Edited: Aug 12
20190714 Sunday Worship Sermon
"Encounter, Conversation, And Change " (John 4:3-14, 39-42)
People do not make friends through “pen-pal” nowadays but there was a time when pen-pal was once popular.
A young man in Taiwan came to know a woman through pen-pal.
He could not meet her in person because she lived far away, but he continued to write love letters to her.
He wrote two letters each day for a year, sending 700 letters to her.
But the young man could not earn the woman’s heart.
I think that if we received so many letters and confessions of love, we would fall in love with that person for sure.
But, the woman who received those letters got married to someone else.
Who did she get married to?
Yes, she married to the postman who delivered the letters.
The postman, who delivered 700 letters to her greeted the woman everyday face to face, they became acquainted, became friends, developed emotions of love, and eventually they got married.
Love letters are important.
Confessions of feelings are important.
However, it is hard to fall in love with somebody without meeting that person.
As we live this life, we encounter with many people.
An investigative agency survey said that we associate with about 800 people in our lifetime.
No matter how successful a person is, it is hard to keep up with meaningful relationships with more than 800 people.
Most ordinary people associate with less than 200 people.
With the development of social networks these days, friends and communities can be found anywhere in the world.
I also have about 1000 friends on my Facebook.
Honestly, I do not know everyone.
Many of them are my friends’ friends and knowing me through some other sources.
Whether it's online or in real life, it's true that we do not communicate and keep a meaningful relationship with many people.
Therefore, it is important ‘who’ we meet.
Depending on who you meet, the direction and purpose of life may change.
Even if it is just one person, the meeting with that person may bring a significance in your life.
Who did you come to meet here?
Did you just come to see someone here?
Or did you come to see me?
I hope we will meet Jesus here today.
I want to this church to be a place to meet Jesus.
Today’s scripture passage is about a Samaritan woman at the well who encountered with Jesus.
After meeting Jesus, there was a remarkable change in this woman’s life.
I want us to think deeper in this wonderful encounter, the conversation, and the change that took place.
In the Bible, we see many people encounter Jesus.
Among them, there were people who met Jesus and found the true meaning of life and changed.
However, some people have just returned without finding any meaning.
Sometimes there were people who betrayed Jesus and rejected him.
Not only in Jesus' time in the Bible.
It is the same now.
There are those who want to meet Jesus.
There are those who have met Jesus, but some people have not met.
There are those who met Jesus and live a changed life, others who refuse to meet with Jesus.
You have come to this place today putting aside other things to do.
You came to this place of worship.
On this beautiful Sunday, you could’ve gone somewhere to enjoy yourselves, or rested at home, or even met someone special but you put all these behind you and came to this place.
Then, should we not spend this time in vain?
We have to meet Jesus.
Like this woman who met Jesus by the well, I hope that this will be a time to meet with Jesus Christ for you and experience a wonderful new change in your life.
At the time of Jesus, Israel was a Roman territory divided into three parts.
When we look at the map of Israel land, it extends in length from north to south.
There was Galilee in the north, and Judea in the south, while Samaria was between Galilee and Judea.
But when the people from Judea traveled to Galilee, they bypassed without going through Samaria.
Going through Samaria will save a great deal of traveling time but people did not want to step into the land of Samaria.
The reason is that for a long time the Jewish people hated the Samaritans very much.
But we can find in the Bible that Jesus intentionally traveled through Samaria.
And when Jesus was resting by the well, tired from the traveling, he met a woman who came for water.
According to the Jewish law at that time, it is strictly prohibited for a man to greet a woman.
This accidental and unconventional encounter between Jesus and the woman at the Samaria well was in fact orchestrated by the grace of God.
When we think a little more deeply, we experience accidental and unconventional meetings.
But God orchestrated meetings all the time in our lives.
Do you think you came to this place of worship just by chance?
I don’t think so.
It was God's plan and God's Providence.
The famous philosopher Martin Buber said that there are two kinds of human encounters:
“I-You” relationship and the “I-It” relationship.
“I-You” is a relationship that stresses the mutual, holistic existence of two beings.
It is a concrete encounter, because these beings meet one another in their authentic existence, without any qualification or objectification of one another.
But, “I-It” relationship is nearly the opposite of the “I-You” relationship.
It is the relationship the beings do not actually meet.
Martin Buber, says that meeting with God is “I-You” relationship.
Moreover, we need to encounter people with this “I-You” relationship perspective.
There are also various aspects in our encounters with people.
As we live, we would meet three kinds of people.
The first kind is the person whom we should not meet.
If you meet someone you should not meet, your life will be unhappy.
You will be negatively affected.
Then, not only you but also the people around you get hurt.
The second kind is the person whom you do not form a meaningful relationship with.
It can be described as “I-It relationship” of Martin Buber.
And the third is the person whom we must meet.
Your parents or your spouse could be in this category.
These are the people who will guide, positively influence, provide resources, and stay true to us for a life long time.
We need these people around us and we must meet them.
What is the most important encounter we must have?
It must be with Jesus.
This encounter needs to be throughout our lives.
We must have a personal encounter with Jesus.
In the Bible, 12 disciples met Jesus.
Many other patients, sinners, and abandoned people met Jesus.
So far, they have met many people in their lives, but once they met with Jesus, amazing changes in their lives were made.
They have been settled in the matter of sin by meeting Jesus.
They were healed from illness by meeting Jesus.
They were liberated from what was entangled by meeting Jesus.
By meeting Jesus, they were recognized as children of God.
The encounter with Jesus changed their lives.
Such a meeting must be truly realized in our lives.
Jesus met a woman at the well in Samaria.
It was an encounter of “I-You.”
It was the ‘must to meet’ kind of meeting.
It was planned and orchestrated by God.
Brothers and sisters, I hope you to have such a meeting with Jesus here and now.
I hope you to experience such a meeting in your lives.
Now, Jesus begins a conversation with this woman.
It does not stop at the meeting.
Jesus solved the problem of the woman through conversation.
Jesus knows this woman's heart and speaks to her.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
Jesus opens the door of the conversation first.
He asked for some water.
Now Jesus wants to open this woman's heart.
He wants to open the door of conversation and the door of the heart by talking to her.
But how is this woman's reaction?
This woman said, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” "Why do you ask me for water?"
The reaction of this woman was, of course, justified by the social context of that time.
Jews never tried to speak to the Samaritans, especially to the Samaritan woman.
How did Jesus answer to this woman's cold reaction?
Jesus said, “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.”
Jesus already knew what this woman really needed.
So Jesus told the truth of eternal life through water.
The meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman was not for the purpose of getting a drink of water, but rather for a deep spiritual conversation.
Jesus entered into a deeper conversation.
Through conversation with this woman, Jesus revealed who he is.
The conversation did not seem to merge at first but Jesus continued and it got deeper.
The woman became curious.
She began to feel some authority from this stranger.
The woman began to sense spiritual authority from Jesus.
This spiritual authority derived from the deep conversation.
Jesus always said basic truths when he spoke to people.
The Jews expressed the thirst of their soul as water.
The prophet Isaiah also said,
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…”
The prophet Jeremiah has pointed out,
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
Likewise, Jesus' ultimate goal was not quenching his thirst.
Through conversation, Jesus wanted to save the woman’s soul.
Why do we meet, talk, and fellowship together in the Lord?
Is it all about eating, drinking, and having a good time?
No, it is about sharing God’s grace and having a deep Christian fellowship.
As we live, we meet and talk with many people.
However, there are times when our conversation ends in dispute and hurts our relationship.
But the conversation of the people in the grace of God will have to be different.
Building each other up, providing comforts, showing respect, and sharing deep spiritual fellowship is evident in the conversation among the people in Christ.
Now, what kind of change had happened to this woman who had a deep conversation with Jesus?
At first, the woman called Jesus as a Jew.
Later, she realized that Jesus was special so she called him a prophet.
And finally, she realized Jesus as Messiah.
Then there was a remarkable change in her mind.
Her perception of Jesus changed.
It was not that Jesus forced any change, but only a brief meeting and conversation, which caused her to have spiritual eyes.
When she met the Lord, it was not a problem to fill the jar with water.
Eating and drinking were no concerns at that moment.
When she met Jesus, she was thrilled with joy and excitement.
And she did not want to keep the joy alone, but she wanted to let people in the neighborhood know about it.
So she left her water jar and went back to the town and said to the people.
She was so excited that she ran around the neighborhood and told the people to come and see.
After this woman met Jesus and had a conversation with him, she was a changed person.
And she wanted to share the joy with others.
As we know, this woman had something that she wanted to hide.
However, after encountering with Jesus, she was no longer in shame.
After meeting with Jesus, she understood the true meaning of life.
She realized who she was.
She now found why she needs to believe and discovered the purpose of her life.
She could distinguish what to keep and what to let go.
She ran to the people in the neighborhood.
Yes, she knew what to do, her mission.
This is our Christian mission.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have to meet Jesus and find ourselves in him.
And you should share your joy and excitement with others.
This is evidence of changed self after meeting and conversation with Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, today, we have thought about true encounters, conversations, and changes.
Who is it that we must meet?
Who is the one we must first seek? Jesus Christ.
We must meet Jesus, our savior, our healer, counselor, and a friend.
It is because our encounter with Jesus changes our lives.
We also need to have a genuine conversation in the encounter with others.
Although there are many encounters and conversations, what should be the content of the true conversation as a Christian?
It must be a conversation sharing spiritual deep fellowship through God's Word.
It should be a conversation that encourages, respects and comforts each other.
Above all, it should be a conversation that reveals Jesus Christ and communicates the gospel.
Only such conversations can save people.
And we must change.
As we read the scripture today, we saw the woman who met Jesus at the well called Jesus as a Jew at first, then a prophet, and later Messiah.
Through genuine encounters, through deep conversation, internal changes must be made.
Brothers and sisters, I want this place to be the well of Samaria.
Like the woman at the well, I hope you will find the meaning of your lives by meeting Jesus, to change the content of your conversation, and to make amazing changes in your lives.
I hope that you will also be able to run to the people and share the gospel to those who do not know God.
I pray that you will all be blessed in the name of the Lord. Amen.