Tired Together: A Sermon for March 15 2020 (Based on John 4:5-30, 39-42)

 

I.

The present crisis has barely begun but it is already wearing me down.

I am referring, of course, to the return of Daylight Savings time. I am still not over it.

Is it age? Is it having young kids? I don’t know what it is…but the change to Daylight Savings just wrecks me. The more astute among you may have noticed that I did not preach or lead worship last Sunday. There is a reason for this. On the first Sunday of Daylight Savings Time, I just can’t trust myself not to trip over my own shoelaces or blurt out something inappropriate or accidently set the lectern on fire. So I like exploit my power as Senior Minister to set the preaching schedule and make sure I spend that Sunday at least ten city blocks away from any microphone.

It’s better for everyone, really. LeAnn does so much better than I do.

I don’t like being tired. And I really don’t like admitting that I am tired.

Which is a shame, really.

You miss out on so much if you never admit to being tired.

II.

Jesus is tired. That is the first thing that John tells us about Jesus in this story. He is tired out by his journey. And that word, “tired”? That is a graphic word in the Greek. It literally means “beat up.”[1] Jesus is beat up from his journey. And he is in a vulnerable position, sitting by a well in Samaria. Jews and Samaritans despise one another. But Jesus is in their zip code.  And he is beat up from the journey; he is worn down with weariness.

Jesus is tired.

I think that explains what happens next.

A local woman comes to the well. And John does not say so, but I suspect she is tired too. Maybe you have heard preachers snicker about this woman. People say she has a reputation and that she deserves it; people say she got around. I don’t buy that. Did she have five husbands? She did. But in her world, divorced women do not remarry. In her word, the only way to have five husbands is to bury at least four of them.

She is not promiscuous; she is bereft. She lives her life in the valley of the shadow of death. And that probably makes her unpopular. That is how it goes with grief: people just stop caring after a while. They snub you at the grocery store; they pretend not to see you in the street. It can be a lonely life.

She is grieving. He is beat down. Both of them are tired.

And then one tired person asks another for a drink.

It is a simple request: Give me a drink. But look at how much work can be done by four little words. He is a Jew; she is a Samaritan. He is a man; she is woman. He is a rabbi; she is a layperson. But right now none of that seems to matter. Four little words leap over all the lines that divide them. One tired person asks another for a drink.

And the walls between them come tumbling down.

They talk. Because this is John’s Gospel, they talk a lot. They talk about theology, they talk about politics, they talk about her personal life. It really is a conversation –each one gives and takes, each one talks and listens. They connect. And their connection has consequences. It ripples out from the two of them to transform an entire village. Having heard enough to know that Jesus is somebody special, she goes and gets her neighbors –the very ones who shun her. She finds them, she gets in their faces, she invites them to be changed: ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?

So the people come and the people listen and the people are changed. Maybe they are tired too. They ask him to stay. A Jew and stays in Samaria for two entire days. And the ripples just keep going.

Look what can happen when tired people talk to each other.

III.

Daylight Savings Time is…challenging. But it isn’t the worst. The worst was August, 2010. The deepest weariness I have ever known. It will not surprise you to hear that it coincided with the birth of my daughter. That first night, in the hospital, I “slept”—if you could call it sleeping—on a pull-out couch in Mary Beth’s room. I mean no disrespect to the hard working people at Unity Point but that pull out couch was garbage. It was more or less like sleeping on a creaky cold pile of gravel.

And in the days that followed—when we were discharged, when we went home—in the early days of parenthood, I did not get anything close to my accustomed beauty sleep. Some days I was almost delirious with weariness.

But you know, it’s funny. When I look back now, when I remember those days, I don’t really remember being tired. I must have been; I don’t remember. What I do remember—what I will always remember—is how quickly and deeply I bonded with my infant daughter. She wasn’t sleeping much and neither was I. There was no pretense; no pretending. I wasn’t going to charm her and she was not going to charm me. Sometimes she had spit up on her shirt; sometimes I had spit up on my shirt.

We were two worn-out people. All of our defenses were down.  We were tired together.

IV.

So I have been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. I know some of you have been reading it as well. And I am still stuck on this idea that authentic Christian community is not something that we can create; it is something that we receive. It is not an achievement; it’s a gift.

And sometimes it helps to be tired.

Jesus was tired from his journey. The woman he met was tired from her grief. And nobody can connect like two tired people. No games, no pretense, no posing. You drop your guard; you tell the truth.

God does the rest.

Plymouth Church, I don’t mind telling you that I am just a little bit beat down. I am tired from my journey. I am tired from too often pretending to be someone I am not. I am tired from comparing myself to other people, the ones who seem to have it all together. I am tired from the grief that I bear in this body –grief for the saints I have buried, grief for the members who have walked away.

And I am already tired of this coronavirus crisis. I am tired of having to make so many decisions so quickly. I am tired of washing hands until they are raw and nagging my children to do the same. I am tired of watching people fight over toilet paper at the grocery store.

This journey is just getting started but I can tell you I am tired.

And I suspect that I am not the only one.

Some of God’s best work is done when we are tired.

Because we cannot create authentic Christian community. There is no task force, no strategy, no 5-point plan. But we can look each other in the eye and admit that we are weary. We can tell the truth about our own journey and the price we have paid along the way.

We can be tired…together. God will go do the rest.

Notes

[1] See the entry on kopas in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Volume III. Edited by Gerhard Kitel. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999 0, pp.827-830.

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