of grief and despair and turmoil.

Our World Today
We look at the world around us and see a world much like the world Peter knew. I follow the news more closely than is healthy. Lois tells me that she doesn’t follow news headlines because she can get them all from me. As I listen to the news I observe two things. One is that our world as a whole is in a fragile and dangerous state. All of us in the world face dangers that are not specific to Christian belief. For example, in the next 50 years we may see many people forced to move out of large parts of the Florida coast, or out of the city of New Orleans. These are dangers that are part of being human, not just of being Christian.

I observe also that in many places it is becoming more difficult to articulate Christian belief and live according to Christian standards. In some parts of the world, Christians are actively persecuted. In other parts any strong religious commitment is suspect—whether of Muslims in Europe or Buddhists in China or Christians in Indonesia.

Between wondering about the stability of my own future in retirement and worrying about what will happen as our society pushes religious faith into people’s private lives, I can imagine the real possibility of my children and grandchildren facing dangers far worse than anything present in my own lifetime.

What do we do with such fears? Is it “the end of history”, to use Francis Fukuyama’s phrase? [Fukuyama referred to the idea that “liberal democracy” is the final stage in political evolution, so that we have achieved the state that the world will continue to move towards. I am using the phrase more darkly, with the idea that the world itself may come to an end.] We may wonder what the next stage of development is in being human. What effect will the continued development of Artificial Intelligence have? Will our grandchildren live in a world we would recognize as human? What will be the effect of continue population growth? Will assisted dying become the norm for everyone after a certain age? Questions and fears surround us, and we can feel as afraid as the disciples the night after the crucifixion, or as the people Peter wrote to as the Roman Empire began to flex its muscles against them.

Fear as the Source of Hope
Peter speaks to us as well. He begins not with our fears, but with our hope. He begins not with the possibility of destruction, but with the reality of the resurrection. I think that he would want us to do the same. If we dwell on our fears, they will drag us down into despair. If we use our fears to turn to God in Christ [“My peace I give to you”], we discover instead a bedrock of joy and praise.

I have been reading in the history of Brethren in Christ World Missions. Leoda Buckwalter has written several accounts of the 40 years that she and her husband, Allen, spent in India. She was born in India, and left the country when her father died of smallpox. She was then nine years old. She describes her father’s funeral, when she heard God asking her if she would help to fill the empty space left by her father’s death. She answered, yes. Her mother stayed to finish her term, while Leoda and her brother, Joe, moved to California to live with their grandparents (their mother’s parents), but that answer remained with her.

Leoda married Allen in 1936, and in 1939 they sailed across the Pacific for their first term of service. Among the many stories she tells, I think of one from those days of World War 2. On the one hand, she was back home. On the other, they were in the far north, close to the Burmese border. The Japanese had taken Burma and were pushing their way through the jungle towards India. Leoda describes the experience of bombers flying overhead each night on their way to drop their payload on the Japanese enemy.

The day came that the government required all expatriates to move to a safer place, so Allen and Leoda were withdrawn to Monghyr Fort, on the Ganges River. They left behind most of their possessions, including their wedding present locked in trunks in their home. While they were gone, the villagers debated ransacking their house and taking what was there. It was wartime, and everyone was afraid for the future. Finally the Christians went into the house and divided up the Buckwalters’ belonging. When Allen and Leoda returned, they found the house empty.

Leoda writes how this loss almost destroyed their relationship with the people they loved. She struggled with resentment and anger over the betrayal by those who had been her own childhood friends. She struggled especially with losing a set of cloth napkins that had been a wedding present from her mother. A village woman had taken them and was using them as diapers. Leoda could see them hanging from the washing line when she went about the village.

Then she and her husband went to Darjeeling for a short rest in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. There she sat with other missionaries who had escaped the invading Japanese by walking across the mountains out of China. She began to see the gift of life that Jesus had given them and her, and she stopped focussing on her loss, so small in comparison.

When they returned to the village, she learned what had really happened. The villagers had been planning to ransack their house and take everything. The Christian community came in first and divided up their wedding presents and other belongings. Then she realised why so many of their things had been returned to them. She had lost the cloth napkins, but little else. Their friends had in fact protected them, and the one who kept the cloth napkins had been in great need. She and Allen returned to the village and renewed and deepened their relationships with the Christian community there.

Leoda’s experience gave her the necessary sense of loss to discover where the villagers really lived. Although they had been friends from her childhood, they had to share loss to discover the power of life. That is the way God has made our world.

I could tell many more such stories. You know already, I suspect, the story of Sokreaksa Himm, survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields and graduate of Providence Seminary. Grief and pain beyond my ability to fully grasp became the soil for forgiveness and healing also beyond my comprehension. I chose the story of Leoda and her cloth napkins because it is often the smaller loss that undermines us. We deal with great tragedies, and then something small overthrows us. Even in a matter of cloth napkins, we learn to die to self and live to Christ.

