Interior Spaces | John 4.19-26
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 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 worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people 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 (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:19-26 | ESV
The woman, just a bit undone, stammers, trying to take the light off her sex life, “ Sir, it’s plain to see you’re a seer, a prophet (you sure just saw through me!). So, tell me, our ancestors worshiped right here on this mountain, but you all say Jerusalem is the “one true worship” spot where everyone has to go. So which is it?”
Jesus parries the shot right back to her: “Trust me, lady, the time is coming when it won’t be about this spot, or the Jerusalem spot, or any other sacred spot when it comes to worshiping the Father. Now it’s true, giving it to you straight, your worship here in this place is clueless – you don’t know what you’re doing! The Jewish temple is at least in the right place, and God’s grand rescue plan is thoroughly Jewish in its origin and roots. But. The time is coming – in fact it’s here already! – when authentic worship will transcend holy places and will be unleashed in much more interior spaces of Spirit and Truth. Worship emanating from such deep interior places is what the Father is after – because that’s what the Divine is, through and through: Spirit (not special spots), and so those who worship God must engage and traffic in those deeply interior regions of Spirit and Truth.”
Having gotten so much more than she bargained for when she first walked up with her bucket, the woman could only respond, somewhat mechanically, “One day the Messiah – God’s anointed, chosen leader – will show up, and when he does he’ll show us everything and settle all our disputes.”
Jesus smiled. “Actually, that would be me – the one sitting here talking with you.” MAV
John’s disciples argued religion when they felt the pressure of a ministry and movement in decline; the Samaritan woman tries to argue religion when she’s had the Light shined on her deepest wounds. This should give us some sense of what this game of “religion” at its worst (and generally even at its best) is really about: it’s the great evasion. It’s our exit stage left (or right, depending on the leaning of your religious preference, or your irreligious preference, for that matter). Do we worship at this spot, or at that spot? Is it this temple or that one? This church or the other? As a friend of mine observed today, “There was no eighth day of creation when God made religion.” No, that’s pretty much our contribution.
And then our helping hands turn into warring hands as we smack each other down in our ceaseless “my religion can beat up your religion” war. Our fathers say this mountain is the place to worship, you people say it’s that one. Who’s right?
And while on one level Jesus says the Jews are tracking and the Samaritans are clueless, ultimately it’s all of us who are clueless whenever we still assume that worship is something that happens in this or that place, in this or that way, at this or that time; that worship is the external performance of external rituals in exterior spaces. Yes, worship can and does happen in temples and churches and assorted other “holy places.” But it happens there because it can happen anywhere, and services in temples or churches, if they are done well, simply help create an environment that helps this to happen – a place where we are empowered and helped to dial down and tune in to such divine, interior spaces.
Worship can happen anywhere and any time human beings connect with the deeper interior spaces of Spirit and Truth and God longs to connect with us there. That’s the good news – that’s the “living water” that Jesus is ultimately offering to this unnamed woman.
“That’s right, Bingetown Girl, the God your fathers worship on that mountain and that Jews worship on that mountain longs to connect with you in the deep interior spaces of Spirit and Truth in your heart. God passionately thirsts for that connection with you as much as you thirst for water from this well – and more than you’re even aware that you thirst for him.”
Oh yes. Let’s all take a pint of that.
What does “worshiping in Spirit and Truth” mean to you? How would you describe your worship life? What are the greatest obstacles you face in it? What have you found most enhances worship in your life and experience?
Lord, give me a heart of worship – of worship in Spirit and Truth. Awaken me in the deeper, most interior spaces of my heart and soul to the reality of you, of your goodness, your mercy, your truth – and release me to move freely with you in those rhythms. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.