Saturday, March 26, 2011

A, Lent 3 - John 4:5-42 "A Promiscuous Person"

The choice of title for this sermon and its content may shock some of you. In it is the concept and word promiscuous which today means to have many different sexual partners. However, promiscuous has not always had a sordid meaning that’s been frowned upon. It’s only been viewed negatively in the last couple hundred years. Promiscuous is from the Latin word meaning “mix”, with the suffix “pro” which can mean “out in view”. And it’s this greater definition, “to be indiscriminate” or, “to willingly and openly mix”, to which the title points.

Nevertheless, one should not dismiss the pejorative and derogatory definition altogether, as there is a thread of similarity between one who takes indiscriminate sexual partners and the encouragement we will receive to throw caution to the wind in being faithfully indiscriminate in our calling as Christians.

A couple weeks back I received an email which told the readers to place themselves in the following position. I invite you to do the same.

You have just won a contest! You did not enter it but you were entered in it by someone else. Each morning your bank deposits $86,400.00 into one account for your use. But there are rules with this prize. The fine print! I know some of you are thinking, “Well that’s just typical!” But every game has rules! In fact everything has boundaries in place for a good reason. There are five rules in this prize.

The first three rules are: (1) Everything that you don’t spend during each day will be taken away from you. (2) You may not simply transfer money into another account. (3) You may only spend it. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400.00 for that day. Do you think these are good rules or bad rules?

Okay let’s hear the last two rules: (4) The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say, “It’s over, the game is over!” (2) It can close the account and you will not receive a new one. What would you personally do? You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right? Not only for yourself, but for all people you love, right? Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right? You would try to spend every cent, and use it all, right? How would you use the money? How would you use your prize? What would you do?

These rules highlight in us something very elementary about our natures. The rules might not seem fair because we tend to want to hoard things for ourselves; to have control, to have a little extra for a rainy day, so to speak! But the prize far outweighs our desire to amass the prize into a stockpile of wealth for all to see.

With this prize is so much money, would you end up losing it, having it taken away at the end of each day? After all there are only so many friends and family you could give money to. You could give it to others but at what cost? You might be seen to associate with those your friends and family do not approve. Even more so, you might begin to like these folk for their raw honesty in amongst the wrongness of their deeds, the weakness of their lives, the blame you think they deserved. Then again maybe you might perceive the cost to your image too great and let the money go each day, wasting it without giving it, perhaps? More on the prize later!

Recently, I heard the comment made that Christians should be promiscuous with their money and prudent with their sexuality. On pondering this thought for some weeks perhaps Christians could be promiscuous with their time and their talents as well. In that they could openly mix with those they wouldn’t normally mix, because of prejudice or perception.

Maybe this is the shrewdness into which Jesus is calling his followers, so the harvest is not wasted now that it’s ripe. Is God calling you to be promiscuous with yourself, your time, and your possessions? Is he calling you to be indiscriminate with others so they might receive the prize you have received? In your promiscuity are you like John the Baptist who allows Jesus to increase while you decrease?

Our society today is promiscuous in all the wrong ways. We are a little better at being prudent people when it comes to money, time, and our talents. We hoard for ourselves the very gifts we ought to be sharing with others, and yet more and more people are becoming more and more promiscuous in their sexual dealings.

What is happening in our person? What is happening in us? What are you allowing to happen in you? Could it be we’re trying to hoard for ourselves feelings and fun? How much fun is having time for acquiring wealth, possessions, sex, and individualism without love for neighbour, intimacy in marriage, and a caring community?

Jesus’ disciples went off to find food leaving Jesus to rest by Jacob’s well at Sychar (soo-khar) in Samaria. Incidentally, this town’s name is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to get drunk or tipsy”. So when his disciples returned and found Jesus speaking to a woman, who leaves when they arrive, they were surprised, amazed, they wondered and marvelled by what they witnessed. In other words, they looked down their noses at Jesus, for he a Jew was speaking to a Samaritan no less, but even greater a Samaritan woman. And for that to happen it made the disciples uncomfortable with suspicion.

Perhaps they thought she was a promiscuous woman plying Jesus with her sexuality. They said nothing though, for they really didn’t know anything. Imagine how their suspicions would have spiralled if they found out she had been married five times and was now with someone who wasn’t married!

But in fact, the Samaritan woman wasn’t being promiscuous as we know; she had just come to get water from the well. However, Jesus was being promiscuous, not sexually, but rather with the love of God and by love’s power. He was openly mixing with all people, allowing his life to be a well of water springing up to eternal life. He was indiscriminately and shrewdly opening the way of faith, so his heavenly Father might once again be the Father of many nations.

This was the promise made to the old man Abraham as God showed him all the stars in the sky, and confirmed at the temple in Jerusalem by the old man Simeon in his joyful blessing of God as he took the infant Jesus in his arms and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29–32 ESV)

God the Father sent Jesus to be a promiscuous person. He was not sexually promiscuous as are many today, but he came to those who are! He came to the watering hole thirsty, to a town whose name is Tipsy, not to get drunk, but to give the drink of life. He came to indiscriminately give of himself, in time, with the holiness he possesses discreetly hidden within. Yes! Jesus was every bit promiscuous as his heavenly Father intended him to be so all people might win the prize.

Now it’s time to return to the completion and your prize. $86 400 per day! It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, it is true. All of you get this prize every day! All of you have the mysterious bank account with the five simple rules. But your wealth is not money, it’s time!

Every one of you awake each day with a bank account of time – 86 400 seconds of life per day. And every one of you living as baptised children have a life to spend, prudently, shrewdly, and promiscuously so others too might receive each day a bank account of life, that is welling up to an eternity of life with God.

It’s not a magical competition, rather it’s life in all its mystery, being brought to completion in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension in glory to the right hand of the Father. Each awakening morning we receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life, and when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is not credited to us. Yesterday is forever gone.

In the email I received, it said this: What we haven’t lived up to that day is forever lost. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time… without warning. Well, what will you do with your 86,400 seconds? Aren’t they worth so much more than the same amount in dollars? Think about that, and always think of this: Enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think. So take care of yourself, and enjoy life!

This is true to a certain extent. However, the mystery of life we live in Christ is even better than personal enjoyment. It’s a life of love with the Saviour of the world; it’s a life of believing we’re receiving Jesus’ faithfulness to forgive. It’s an eternal life of faith and hope, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 ESV)

In you is the ability to be promiscuous, but what is it you are promiscuous with? God seeks to harvest through you, individually and as his church. He sends you out into this promiscuous world, into the harvest fields where not only are people being sexually promiscuous but where the deeper cause is a promiscuity of faith — an indiscriminate mixing of beliefs in all sorts of stuff people hold up as worthy.

What are you doing with yourself — your talents, your time, and your possessions? Are you prudently protecting these things for yourself as your gods? Or are you fully focused on Jesus Christ? If not let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Saviour of the world for forgiveness, so God might use you to be promiscuous, promoting his eternal love offered at the cross together with the gifts he has given you in this eternal life. Amen.