I worry a bit about saying this, because I remember being taught in my counselling courses about the dangers of denial and triumphalism. We face the danger that we want to be “victorious Christians”, and so we do not enter fully into the darkness of grief and pain.

Peter had entered that darkness. As he stood there that night and said, “I never knew him!” he saw Jesus look at him, into the depths of his heart. He went outside and wept bitterly. When Peter denied Jesus, he discovered his own depths of fear and pain. Peter knew the darkness inside himself.

But Peter is the one who speaks these words of joy and power: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” This inheritance is both future and present—God’s eternal reign waiting for us in glory, and God’s reign present in our lives today. “Our Father in Heaven,” we pray, “Holy be your name! Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

The road to glory, then, is the path that embraces suffering and grief and finds it redeemed by the resurrection. As the Anglican Prayer Book puts it in the regular Friday prayer:
Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Grace Bible Church, 23 April 2017

Acts 2:14a, 22-32
1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Death on Friday, Holy Saturday, Life on Sunday

Memories of Easters past. 1972—schoolgirls at Matopo Secondary dressed in white, singing “Namhla Uvukile” [Today He has risen!] before the African Autumn dawn. 1991—my parents shaking Lois and me awake with the news that Dad Heise has just died; the cancer had finished its work.

Resurrection Sunday! The central day of the church’s year, and the event that stands at the centre of our lives. We have walked the way of the cross with Jesus, and now we walk in the resurrection of Jesus.

In our own congregation we have experienced the loss and grief that is basic to human existence. Loved family members have died. Jobs have come to an end. Dreams have failed. Relationships that we thought would last until Heaven have been torn apart. As we heard the story of Jesus’ crucifixion retold on Thursday and Friday, I felt that it was speaking my own grief.

We have walked paths of loss this past year that we never thought we would see, and the grief is still fresh. For all of us. Like the two nameless disciples in our text, we are processing what has happened to us, and we can feel our own losses as we walk again through the events of Good Friday. We are seeking direction for our future, just as these disciples were trying to figure out what they would do now that the Messiah had been executed.

Listen to the Text Again
Two disciples walked the seven miles home from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Presumably they had been in Jerusalem for the trial and execution of Jesus. In any case, that is what they were talking about. On Friday they saw the Messiah killed, and then the sun set. Today we refer to the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Holy Saturday, a time of waiting for the celebration to begin. The first “Holy Saturday” was the Sabbath Day, a time of waiting in God’s presence for renewal through hearing God’s Law, the Torah.

That Sabbath was a strange day of resting. Because it was the Sabbath, they were unable to go to the tomb, unable to return to their home in Emmaus, unable to do anything in response to the terrible events they had witnessed. Finally on the first day of the week, they can go home. They headed off about the middle of the afternoon, talking over all that had happened as they walked.

Jesus joined them on the way. They didn’t recognize him, even when he asked what they were talking about. Why were they “kept from recognizing him”? Perhaps they wanted to move on to resolution too quickly; we often do so. Perhaps they needed to remain in a time of questioning and searching longer, so that they could deal fully with their grief. It is often so.

Ironically, talking to the man who was in the middle of those events, they said, “You’re not from around here, are you!” Then they told him what had happened to him—the humour of God at work. The interaction that follows is vitally important for us to grasp this morning.

They said:
“He was a prophet. We thought he was the Messiah! But the religious leaders had him killed. We don’t know what to do!
“He did say something about the third day, and today is the third day.
“We heard something this morning. Some women [you can almost hear the doubt in their voices: women will say anything …] said that they found his tomb empty. Some of his close friends [this was more promising] say that they have seen him. (A point in all of these accounts is the place of the women—unreliable witnesses in Jewish tradition, but last at the cross, and first at the empty tomb.)

After they finished, hear Jesus’ response:
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

They reached their home and invited Jesus in. he sat down at the table with them, and picked up the bread. Then he broke it [just like at the Last Supper], and they recognized him. They hurried back to Jerusalem, never mind the onset of night. They hurried through the dark to find the Eleven and tell them that the light of their lives was alive!

I have wondered what Scriptures he quoted to them in this process of reinterpretation.
  • Certainly the Gospel writers apply Psalm 22 (verses 1 and 18) and Psalm 110 to Jesus. So also Luke applies Psalm 2 to Jesus (the disciples’ prayer in Acts 4:25-26).
  • Probably the most important passage was Isaiah 53: see John 12:37-38 (John’s comment on the ministry of Jesus); Acts 8:32-35 (Philip applies the prophecy to Jesus); 1 Peter 2:22-23 (Peter identifies the suffering servant with Jesus); Luke 22:37 (Jesus applies the prophecy to himself).
One could go through all of the OT passages quoted in the NT, and I suspect that many of them go back to this conversation between the two disciples and Jesus. Jesus took what they thought they knew—the terrible events of the weekend and their Scriptures—and re-interpreted their Scriptures and re-structured their lives, changing them from a source of death and despair to a place of life and hope.

