"That is the kind of people Abba God is out looking for:
those who are simply and honestly themselves before God in their worship.
God is sheer being itself—Spirit.
Those who worship God must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves,
in adoration [and in love].”
John 4:24 (The Message Interpretation)
This Sunday, we will hear scripture from John chapter 4:19-24. This passage appears at the end of the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Perhaps you remember the story -- Jesus is traveling through Samaria with his disciples. He stops at a well to get some water and asks the woman there (a Samaritan) to share some water with him. Now, remember, Jews and Samaritans did not get along. Though, geographically neighbors, they worshiped different gods in different places and did not interact with one another. This is why the story of the Good Samaritan is so radical and powerful: the person who stopped to assist the beaten man was a stranger, foreigner, even considered the man's enemy. And yet he was also the man's neighbor.
So when Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water, she is surprised to say the least. She and Jesus have a powerful exchange about faith and also about the woman's past. That brings us to what we will hear on Sunday. The woman asks Jesus where the correct place to worship is, and Jesus tells her that the time is coming, indeed it has already come, when what is important will not be where you worship or what group you belong to but how you worship. The Message Interpretation of the Bible reads: "Those who worship God must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
There is an incredible vulnerability in showing up in our very being, in our spirits, in our true selves. Jesus says that how we worship, how we show reverence, deep respect and love for God is by showing up honestly, authentically, humbly, with all of who we are. The sort of self knowledge and awareness this requires takes work. Good work, spirit work, but work none-the-less. And the work to integrate our whole selves, to not simply hide the parts we don't like or the wounded parts of the fearful parts, but to show up in our full and true selves -- whew. That's hard. And it can be a painful journey to get there. It is also a liberating journey.
And we know that showing up in this way is truly worship -- any of us who watched Karlene Snyder's testimony were connected to and inspired by Karlene's deep reverence and love for God that she shared with us by showing up authentically, with her spirit, with her whole and true self. We worshiped simply by witnessing her act of vulnerability and courage.
So, what parts of yourself are you hiding? What do you feel cannot be shared? Of what are you ashamed? What parts are hurting? God wants you to share those parts -- along with all the other parts -- with God. God wants you to know that your full self is beloved and created in God's divine image.
This is the extravagant welcome of the God of love that we proclaim! It may sound absurd -- to be truly and fully accepted and loved for all that we are. Sure, but Jesus taught this over and over again -- not that we earn salvation or love, but that we are loved already and that salvation is as simple as receiving that love. This is the gospel (good news!). This is God's grace and mercy. This is redemption and liberation. It may be hard to trust, but if we truly believe Jesus' teachings, then we can indeed trust that this is also true.
In peace and grace,