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Bible Study Guide for Third Sunday in Lent, Year A

March 12, 2023

[Exodus 17:1-7,  Romans 5:1-11,  John 4:5-42,  Psalm 95]

As much as people like to grumble about the gloominess of Lent, I think this week's lessons are harder. How difficult is it to acknowledge that we actually have hope for a better world and we believe good things are coming? Personally, the darkness of Lent with our shortcomings and fallen world is easier for me to settle in with. From my smallest impulses to the arc of human history, it's not clear that humanity is any kinder or God's kingdom is any closer than in the deepest past of history. When we hear that Jesus gives us hope, that sentiment rings hollow when the "hope" on offer usually amounts to nothing more than institutional blank platitudes disconnected from our real concerns and genuine pain. In fact, hope is dishonest when it obscures or denies the pain in our lives.

Jesus, in His humanity, understands our need for genuine hope that reflects our honest lives. When He approaches the Samaritan woman, she's understandably on the defensive and makes guarded, polite conversation with a stranger. But Jesus approaches her with respect, acknowledges her checkered past, and makes an earnest promise for her future and the future of her people. Being seen without reproach, she's open to His message of hope and life, and is eager to share it with her neighbors. In fact, what Jesus promises is deeper than just personal redemption, but a new life in the healing of the breach between two former fellow tribes that had endured for centuries. The hope Jesus promises is to see us fully and to repair all divisions between ourselves and God with the flowing waters of baptism. On top of that, Jesus tells us this hope is not some future longing but is to be immediately grasped: "the hour is coming and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth". Jesus's incarnation offers us this hope for us today, if we can open our eyes to see it.

Paul also was no stranger to sinful division in self and society, yet his letter overflows with the greatest hope of all Christians - that through the Holy Spirit, we have redemption of ourselves and transformation of the world in God's love. Paul acknowledges the suffering that surrounds us yet in hope sees even this pain as another opportunity to let the Spirit into our world. Our current state of weakness doesn't have to be permanent when we can drink from Jesus's living water and take our first steps towards reconciliation with God's promises. We don't have the full peace of God, at least yet, while we're still in a Lenten world. But we have sure signs to give us hope as we make our way towards Easter.

– Betsy Noecker


Where do you find hope in your life? What signs do you see around you of God's promises and life?

Have you ever encountered hope in conversation with a stranger?

In Exodus, the Israelites quarreled with Moses. Have you tried to test and tempt God?


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