The Basic Point of this whole passage is this truth: That Jesus re-interpreted their Scriptures so that they could know the truth about God and about God’s Messiah, and he re-structured their lives so that what they had experienced as loss and death became the source of life and eternal hope.

A Small Word Game
I first studied this material systematically 37 years ago. I had to preach eight sermons over a period of two semesters for my homiletics course at AMBS. Easter 1980 I preached the last of these sermons on this passage. I was an eager young seminarian, so I translated the passage from the Greek myself before writing my sermon. In the process, I made found something about verses 22-24: “In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” They went to the tomb [expecting to find death] … they went to the tomb [and found evidence of life].

The discovery was this: The word for tomb in Greek is mnÄ“meion, from which we get the English word “mnemonic”. A mnemonic is something that helps you remember something else—a memory aid. So the word for tomb means “a remembrance”. We have the same link in English between the grave and a memorial stone that sits on the grave. The discovery echoes the basic idea in Luke’s passage: As we remember the events of our lives, they become either a place of death (a tomb with the stone rolled in front of it) or a place of life (an empty tomb with the covering stone rolled away).

A Story
Let me tell you a story of a life-giving memory of an event filled with death. This story should come with the kind of warning you find before TV shows that are filled with explicit violence.

Several weeks ago we had a special guest at Providence. Sokreaksa Himm is a survivor of the Killing Fields in Cambodia. His father was a teacher when the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Cambodian government in 1975. They were particularly brutal to anyone who was part of the intellectual class, so his family was relocated to a village where they were forced to work in the fields as part of being re-educated. The “Forgiveness Project” website tells his story thus:
In 1977 at the age of 14, Sokreaksa “Reaksa” Himm saw 13 members of his family murdered by Khmer Rouge soldiers in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Miraculously surviving the massacre, Reaksa swore revenge against the men responsible for the loss of his family. Years later, after surviving the horrors of refugee camps and roving death squads, Reaksa had a life-changing conversion to Christianity that gave him a whole new reason to seek the murderers: to forgive them. … Reaksa authored two books on the tragedy and his journey to forgiveness: ‘The Tears of My Soul’ and ‘After the Heavy Rain’. There is also currently a film in production called ‘Reaksa: A True Story of Forgiveness’

After years of surviving the “Killing Fields”, I, along with my father and brothers were dragged to the edge of a mass grave and slashed with machetes and clubbed with hoes. Minutes later, I awoke in the grave in a pile of my dead and dying relatives. I was able to climb out and hide in nearby weeds when the killers left to round up my female relatives and complete their macabre mission.
When they returned, they murdered my mother and sister. As the soldiers threw dirt on the people who were my entire life, I swore revenge. I was alone, hungry and scared and in the coming weeks I made my way across the jungle, avoiding soldiers by day and sleeping in trees by night to escape roaming tigers. I eventually found my way to the “safety” of a succession of refugee camps all the while planning and plotting the deaths of the men who murdered my loved ones.
I fled to Thailand and spent five horrific years in refugee camps, including Khao-I-Dang, before immigrating to Canada. There, I would come to an even greater moment of truth when I eventually came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Through years of Bible study and communion with God, I started a new life in the west but could not release myself from the prison of hatred, anger and vengeance. I discovered that forgiveness truly is divine and that as the years passed, my blood oath and all consuming ire were in direct conflict with my new nature. [DC: In our chapel Reaksa described their vows in this blood oath—to find his family’s killers and take revenge; if he could not, to become a Buddhist monk; if he could do neither of these, to leave Cambodia forever.]
The anger against the killers was as great as the grief for my family and it burned inside me like a great ball of fire. For years I cultivated elaborate fantasies in which I tortured and murdered the killers again and again, projecting all my rage and pain I bottled inside myself in my plans for what I would do to the men when I found them. I realized that I would never know true peace until I had dealt with this as well. I had to find a way of forgiving them, before the bitterness inside destroyed me. …
I began to meditate on the Bible, and I found in the book of Psalms a wonderful source of support and comfort. Here was someone like me, David, who had known despair and who was not afraid to cry out to God in pain and anguish. Across the centuries I heard the voice of a man who wept and cried to his God, and yet who always reaffirmed the reality of God’s ability to keep him safe.
Forgiveness doesn’t come through vengeance, and neither does forgetting: no amount of violence could erase my memories. So I gave up my urge to inflict pain on those who had hurt me and killed my family. I knew it wouldn’t help, and nursing those desires was only damaging me; my emotional, spiritual, physical and psychological being.
In time I discovered that forgiveness opens a channel for real spiritual power to work in my life; a power which brings healing and wholeness.
In the years that followed, I began a new mission: one that still included finding the men responsible for the deaths of my loved ones but for a new purpose. I no longer wanted to seek their deaths, but to tell them of the life and hope that I found.
I eventually found two of the men involved in my family’s deaths, in the very village and among the very people they terrorized over two decades before. Initially on hearing that I wanted to meet the men to forgive them, many people thought that my plan was just another attempt to locate the men so that I could take my revenge. To the surprise of the men and most of the villagers, I shook hands with the two men and forgave them. []

