Encounters


The Spirit Calendar

A Weekly Devotional from the Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ


March 13, 2017


This week's author is the Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba, Senior Regional Minister for Connecticut Conference.

Scripture: John 4: 5-42 (NRSV)

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
 
 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
 
 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he,the one who is speaking to you.’
 
 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.
 
 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’
 
 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word.They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’

Reflection:

There’s a lot in this Gospel story. We learn that an encounter with Jesus can change our lives by opening up those places we’d rather keep hidden. We realize that, in order to know who we are, we have to come to terms with who we’ve been, how we’ve lived, and what we’ve done. We experience the grace that happens when we find the courage to break down the barriers of ethnicity and gender that divide us. We see how one person can transform an entire community through her witness. And there’s so much more.
 
I am struck by the randomness of this encounter. Jesus sits down at a well because he is hot and thirsty. But he asks (demands, really) something from the woman and the conversation goes forward from there, a conversation that transforms both of them. How much of life is like that! We get into an accident or meet the love of our life because we left the house five minutes earlier than we normally do. A job we take out of desperation leads to a fruitful career. The book we buy because they were out of the one we wanted changes the way we look at life. We wander into a church because we couldn’t find the one we were looking for and find the place God wants us to be.
 
Jesus assures us that the day is coming when we will worship God “in spirit and in truth.” One of the ways we worship God is through the ordinary encounters of everyday life. Can we see the face of God in the strangers we meet? Do we have the courage to look past the barriers of race, class, sex, ethnicity, religion, and anything else that separates us from each other? Are we open to honest conversation and helps us more deeply understand ourselves and others? Can the broken places in our lives become the places where we and the world are transformed?

Prayer:

We know you are everywhere and that we can encounter you every moment if only we want to. Help us to see you in everyone we meet, in everything we do or don’t do, and in everything that we experience. May our worship be the way we live our lives. In spirit and truth we pray. Amen.

Special Prayer Requests:

New Requests:
  • The families and friends of more than 30 Guatemalan girls who died or were injured in a fire at a the Virgin of the Assumption Safe House in San Jose Pinula, Guatemala on Feb. 8.; and
  • Those grieving in Ethiopia after a landslide killed at least 50 people and injured dozens more on Mar. 11.
Continuing Requests:
  • The family and friends of Cheryl Polydor, friend of Michael and Diane Ciba, who died on Feb 21;
  • Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
  • the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
  • the people of New Orleans, after a driver ran into a crowd of parade viewers, injurer over 20 people on Feb. 25;
  • he people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
  • the people of Pakistan where more than 100 people have been killed in militant attacks in the past week;
  • Richard "Ned" Bunell, member of First Congregational Church of Canton Center, who was hospitalized for an illness and is now recovering;
  • the people of southern Louisiana, after tornadoes struck the area on Feb. 7;
  • those residents around Lake Oroville, CA, who were evacuated for safety reasons after authorities found erosion at the Oroville Dam on Feb. 7 causing concerns of partial failure of a spillway;
  • John Polglase, husband of the Rev. Betsey Polglase, Pastor of the Columbia Congregational Church UCC, who has chronic pulmonary disease;
  • the Rev. Micki Nunn-Miller, who had knee surgery on Jan. 17;
  • Debi Mastroni Kenyon, Director of Faith Formation at Monroe Congregational Church, who had surgery on Jan. 18;
  • the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
  • Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
  • Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
  • Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
  • the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
  • our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
  • the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
  • the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
  • this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
  • those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
  • those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
 
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at: drewp@ctucc.org.

Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:

East Hartford
South Congregational Church, UCC

William T Vibert - CE
Henry Millan Jr - OL
 
East Hartland
First Congregational Church in Hartland

Janine Baryza-Ly - DT
 
East Haven
First Congregational Church of East Haven

Care Goodstal-Spinks - IN
Diane Lewis - CE
 
East Windsor
First Congregational Church of East Windsor, UCC

Thomas V. Calderone - P
 
East Woodstock
East Woodstock Congregational Church UCC

Susan J. Foster - P
Sherry Magnan - CE
Dawn Morin - CE
Nancy Ducharme - MM
Andrew Tomkins - MM
 

The Spirit Calendar: March 13, 2017 , by Michael Ciba.