"The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.” John 4:25-26 CEB
It had been an extremely rainy week. Because of all of the rain it made our work difficult. Most of everything we were being asked to do was outside. There were not many, and sometimes no, options for getting out of the rain. A group of folks decided that they would not try and fight the rain. Instead, these folks went with it. They embraced the rain and developed ways to incorporate the soggy, muddy conditions into their work. On the last day of the week, when the work was done, they planned to embrace the conditions to their fullest. We had been working to put on Vacation Bible School for impoverished kids in four different neighborhoods in San Ramon, Costa Rica. One group was assigned a neighborhood that was on a very steep hillside. The pathway that led up the hillside was dirt and by the end of the week it was pure mud. Not Florida mud but Costa Rican mud. They planned out a morning of having fun going down the biggest mudslide ever. They created an environment of play. They turned a rainy, messy situation into a lot of fun for everyone.
Of course, when the bus came to pick them up to take them back to the mission they were a mess. Several of them were covered from head to toe in thick Costa Rican mud. They had to sit on garbage bags before the driver would let them on the bus. They were nasty. When they got back to the mission we all agreed they needed to hit the showers first. After the shower, what was filthy and dirty was now clean and presentable again. They were a mess, but they cleaned up well. I believe there are two lessons to learn from this group of missionaries.
First, we can create an environment of fun and redemption anywhere. It is largely up to us to look for and create places where we can be at peace. Places where others can be at peace as well. Just because situations in our life look like a total wash doesn’t mean they are. Maybe you are in a relationship that is strained and you don’t see how it will ever be restored. You can create a space for yourself to be at peace about the relationship. You can invite the other person to be at peace about it as well. You cannot change another person, but you can invite them to change. The environments we create and choose to enter into are important when it comes to being at peace. The missionaries could have been stressed, upset, frustrated, and spent their time focusing on the negative. Instead, the missionaries chose to be at peace with the situation and create an environment where peace and fun could flourish. It is possible to create an environment where peace will thrive.
Second, if we are the mess we can clean it up. Improvement doesn’t depend on others. The missionaries were a complete mess, but they didn’t spread that mess on anyone else. They also didn’t ask anyone else to clean the mess off. They knew they could clean themselves up and in turn clean up the mess. How often do we forget this about our life? When it comes to having a heart at peace or a heart at war, if you are the mess—you can clean it up. Having our mess cleaned up, or choosing a heart at peace, will allow us to see things clearly and see others as people. If you are the mess, you can clean it up.
The fact is we are all a mess. We all need an environment of redemption. We all need to be cleaned up. Because of the pervasive nature of sin, we are not able to clean up our own sin mess. We are sinners in need of a savior. This is the point of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. She had sin in her life. She knew there was something wrong which forced her to come to the well at noon. She longed for the water that Jesus offered precisely because of her sin. She knew there was more to life than she was experiencing. This was the reason she had a heart at war toward Jesus. Jesus disarms this and creates an environment for honesty and truth-telling. Jesus sees her as a person. When she tells him she knows the Messiah is coming, Jesus reveals who he is. Jesus says, “I AM—the one who speaks with you.” Jesus creates the environment and offers to cleanse her soul. All she has to do is respond.
Are you a mess today? Do you desire a heart at peace? The Good News is you can be clean! You can do the work today to get in the right environment for peace and redemption. You can do the work of cleaning up by asking Christ to cleanse you and make you right. You can choose to have a heart at peace. You can choose to begin to exert influence toward peace instead of provocation toward war. The choice is yours.
This Sunday we continue the message series The Heart of Peace. We will discuss what it takes to move from a heart at war to a heart at peace. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is ahead for St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!