In our chapel Reaksa told how he had come to Providence after his conversion to do an MA in counselling. He went on to finish a doctoral degree in Psychology, but it was this act of forgiveness that set him and his enemies free from the power of hatred and fear. He showed us pictures of him giving the men three gifts—a scarf, a Bible, and a new shirt—as symbols of his forgiveness. He told us how they trembled when he embraced them. He talked of the fear they had felt when ordered to do the executions, or face the loss of their own families.

Another part of the story, a wonderful piece of the absurd and overflowing grace of God, is the beginning of “Hockey Night in Cambodia”. Reaksa began two schools—one for younger children, and a high school. Since the young people had nothing to do after school, he introduced them to hockey, which became a passion while he was here. Somehow, I don’t know how, he connected with some NHL players who have helped to promote hockey in Cambodia. God’s overflowing grace brings life into places we could never predict! (I found some YouTube videos about the work done in Reaksa’s village, as well as a Vancouver Sun story from 2011 on this phenomenon. I also found evidence of a Hockey Night in Cambodia league in the capital, Phnom Penh, but I don’t know if these are at all connected to each other.)

We come to Easter Sunday through the quiet Sabbath of Holy Saturday. Like the two disciples walking to Emmaus, we are trying to make sense of our lives. We have experienced loss—the death of a spouse or a parent, the loss of relationships, a miscarriage so that an anticipated child never arrives, dreams that have died, hopes that have failed. As we walk through life we wonder what has happened to us, and where God is to be found.

Then we notice Jesus walking with us. He begins to re-interpret and re-structure our lives and our losses. I don’t mean that we understand why someone died or why someone broke relationship with is, but God acts so that our loss becomes a place where the tomb brings forth life. Life himself walks with us. As Reaksa’s example shows, God brings life out of death—if we ask God to!

We meet Jesus again as (in C.S. Lewis’ words) “the One who was so full of life that, when he wished to die, he had to borrow death from others.” We realize that Jesus borrowed our own death, our sins, our losses, our pains, our very self; and he gives us back our selves alive with the resurrection. We learn what the Friday prayer in the Anglican Prayer Book means:
Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Having learned the prayer of the cross, we then can pray the Resurrection Sunday prayer of victory:
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Steinbach Mennonite Church
16 April 2017
Luke 24:13-35

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Gail and Denise

Forty years ago we stood at the front of the BIC church in Nappanee. Gail stood waiting for Denise [which I'm sure has never happened since]. Lois was playing the organ. Denise walked down the aisle, and soon they were pronounced "man and wife". I assume it was "man and wife" or "husband and wife" or some such formula: I am not at all sure from this vantage point 40 years later.

Memories of 40+ years. I remember Denise standing in front of the picture window in our living room, waiting for Gail, who ignored tornado warnings to drive in to be with her. (Note: Do not ignore tornado warnings in northern Indiana!) I remember Gail playing basketball with Leah, enjoying his daughter's career as much as he had enjoyed his own. I remember visits on the corner of his Dad's farm, where they built their house. I remember the move into Nappanee when their lives changed direction just over 20 years ago. I remember a little brown dachshund, followed by a small white dog and larger white dog. Denise loves dogs, and they would probably still have three or four if she did all the choosing ....

We have had the usual brother and sister interactions. We have also enjoyed laughter as we played games--there are few people more fun to enjoy an evening with. We have had serious talks--there are few people who have grown as much in wisdom, both in their work lives and in their church. Last Christmas, they talked about God's work in their lives in a remarkable and dramatic way.

Forty years ago we stood in the church. This past weekend they celebrated 40 years together. Lois and I are far away in Manitoba (occasionally reminding them that they need to get passports so they can visit us), wishing we could be there too. Happy Anniversary to a wonderful couple, whom we love very much forever.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Living the Dream

Our intention was to hear from Mennonite Central Committee today. I am not familiar enough with the ministries of MCC—except in the general way that most of us are—to speak directly about them, but I can lift up the desire to respond to human need in the name of Christ that lies at the centre of MCC’s identity. With that in mind, I want to reflect on the experience of our son and daughter-in-law in South Bend, Indiana. They are students at Notre Dame, finishing their graduate studies (we hope) over the coming year. For the past five and a half years they have made their home in the Near-Northwest Neighborhood of South Bend. I want to tell you a little bit of what has been happening over the past 20+ years in this part of South Bend.

