Sunday, February 24, 2008

God's Problem

Third Sunday Lent
Sunday, February 24, 2008
John 4:5-30, 39-42

There are several things we have in common. One of those is that we all have problems. Some of you have some really big problems you’re facing right now—maybe you have severe health problems or maybe money is really tight. Some of you are dealing with a bunch of little, but very annoying, problems—but they’re all seeming to pile up at once. Some of you may be thinking that you’re life actually is going pretty smoothly right now and you’re happy that you’re not dealing with heavy-duty problems—but you still know they’ll come. You still are dealing with the effects of problems you’ve faced in the past.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be free of problems? Couldn’t we be so much more productive if we didn’t have to deal with problems? Wouldn’t we be so much happier if we had problem-fee lives? Everyone endures problems. No one is perfect. No one is immune to pain and suffering.

Wouldn’t it be great to be God? Wouldn’t it be great to be above the fray? To have everything at your disposal; not be caught up in all the stuff that can go wrong? Wouldn’t it be great not to have any problems?

That would be great, all right. There’s only one problem: and that is that God has a problem. I know that’s easy to say. I know if I were standing before Him and His holy throne I’d be scared to death to say, “God, You have a problem.” But it is true. He’s a got a problem—and the even weirder thing is that I have an agnostic to thank for bringing this to my attention.

Normally, I would take anything an agnostic has to say about God as wrong or misinformed. But there’s a scholar who just wrote a book called God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer. Now, he’s wrong that the Bible fails to answer the question of suffering. And he’s wrong about what God’s problem is. But he’s actually right that God has a problem.

The Gospel reading for today shows us what that problem is. Jesus is in Samaria. Not really a place that a devout Jew likes to be in; the Jews and Samaritans didn’t exactly get along. But He’s there—because if He’s not going to make His way through the place, He’ll lengthen His trip from Judea to Galilee way farther than what most people would want.

So there He is in Samaria, and He’s tired. He’s thirsty and He’s gotta get off His feet. But He doesn’t have anything to drink. He’s got a problem we all face at times. We get tired, we get thirsty. We need to rest and find some water.

You might be thinking, “Well, if that’s God’s problem, then what’s the big deal?” And, as far as problems go, this certainly isn’t that big of a problem. Of course, He’s hungry, also. But that’s not really that big of a deal either, is it? But it’s just not enjoyable to be away from home; tired, thirsty, and having to wait for your friends to bring you some food. Jesus shouldn’t have much difficulty with this kind of a situation, though, since, after all, He’s God.

And that’s just the thing. God has a problem because He has chosen to have a problem. While we wish we could get rid of our problems, God takes on our problems. But not just our problems. Not just the stuff that goes wrong in our lives. Jesus went through all of those kinds of problems. He had bad days, He got tired, He experienced grief, people treated Him shamefully. But God’s problem is specifically our main problem. The problem. It is the problem of our sin. It is the problem of our guilt before Him. This is the problem He has taken on.

So if we think we’ve got problems, consider the problem God has. It is the weight of the sin and guilt of the world. Of every person who’s ever lived. Consider how we can’t escape the judgment of God. The woman at the well could not hide from Jesus her sin. It’s actually the thing that got her to see that He was more than just a man. And this is the man who chose to take on this woman’s problem. Not just all the stuff that was going wrong with her life—her messy divorces, her shacking up with some guy. Her PROBLEM. Her sin and guilt before the Almighty God. It was all her fault. She chose to sin against God. And yet, Jesus chose to take her sinfulness upon Himself. He chose instead to give her Living Water. Forgiveness for all of her sins. A clean slate.

No piling on more guilt on her already heavy problems. Just a simple offer of clear, refreshing Living Water. This is water that would make a mountain spring seem lacking. While it refreshes, it leaves you thirsty again. The Living Water Christ gives does not leave you thirsty. It leaves you with true refreshment. It actually gives you life. Water will keep you alive as long as you keep drinking it. The Living Water of Christ gives you life that is forever.

Someone has made the observation that if pain were water in the world we would all drown. There is a lot of pain, isn’t there? We all have problems. It would be wonderful if we could be relieved of our problems. But even God, who is perfect and above the fray, has a problem. His eternal love for the people He has created prompted Him to take on this problem. It is the problem of our sin, and taking it on Himself is the only solution for our problem of sin and guilt. He gives us Living Water so that we won’t drown in our Problem. We’ll still have problems, but our Lord has come to relieve us of our most serious and basic problem—our sin.

He’s got a problem, all right. But He dealt with this problem on the cross. Jesus didn’t just come to identify with us. He doesn’t just let us know that He empathizes with us in our problems. He who knew no sin came to be sin for us. He drank the cup of wrath of the Living God that we may drink of the Living Water of His Heavenly and eternal love for us. God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He offered the woman at the well Living Water. He offers you today the very same Living Water. If you think you’ve got problems, welcome to the club. We’ve all got them—including God. But while we’re all in the same boat with our problem of sin, our problem has actually become God’s Problem. He offers you today the very same Living Water. Drink from His Well. Hear His Word to you that you are forgiven. Remember that you are His, He has Baptized you with water and His Word. Receive His body and blood in His Holy Meal He gives you often. It is never too much of a problem for God to forgive you and give you rest for your soul. Amen.


No comments: