You will find below a morning prayer service for 15 March designed for in-home use. We continue our Lenten journey in prayer, Scripture reading, and reflection. Tomorrow’s Scripture reading is the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at Jacob’s well from John 4. It is a story familiar to many of us, but it takes on new meaning as we face increasing social isolation. The morning prayer service is designed to be used by your family or alone. If you have a candle at home, start your worship time by lighting a candle and asking for Christ to be present with you. There is one song that I have included in the service and I have provided a link to YouTube video of the song. Feel to sing along to the YouTube video.
A Service of In-Home Morning Prayer
English-Speaking United Methodist Church of Vienna
15 March 2020 • Third Sunday in Lent
The household gathers together
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my thoughts.
HYMN—Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
(sing along with a YouTube version of the song – https://youtu.be/JwuDSw-9cUQ)
1 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
2 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.
4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Almighty God, we open our hearts to you. As we worship you at home today, may the Holy Spirit be with us. May your presence in our lives and in our homes be known. Calm our fears and anxieties. Teach us your ways. Grant us your peace which passes all understanding. Amen.
SCRIPTURE LESSON—John 4:5-42 CEB (The Samaritan Woman Encounters Jesus at Jacob’s Well)
5 He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.
9 The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)
10 Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.”
17 The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.”
“You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus answered. 18 “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”
19 The woman said, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you and your people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You and your people worship what you don’t know; we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. 24 God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.”
27 Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus.
31 In the meantime the disciples spoke to Jesus, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”
33 The disciples asked each other, “Has someone brought him food?”
34 Jesus said to them, “I am fed by doing the will of the one who sent me and by completing his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then it’s time for harvest’? Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest. 36 Those who harvest are receiving their pay and gathering fruit for eternal life so that those who sow and those who harvest can celebrate together. 37 This is a true saying, that one sows and another harvests. 38 I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work hard for; others worked hard, and you will share in their hard work.”
39 Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of the world.”
If you are worshipping at home with other people, use the questions for a discussion about the text. If you are worshipping alone, use the questions during a time of silent reflection, or call a friend to discuss the questions.
The lectionary—our schedule of readings—assigns John 4 as today’s Gospel reading. It is a story familiar to many of us—the story of the Samaritan woman encountering Jesus at Jacob’s well.
Taking place early in Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus was traveling from Jerusalem and the Judean region back to his home region of Galilee. In Jerusalem, Jesus had chased the money changers out of the Temple (John 2), met Nicodemus by night and told he must be born again (John 3), and taught his disciples in the Judean countryside (John 3). Jesus then received news that the Pharisees had heard about Jesus’ ministry of baptizing and making disciples, so Jesus decided to return home to avoid confrontation with the Pharisees.
Jesus decided to take the shortest route via the region of Samaria to travel home. During the time of Jesus, Jews like Jesus would have avoided Samaria, instead taking routes to and from Jerusalem via the Jordan River valley or the Mediterranean coastline. Originally the home to 10 of the tribes of Israel and later described as the Northern Kingdom or the Kingdom of Israel, Samaria was later conquered by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC. From the perspective of the Southern Kingdom or the Kingdom of Judea (the area in and around Jerusalem), the people of Samaria had intermarried with their conquerors and failed to follow the religious teachings which came from Jerusalem. The Samaritans even had their own Temple on Mt. Gerizim and had a different interpretation of the teachings and laws of Moses. By the time of Jesus, Jews (those who believed in the religious teachings of Jerusalem) despised the Samaritans and avoided the region entirely. Given this history and relationship between Jews and Samaritans, it is surprising that Jesus traveled home to Galilee through Samaria.
Further astonishing is that Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman. We meet Jesus alone and sitting by Jacob’s well in v. 4 as his disciples go and buy food. In v. 5 the Samaritan woman comes around noon to draw water. According to custom, Jews like Jesus and Samaritans like the woman should not interact with each other. Furthermore, men and women should avoid interaction. A man should not interact or speak with a woman.
There are not many details about the woman, but we do know a few things about her. First, the woman comes to the well at midday. In climates that are hot, people go to fetch water in the early morning and early evening to avoid the harsh heat and sun. Instead, the Samaritan woman comes at midday, presumably to escape interaction with other people. She’s developed a reputation in the village as we later find out as she confesses to have had five husbands and is now living with man to whom she is not married. More on this point later. Second, we know that she is theologically astute. She understands her own religious tradition as well as its differences with Judaism. Third, she is spiritually thirsty. She is searching for something to give her life, to satisfy her soul, and sustain her throughout her life.
We should be careful about our assumptions of the Samaritan woman. People now as in Jesus’ time like to gossip. We know that the woman had five husbands and was living with another man. In our contemporary times, we are quick to judge her sexual immorality and her perceived promiscuity. But we should also remember that it is not possible for woman to seek divorce in the time of Jesus. Women in the time of Jesus had zero social standing. Possibly, the Samaritan woman who in her quest for love, security attention, and affection married all the wrong men. Her relationship with men in the village made her the target of the village’s gossip as well as a social outcast. She spent much of her say in social isolation and was removed from community. No wonder she went to fetch water at the hottest point of the day; she did not want to see her neighbors.
Jesus offered her Living Water. Without a doubt, this woman was looking for something which she could not find in her other relationships. Jesus grants her security of forgiveness, love, and eternal life in the face of uncertainty. Jesus offers her a life filled with meaning and purpose. Jesus quenches all her needs by offering a new relationship and a way of life. Jesus said, “those who drink of the [living] water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:14 NRSV).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
- Have you ever been a social outcast? Or have you been part of the community that has gossiped about others and pushed them out of the community? Describe what it was like. Have you healed these broken relationships? If yes, what did it take? If no, what is keeping you from mending these relationships?
- We are quick to judge and often fail to take time to understand others. Have you even been harshly judged? Or realized that you have judged too quickly? How does the story in John 4 change how you judge others?
- Too often we let differences and boundaries like ethnic identity, past history, religion, and culture divide us. Yet, Jesus crosses boundaries to share God’s love. How are you called or what have you done to cross boundaries to share God’s love, forgiveness, and eternal life?
- The Samaritan woman faced social isolation every day as she was cut off from her community. While our situation is different from the Samaritan woman, we face increasing isolation and disconnection from community as we deal with the COVID-19 coronavirus. How can you stay connected with others during this time? How might you reach out during this time when the government is asking us to reduce social interaction with others and share God’s enduring message of hope, love, and forgiveness?
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (read aloud)
Let us affirm our faith.
We are not alone, we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating;
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new;
who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the church:
to celebrate God’s presence;
to live with respect in creation;
to love and serve others;
to seek justice and resist evil;
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (silently or aloud)
Today, we pray
- for those affected by the COVD-19 coronavirus— for those diagnosed with the virus, for medical professionals who care for affected patients, for those in quarantine and unable to be with family and friends, and for those who feel isolated and distressed;
- for our leaders in Austria—President Van der Bellen, Chancellor Kurz, government ministers, justices
- of the courts, members of parliament—that God may grant them wisdom, prudence, and foresight to make good decisions;
- for asylum-seekers and refugees that God may grant them protection and safe harbor;
- for our congregation—the English-Speaking United Methodist Church of Vienna;
- for ourselves that God grant us love, peace, and faith at this anxious time.
We also pray for (add your personal prayers)….
Gathering the prayers of our lips and the prayers of our hearts, we pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
BLESSING (read aloud)
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and forever.