We read Psalm 130 this morning. The psalmist calls on God for help because life is hard. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O God.” The psalmist expects God to answer: “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” The Psalmist encourages all Israel to expect God to answer: “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”

We also, and many people around us, are in trouble. We also call on God for help. We also can expect God to help us, as indeed God saved the Psalmist from his trouble, and God redeemed all Israel from their sins and from the consequences of their sins. Sometimes we think that this whole process is purely spiritual, but of course it involves the whole person, spiritual and physical. Sometimes we think that God acts only directly on the individual, but of course God acts directly and indirectly, directly on the person and indirectly through God’s people. Further, it is always God who helps us—whether directly or indirectly. Just as only God could raise Lazarus from the dead, and just as only God could redeem Israel, God is the author of our salvation, even when all we see is a friend coming to help us out of a jam.

Jesus’ well-known parable of the Good Samaritan makes the point that our love for God and our love for each other are bound up together. We love God by loving and helping each other, and we receive God’s salvation from God and through other people. The story of the Near Northwest Neighborhood is a story of God’s work in this world, through God’s people acting as the hands and feet of Christ.

Some History
You can read about this area of South Bend in more detail by googling “Near Northwest Neighborhood South Bend” and following the results to their home page. As I looked through their web site, I found a PDF of the NNN’s goal in revitalizing the area. Here is an excerpt:
In 1974, neighbors got together to discuss the formation of an association to promote and stabilize home ownership in the near northwest neighborhood of South Bend. They formed the South Bend Homeowners of the Near Northwest, Inc. In 1994, the neighborhood association was transformed into a Community Development Corporation, with an executive director, paid staff members and the ability to buy homes it could rehabilitate and resell. Today, the Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. is the descendant of this early organization.

As a Community Development Corporation (CDC), the Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc.’s primary focus is the acquisition, rehabilitation, and sale of homes to low-moderate income buyers—in order to revitalize the urban community while also increasing home ownership. However, the NNN, Inc. would be remiss if it did not also promote neighborhood leadership and the interests of the current residents through inviting the community to participate in a variety of social and environmental programs. There have been many accomplishments including Adopt-a-Block litter reduction campaigns, standardized trash container implementation, voter registration drives, community oriented policing initiatives and the organizing of activities to promote the neighborhood such as the Arts Cafe. Leadership has remained in the hands of the neighborhood residents through a board of directors and a committee structure to carry out the work.

This excerpt hints at something that the web page does not say explicitly: That is, that the neighbourhood had become particularly rundown and prone to crime. Drug dealers and drug addicts had moved into an historic South Bend district, and the area was well on the way to becoming a ghetto area within South Bend. In that context, the actions of the NNN and the CDC take on greater significance.

Our Connection: The NNN today
We learned about the Near Northwest Neighborhood when Nevin and Alison were looking for a home to buy. They had moved to South Bend to study at Notre Dame, and they did not want to continue renting, so they entered the housing market.

They learned about the NNN, close to the university, a place where abandoned houses were being reconditioned and sold to people entering the housing market. The basic process is as follows. Houses in the ghetto were abandoned, and drug dealers and addicts would use them for deals and for shooting up. Long-time residents learned to keep their heads down and see as little as possible. Many of them were good people, but they could not stop a deteriorating situation.

The development corporation responded to this growing area of rundown housing, which was moving from the south to the north in the neighbourhood, by identifying abandoned houses, buying them, and then either tearing them down, or reconditioning them for sale. They would gut a house whose structure was fundamentally sound, and then put in new wiring and new heating and cooling. The result is a 100-year old house that you can insure at new housing rates!

I remember a conversation with Nevin and Alison in which Ali observed that one could track the building by observing crime statistics in the area. As houses were rebuilt and new owners moved in, crime moved west beyond the area that had been reclaimed. They ended up buying a house in which they have now lived for almost six years. The problems of the inner city are nearby, but they have watched as the area comes back to life. They have seen gradual changes. The house across the alley from them was vacant, and at one point they saw drugs being sold on its front porch. Now that house also has been renovated and sold.

There are a variety of other aspects to the renewal of this part of town. The NNN web page refers to one of these, The Local Cup. Here is how the web page describes it:
Join your fellow neighbors for coffee, tea, cocoa, delicious muffins, and friendly conversation. The coffee shop runs on a pay-it-forward model, so your coffee will have already been paid for by a generous neighbor! Want to pay it forward in return? Buy another neighbor’s coffee! It’s a new way to pay, but don’t worry, we make it simple. Best of all, we are building community, gratitude and generosity. We look forward to serving you! The coffee shop aims to support local producers. We use locally roasted Zen Coffee, Scherf’s Farm milk and Cyn’s Fruitful Muffins.

