March 15 (Third Sunday in Lent): Psalm 95 and John 4:5-42

January 30, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa

N., requests the honour of your presence at. . .” We all have received these words written in fancy-shmancy, upraised font, on equally fancy-shmancy stationery, perhaps with a nicely, perfectly cut tissue paper, carefully placed in an equally expensive envelope. All of this expresses the import of the occasion, the desire of the hosts, and of what you are to wear and bring to the party.

Psalm 95 and John 4 are invitations for you to “come,” because the honor of your presence is desired. The attire is your full self, just as you are. Your gift? Nothing. Just you, if you’re thirsty enough because this encounter will give you waters to overflowing, and then some.

If I could put Psalm 95 on a theatrical stage or paint a portrait of this invitation, it would be the psalmist with one outstretched hand looking back, legs ready to run, and the other hand pointing in the direction of Jerusalem to the Temple. The psalmist’s excitement is almost uncontainable and unstoppable. She can’t help but proclaim her desire to sing in the choir, to exult the Lord our Maker, to worship the Lord, to be the sheep that goes to the shepherd. You can picture another psalmist. He’s shaking his head but with a smile. “I don’t want any excuses. I don’t want the hard-headedness of the past, the hard-heartedness of the ancestors. Let’s go!” That’s what Psalm 95 is about. It’s knowing the host, the invitation of that host, the joy at receiving and responding to the invitation, because the encounter of worshipping the Lord with God’s people is always life-changing.

John 4 has multiple sacred encounters and multiple invitations: Jesus inviting the Samaritan woman at Sychar, “Give me a drink;” the Samaritan woman inviting Jesus, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty. . . “; the Samaritan woman’s invitation to the townspeople, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!”; the disciples inviting Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something”; and Jesus’ invitation to the disciples to consider that the sower and the reaper are to rejoice together. The Gospel lection ends in verses 39-42 by sharing that many believed in Jesus by virtue of the Samaritan woman’s testimony, while others came to believe that Jesus is the Savior after they heard for themselves the words of Jesus.

See in these texts this Sunday in Lent an invitation, both directly from the Lord and from ones who have seen and heard the Lord. Sometimes, the source is from an unlikely testifier, and it’s those surprise moments where the arm extending the invitation for the honor of your presence comes from one who is astounded at the magnificence of the Lord. Come, let us sing. Come, let us make a joyful noise to the Lord. Come, let us bow down, let us kneel before the Lord. Come and see. The Savior is here!