(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
The Gift of Imperfection
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
We often read the story of Jesus’ meeting with a Samaritan woman in one quick rush. This week we will read it at a slower pace. It began as Jesus went from Judea (southern Israel) to Galilee (the north). Most Jews in his day bypassed the region of Samaria, which lay between Judea and Galilee, but Jesus went through Samaria by design (he “had to go”—verse 4), and reached Jacob’s well at noon.
In the hot Middle East, most women enjoyed a morning or evening social time at the well. That this woman came alone at noon was telling—she probably didn’t wish to meet the other town women. John also gave non-Palestinian readers the key background to understand this remarkable conversation—”Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other” (verse 9). But Jesus initiated contact, saying matter-of-factly, “Give me some water to drink” (verse 7).
Jesus offer of “living water” (in common usage, the term meant the freshest, cleanest water, not stagnant water that had stood in a cistern) was intriguing. But the woman at first showed skepticism: “Where would you get this living water?” (verse 11) That didn’t discourage Jesus. He described the spiritual water he offered in such appealing terms that the woman’s thirsty soul responded, “Give me this water!” (verse 15).
It was probably shame that led the woman to come to the well alone. Jesus frankly described the life situation at the root of her shame. She acknowledged that he was accurate, but at first tried to shift the subject by raising a religious debate between the Jews and Samaritans (verses 19-20). Jesus didn’t take the bait. He said the key to worshipping God fully was not finding the “right” place, but laying aside shame to worship “in spirit and truth” (verse 24).
The woman had said, “I see that you are a prophet” (verse 19). As Jesus disclosed her past without shaming her, the woman seemed to sense an even greater power at work, and spoke of the coming Messiah. Jesus replied, “I am.” The woman went into Sychar to tell the very people she’d been avoiding about Jesus. Now unashamed, she said he was “a man who has told me everything I’ve done!” With wonder, she added, “Could this man be the Christ?”
Jesus’ disciples reentered the scene. No doubt still ill at ease with Samaritans, and “shocked” to find him talking with a Samaritan woman (verse 27), they urged Jesus to eat. He told them that doing God’s will, reaping a harvest of willing followers, nourished him in a deeper way than any physical food could. At the Samaritans’ invitation, he stayed on in Sychar for two days.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord, give us a hunger and thirst for righteousness, an appetite for your plan for our lives. Help us to live your true life every day. Help us to shed our shame and embrace your mercy and forgiveness more fully. Help us to accept unlikely people as your children, and to reach out to them in love. Thank you for your steadfast love and for the peace your love brings to us. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Who’s the most unforgettable, different person you’ve ever met? What caused you to feel that way towards them? Would you like to see them again? Do you think you would treat them differently than the last time you saw them?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read John 4:1-6. Jews of Christ’s time did not like Samaritans, but Jesus chose to go through their country. Why did he decide to do this? What does this demonstrate about Christ’s global mission? What does this say to us as Christians today? What does the fact that Jesus became tired tell us about him? Why was it important that Jesus was able to suffer in much the same way as any of us? Do you accept that Christ was “fully human”? Do you accept that he was also “fully God”? Is this a difficult concept for you (as it is for some)?
Read John 4:7-10. Besides being thirsty, why did Jesus ask this woman, a Samaritan, for a drink? What would other Jews have thought about this? What message is Jesus sending to us as we read about this request? How would you describe what Jesus meant when he spoke of his “living water”? Do you have that water within you? How can you offer others a drink of that living water?
Read John 4:11-15. In verses 11 and 12, did the woman have any idea what Jesus was talking about? How does this compare to the state of the beliefs of the world of today? Did verses 13 and 14 increase her understanding? Does it give you hope that the rest of the world might begin to understand as well? Do you know others who might be thirsty for the refreshing water of eternal life? Are they more likely to respond to the message due to the words we use or to the way we live? Why? Did Jesus show any signs of being uneasy with this “different” Samaritan woman? Do you know people who make you uneasy? What makes you feel this way toward them?
Read John 4:16-24. What made the woman come to the well when no one else was around? By accurately describing her situation to her, what did Jesus accomplish? Does shame sometimes actually prevent some people from coming to God? Can that block be overcome? What does shame usually come from? How can we, as Christians, help others to get past their shame? Are you able to share negative aspects of your life as well as positive ones, thanks to the freedom that Christ has given you?
Read John 4:25-30. Was Jesus able to help the woman get past her shame? How can you tell? Was she finally able to face her neighbors and share her joy with them? Is Jesus as real to you as he was to this woman, or is he more of a character in a book? What makes him real to you? Why doesn’t everyone feel about Christ as you do? Would other Christians be better off if they read this story and others like it by reading the Bible more often? Would you? How can we “permit” Jesus to transform our own lives even more than he already has?
Read John 4:31-42. Does it seem as though the woman first accepted Christ’s forgiveness, and the town then forgave her as well? If we see ourselves as “clean” in God’s eyes, does that make us better at dealing with others on a more loving level? Did this woman become an “instant evangelist”? Where did this ability come from? Where is our strength? Where do your gifts come from?
From last week: Did you pray and review what you’ve learned about your spiritual gifts? If you’d never really given that much thought to your gifts, did you spend time reading 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:1-8 and Ephesians 4:1-16? Did you pray and think about which gifts you see most present in you? Please share with the group whatever you discovered.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Penny Ellwood’s sermon, July 7, 2013:
The Bible is full of stories about imperfect people, people who have made mistakes but had their stories redeemed by God. Moses murdered a man but became the great leader of the Israelites, David, an adulterer, was one of the greatest Kings known, Peter denied Jesus and became the rock on which the church was built and Paul who persecuted Christians, ended up spreading the word of God across the nations. The Samaritan woman in the fourth chapter of John is another of these. Her story is well-loved and one of my favorites in the Bible….