Community Meals
There is one other piece to this story, and this is the part that connects to the way that I understand the work of MCC.

One of the first couples (members of Kern Road Mennonite Church) to move in to the Near Northwest Neighborhood under the development program had a strong commitment to peace and justice, which they lived out in a simple and practical way. They decided to have a potluck meal with several other families in the neighbourhood, also from Kern Road Mennonite Church.

Over time they invited other families, and eventually opened it up to anyone in the neighbourhood. Every other Friday evening anyone who wants to from the neighbourhood joins in a “community potluck meal”. They rotate the host home through those wishing to take part, and anyone who wants to join in comes along, carrying in whatever they bring for the community to share a meal together. Over 20 years later, families from the NNN continue to share a community meal together every other Friday evening.

This simple step, eating together, has helped transform an area of town into a real community of people who care for each other as well as live in the same area. One result has been to create the space within which neighbours watch each other’s homes and call the police when someone tries to break in. we heard of one woman whose house was broken into while she was at work. She lost one small portable TV because a neighbour saw the break-in and called the police. In the past she would have lost much more.

Another result has been to nurture relationships so that when we walk down the street with Nevin and Alison, they talk to various people we pass. When we visit them at Christmas, we normally find ourselves in another neighbour’s house, singing Christmas carols together. This is another consequence of the growth of relationships within a place once known for becoming like a ghetto. They have become a “front-porch neighbourhood”.

The Point
We don’t need to see the story I am telling as an idealistic romance, pretending that the normal problems of human living disappear when we just care for each other and eat together. The usual problems of life continue. Indeed, in a way they are made deeper. When a neighbour’s four-year old daughter was hit by a car recently, the whole community immediately gathered round and began the process of walking through her recovery together. She was crossing the street to the Friday evening community meal when she was hit. Being together in community gives us greater reserves to draw on; it also means that we suffer with and for others.

[If you don’t want that, you can sing Paul Simon’s song, “I am a rock”; but you will have to leave life and love behind.]

The actions of the NNN and the CDC do not simply fix everything about the area. Common meals do not solve all the problems of life. Problems remain, of course, but these actions do illustrate what it means to live as God’s people in this world. We see people around us and we become Christ’s hands and feet for them. We “give them a cup of cold water in Christ’s name”, and God begins the process of transforming our lives. We do this far away—in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, and we do this next door—in South Bend and Winnipeg. We do this here at home in Steinbach.

As we do this, the words of Psalm 130 come alive.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

We discover that God is indeed present in all of our lives, and most especially present in our troubles, as we turn to God and as we turn towards each other. We love God, and we love each other. And in our common meals and restored houses God’s Spirit moves, creating the kind of community that reflects the reign of God.

Steinbach Mennonite Church
2 April 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Voice from the Great War

I have an old book, Heath Readings in the Literature of England (edited by Cross and Goode, 1927). It was my mother’s book from her high school days. It has sat by my elbow for occasional reading over the past couple of years. It ends with an essay by John Galsworthy, “Castles in Spain”, written just after the First Great War in 1921.

Here are some words from near the end of the essay:
Fear is at the back of nearly all the savagery in the world; and if there be not present in the individual that potent antidote—the sense of human dignity, which is but a love of and belief in beauty, he must infallibly succumb to fear.
He adds:
… democracy has no greater enemies than her unthinking friends. Short sight is her danger, short sight verging on blindness. What will happen if democracy really goes blind? She must have an ideal, a star on which to fix her eyes—something distant and magnetic to draw her on, something to strive towards, beyond the troubled and shifting needs, passions, and prejudices of the moment. Lovers of beauty, those who wish to raise the dignity of human life, should try to give her that ideal, to equip her with the only vision which can save the world from spite and the crazy competition which leads thereto.

How precisely these words describe our lives today! Galsworthy wrote as the world rested from a debilitating war, which had exhausted and terrified everyone. We read his words in the context of relative peace and prosperity, but politicians in Europe and North America have stoked the fires of fear in order to gain power. “Fear is at the back of nearly all the savagery in the world …”

We have reasons to fear. The breakdown of various societies is cause for fear—problems in Somalia and Syria have their results in North America and Europe. But fear is a poor guide for policy. Fear can make our democracy blind, blind through a short-sighted focus on the symptoms of social breakdown. A longer view would see the underlying causes and identify possible courses of action to restore society.

An even longer view grows out of a clear eye focussed on beauty and good. I want to identify closely with the true and the good, where the greatest beauty and joy is found, rather than focus on the fears that swirl around us, stoked by politicians from every side. We can and should live prudently, aware of the dangers of life. We cannot and should not orient our lives to fear, but rather hold on what Galsworthy calls “castles in Spain”, our highest and best ideals.

Living by fear, we become consumed with the problems of our world. Living into our highest ideals, we become ourselves truly good, truly beautiful.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

We Thirst

We know the story well. Jesus was travelling from Judea back north to Galilee. He and his disciples passed through Samaria, where their outcast cousins, the Samaritans, lived. You remember that the Samaritans were the descendants of the people that Ezra and Nehemiah pushed out of the faithful community, because they had intermarried with the surrounding people while the faithful were carried off into exile. When the faithful remnant returned, they sought a pure community and would not accept those who had compromised their worship of the true God during the exile. [This is an over-simplified statement. The roots of the two communities go back to the Twelve Tribes and continue today, but this is enough to begin with. Research into the two communities is a fascinating project.]

So Jews and Samaritans had a centuries-old rivalry: Cousins (almost, one would say, brothers and sisters) who really could not get along. Why Jesus chose to go through rather than around Samaria the story doesn’t say. It was the most direct route, but the story just tells us they had to go that way. They stopped at a place called Sychar, where Jacob their mutual ancestor [the ancestor of the Jews and of the Samaritans] had built a well. The disciples went into town to get supplies, and Jesus rested by the well. The stage is set for a memorable encounter.

A Samaritan woman comes out from the city to draw water. She is alone in the middle of the day, which suggests that she is not welcome in the city—a bad character. Jesus asks her for water, an amazing request given that he is a Jewish male. I have wondered if he might have been able to order her to give him water, so that the surprise came in his courtesy. I don’t know.

In any case the request leads to conversation, in which she reveals her outcast state and Jesus reveals his true identity as the Messiah. Jesus shows himself as one who is greater than Jacob, their mutual ancestor, and as one who can satisfy the deepest human needs, not just the immediate need for food and drink. As the conversation moves into matters of the Spirit, Jesus points beyond human worship [this mountain, Mount Gerizim, or Mount Zion—in which exchange Jesus affirms himself as a Jew, with the true worship of God in Jerusalem, verse 22] to worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

In this last exchange Jesus makes it clear that the answer to her question of where they should worship God is a secondary issue—verses 21 and 23—and that the real issue is how they worship God. The real issue is their relationship with the true God, who comes in the Messiah. The woman affirms her belief in the Messiah, and Jesus reveals himself to her in his closing words, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

There are so many things going on this passage that we cannot deal with, so we confine ourselves to our Lenten theme. The movement between human thirst and divine thirst (verses 7-15) gives the theme for this Sunday of Lent: “We thirst.” The woman thirsted for food and drink, physical needs. She thirsted for relationships, a stable family life, for emotional needs. She thirsted most of all for someone who understood her to the core and accepted her as she was, for spiritual needs.

We also thirst. We thirst for physical security, for relational fulfillment, and for communion with God.

The passage begins with a comment on baptism: “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” These baptisms were the cause of his trip from Judea north. Somehow the whole episode is connected to baptisms.

The connection is chronological, rather than logical. Jesus was not ready for the full-blown confrontation that he knew was coming, so he left the area. But baptism is still the precipitating factor: baptisms of repentance, which would lead to the baptism of the Spirit. Further, Jesus’ disciples baptized with water, and water links the baptisms with the woman at the well. Water from the well satisfied physical thirst. Jesus the living water satisfies our thirst for God. We are baptized with water, symbolizing our union with Jesus in his death and resurrection.

So baptism stands as a continuing symbol of Jesus the living water who meets all of our needs—physical, emotional, and spiritual. But there is a question: How to we receive this living water? The Samaritan woman clearly received Jesus. How do we do this? How do we receive this inner well that springs up into eternal life (verse 14)? A passage that may give us some help is found in Psalm 1.

Two Thoughts
First thought: Psalm 1 was one of the first passages of Scripture I learned as a young boy.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Verse two answers our question by saying that the righteous person is one who mediates on God’s law continually. In New Testament terms, we could quote Jesus telling the disciples to “abide in me as I abide in you.” Verse three adds that such abiding makes us “like a tree planted by streams of water, blossoming and bearing fruit, and prospering in all he or she does.”

So we become this person by meditating on God’s Law and God’s Son so that we are planted [the word means “transplanted”—taken from a place without water and re-planted] beside the river of water that is Christ. The Samaritan woman moved from desolation to a life of joy and fulfillment when she met Jesus. She was planted by the river, drawing on the living water in all of her life.

But verse 3 contains a continuing problem. We all know someone who has walked with God and suffered greatly. “Whatever that person does will prosper”—these are hollow words when we look at the heartache that many in our own church family have experienced. Taken the wrong way, they suggest that our misfortune is our own fault, which is I believe a misreading of what Scripture says.

I first preached on this passage about 35 years ago. I was a young pastor in Pennsylvania, and I remember sitting in my study wrestling with this third verse. I believe that sometimes misfortunes are our own fault. We make bad choices, and suffer the consequences. I believe that sometimes they are not our fault. We are in the wrong place at the wrong time and something happens to devastate our lives. I do not believe that the righteous person simply has a good and easy life. Reality is just not that way.

As I worked on the sermon, I was unable to resolve the problem this verse gave me, especially in light of the lives of the people in my church—people who loved the Lord, but were struggling with the hardships of life. I left my desk and sat down in an armchair close by to think and to pray. I don’t know what happened then, but the next thing I remember is finding myself beside a hillside—it was not a vision in the sense of a dream; I was simply there. Looking up at the hill I saw three crosses with three men on them. I came to myself again in my room, lying on the floor. I don’t remember lying down. I just remember waking up with the sight of three crosses on a hillside in my mind.

I have never received any other answer to the dilemma of Psalm 1:3—only the cross. It reminds me of what the Samaritan woman experienced. She had problems she might have wanted solved, and instead she met a man who understood her inside and out, and who invited her to worship God in spirit and in truth. Recognizing him as the Messiah, the anointed one sent by God, was all that she needed. Her problems may have remained, but she was a new person.

Similarly, when I stood at the cross with the problems of my congregation and the words of Psalm 1, I needed only to be there. It was, if you will, a reminder of my baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. We meet Jesus, and Jesus meets our thirst for life and meaning. Our problems remain, but we are different and can deal with our problems.

Second thought: Embracing life on the margins
Like the Samaritan woman we come to church looking for what we need. Maybe we come in confidently, sure of our place. Maybe we hope no one notices us. Someone might look for a time that the doors are open so they can sit and pray without worrying about who might say something to them. We thirst for a renewal of our baptism. We thirst for God’s Spirit to be poured out in our lives, for the living water of Christ.

Something that impresses me in the story of the woman at the well is the way in which God was present with two people who were so marginalized by the larger society around them. On the one side was the woman, coming out in the heat of the day to avoid causing more scandal. On the other side was a Jewish man, who (if she had known it) was avoiding trouble with the authorities in Jerusalem—the son of a carpenter heading home to Galilee. And God was there.

I teach World Religions. Consider the founders of the great religions.
·        The Buddha was a prince turned religious leader.
·        The Mahavira (found of the Jain religion) was also from a royal family.
·        Muhammad came from the family of a clan leader in Mecca (although he was an orphan from the age of two).

Only Judaism and Christianity have founders with slave or servant origins. Moses was a slave raised as the son of Pharaoh, and Jesus was the son (so people thought) of a carpenter in the northern backwater of Galilee. [Jesus was also of the line of David, but from a branch of the family far outside the city of David, Bethlehem.]

I am not arguing for the distinctiveness and truth of Christianity, but observing something simpler and more important. Christian faith comes from the marginalized and for the marginalized of the world. The woman asked if the true centre of worship was Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim—the centres of power as she knew them. Jesus pointed her directly to God, outside the structures of power.

We are accustomed to looking to the centres of power and to influential people for help. God normally comes to us through marginalized people. Alfred Neufeld tells the story of a Frist Nations people in the Chaco of South America (What We Believe Together, 104f). The Guidai-Gosode people are part of a war-loving group known as the Ayoreos. Through missionary contact, they became Christians. When they began reading the New Testament in their own language they discovered the Sermon on the Mount and concluded that they must make peace with their cousins, the Totobie-Gosode, with whom they had had many conflicts. They located them with the help of bush pilots, and then walked into their territory as an unarmed delegation. They decided before they left that some of them would die, because they had killed many of the Totobie-Gosode. Neufeld describes the contact thus: “The first minutes of the encounter were very violent. The Totobie-Gosode killed five of the visitors and badly injured four others  from the Guidai-Gosode peace delegation. But when they noticed that their visitors behaved in a completely nonviolent way, the killing stopped, they made peace, and together they returned to the village … to live and learn with their former enemies.”

I did a bit of checking in secular sources and found the incident described, but without any awareness of the gospel of peace. The missionaries simply “sedentarized” the nomadic Gosode peoples, who in turn fought with each other when one group tried to make contact. Both the missionaries and the Gosode were seen as of little worth in the eyes of the writer. But they brought peace where there had been conflict and life where there had been death. For us also, as we embrace those on the margins, indeed, those whom we ourselves have marginalized, God brings us life springing up within us.

We thirst, and we turn to God, and God meets us and transforms us. God comes to us through people we might look down on and meets us and changes us. God makes us people who pursue peace. God makes us people who invite other people into a radical re-orientation of our lives that does not seek to win, but seeks rather to be reconciled with God and with each other.

Steinbach Mennonite Church
19 March 2017
John 4:1-26
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”