About noon a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well. She was hoping to find the well deserted, but a man sat on the side of the well and to her surprise, he spoke to her. She looked around see if there was someone else standing behind her that she hadn’t noticed, for a respectable Jewish male, as this man appeared to be, would never speak to a woman, especially not a Samaritan woman, and had he known, certainly not a woman with her reputation….
The conversation between Jesus and this woman began with a simple question from Jesus: “Will you give me a drink?”…
As Jesus listens to her, taking her questions seriously and treating her with kindness and respect, something she rarely experiences, she begins to sense there is something special about this man. She discloses to him her belief and hope in a coming Messiah. Imagine her surprise when Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah.
Little did she know that day as she trudged to the well in the oppressive heat that she would find a water to quench the thirst of her soul. This is the wonder of God’s grace. Only someone who loves you can look at your past, know the truth and reach out to you anyway. He’s not ashamed of her past but he cannot help her until she is able to get beyond the shame and admit the truth of her life. Jesus is offering this woman a relationship of such satisfaction and security it will surpass everything she’s ever known….
Brene’ Brown, an author and researcher has done some really interesting work on the subject of shame. [Some of you may be familiar with her TED Talks. Her talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” has over 10 million hits.] She also writes and speaks about vulnerability, authenticity and how to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.
I have been fascinated with her work because I’ve seen how shame can lead to feelings unworthiness and how it can cripple lives and keep people from living fully into the person God created them to be. I’ve also seen the healing that occurs when we become vulnerable and share our stories, which Brown’s studies have shown as a remedy cultivating a sense of worth. [I’m really looking forward to hearing her speak the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in a couple of weeks.] Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”…
Brown says, “Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” Shame is all about fear. We’re afraid people won’t like us or accept us if they know who we really are or what we’ve done or been through, or what we believe or how much we’re struggling. So we try to hide our shame and we remain silent, which only gives shame more power. Brown says we need to share our shame with someone who has earned the right to hear our story and will respond with compassion because shame when spoken loses its power over us….
So what if we told our stories? There would be a lot less isolation, shame, guilt, confusion, anger, and loneliness. Instead there would be communities of broken people who realize our God is a God of grace and that no “story” is beyond repair. And perhaps others would acknowledge their need for help and say, “Take my broken story and help me find a new one too.” As author Daniel Taylor says, “The best cure for a broken story is another story.” So let us heal our stories and choose new ones that say, “I am loved by God, and do I have a story tell. . .Come and see!”
Samaria…is a mountainous region in the northern part of the geographical area to the west of the Jordan River roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank. The name derives from the ancient city of Samaria, the capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel (the capital of the southern Kingdom of Judah was Jerusalem). During the 1967 Six-Day War, the entire West Bank was captured by Israel. In 1994, control of Areas ‘A’ and ‘B’ were transferred to the Palestinian Authority.
The name Samaria is of biblical origin, derived from the individual [or clan] Shemer, from whom Omri purchased the site. (1 Kings 16:24). It was the only name used for this area from ancient times until the Jordanian conquest of 1948, at which point the Jordanians coined the term West Bank.
The Samaritans are an ethno-religious group named after and inhabiting Samaria after the beginning of the Assyrian Exile of the Israelites. Religiously the Samaritans are adherents of Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism. Samaritans claim their worship, based on the Samaritan Torah, is the true religion of the ancient Israelites prior to the Babylonian Exile, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel, as opposed to Judaism, which they assert is a related but altered and amended religion brought back by those returning from exile.
Their temple was built at Mount Gerizim in the middle of fifth century BC and was destroyed by the Maccabean Hebrew John Hyrcanus in 110 BC, although their descendants still worship among its ruins. The antagonism between Samaritans and Jews is important in understanding the Christian Bible’s stories of “Parable of the Good Samaritan” and the “Samaritan woman at the well”.
Much more at source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaria (first printed in March 25, 2012 Study Guide)
Jewish, Samaritan, Christian, and Muslim traditions all associate the well with Jacob. The well is not specifically mentioned in the Old Testament, but Genesis 33:18-20 states that when Jacob returned to Shechem from Paddan Aram, he camped “before” the city and bought the land on which he pitched his tent. Biblical scholars contend that the plot of land is the same one upon which Jacob’s Well was constructed.
Jacob’s Well is mentioned by name in the New Testament (John 4:5-6) which says that Jesus “came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the field which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there.” The Book of John goes on to describe a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman (called Photini in Orthodox tradition), that took place while Jesus was resting at the well. (John 4:7-15 ) The site is counted as a Christian holy site.
Today a few Samaritans survive, not having lost their identity through intermarriage. There are about 550-600 active practitioners of the Samaritan religion with some admixture of Islam, most of whom live in the city of Nablus, in the area now known as the West Bank. Although their temple is long since destroyed, they still celebrate Passover every year around their ancient temple site of sacrifice, Mount Gerizim, their holy mountain. The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of their year and the Sabbath is most rigidly observed. They are a distinctly religious community and their high priest acts as their political official and representative.
Source: Various (first printed in May 13, 2012 Study Guide)
This week, think about who the “Samaritans” are in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you strength, courage and love so that you might be able to approach them just as Christ approached the woman at the well. If and when the time seems right, share with them about your church and why you enjoy and find fulfillment in serving God. Next week, share your experience with the group.