Worship—A Heart In Pursuit
Part I – Thirsty
As Jesus travels back to Galilee, he comes to a city called Sychar-drunken. The author indicates that Jacob’s well is there and at high noon Jesus stops at this well because he’s tired from his journey. Although the road through Samaria was the shortest route from Jerusalem to Galilee, Jews often avoided it because there was a deep distrust and dislike between Jews and Samaritans (2 Kings 24:13-16). This gives an indication as to why this exchange was unusual to the woman. But this was typical for Jesus for he is always in pursuit of undermining the status quo. God takes pleasure in the outcast, the abnormal, the rejected and dejected; those who feel like all is lost or nobody cares or who have been pushed to the margins of groups and communities and families because they don’t fit the mold of what is acceptable. (I Corinthians 1:26-31)
Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well is very calculated. There are no coincidences with God; He is planned and purposeful in everything He does. The woman is coming to do what she normally does, what she has been conditioned to do and Jesus intentionally travels through a drunken place, a place riddled with superstition and religion, conflict and confusion and he comes for her; to change her condition and to bring glory to God the Father. God is in the business of decontaminating His name and His relationship with humankind.
She thinks the exchange is about water, but Jesus is after more than just a drink of water; He’s in pursuit of something more ancient and a more influential thirst. There is another thirsty place that He is seeking to quench; a place that has been perverted and broken; it was designed to love God and all His creation but has been conditioned to settle for things far less worthy. Scripture refers to it as our hearts (Kardia) and it is the seat of our longings and desires and it has been designed for more than just emotion. Scripture says out it flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23) and that it is the place where we are contaminated (Mark 7:20-23). If this is the place where we are messed up, then it must be the place where clean up begins.
From their exchange we see Jesus speaking to her thirsty place. We all have this thirsty place and it matters what we drink and eat (figuratively/spiritually) for it has the power to create consequences for our lives. Our hearts are the place where our longings and loves are incubated and the environments we get exposed to create the right conditions for certain things to be birthed into our lives.
[Abusive relationships have taught us that something was wrong with us.
Neglectful relationships have taught us that we aren’t worth the time or attention]
God designed our hearts to be the epicenter of our thirsts and longings and His intent is that we long for Him. St. Augustine puts it this way: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
To be human is to be for something,
directed toward something,
oriented toward something.
To be human is to be on the move, pursuing something, after something.
We are creatures in pursuit of something. But until we come to know the true and living God we are unsure of what we are after. We just know that something is missing, or we lack fulfillment. We may be satisfied but there is a grave difference between what is satisfying and what is fulfilling; which was Jesus’ point to the woman at the well.
Satisfy = that which makes one happy or brings pleasure
• To make content or enough
Fulfill = that which brings to completion to the expectation of an intention; meeting a requirement
• To fill up or more than enough
So Jesus is providing more than enough so that it spills over into another life and thus enters us into the discipleship process. True discipleship is more a matter of hunger and thirst than of knowing and believing for it was clear that this woman knew God and believed God but she was not fulfilled because of the conditioning of her heart.
The heart must be curated (organized, authenticated and looked after) in order to be attentive and intentional about what we worship.
We curate our hearts through learning and through habit.
Let’s deal with some assumptions we make about learning.
• How do humans learn? Are we really what we think? Are we just thinking things?
• Learning doesn’t happen in the brain, but in the mind.
• Learning is linked to the complex domains of our being:
o Science says that we have three domains-cognitive (thinking and learning), affective (feelings and relationships), and psychomotor (the brains control of our physical movements).
o Effective learning involves all three domains.
o The brain is a pattern-seeking device
o The brain pays attention to what captures or arouses our emotions
o Music, movement and visuals enhance memory
• A lot of what I learn about God I initially learned through the patterns of music, liturgy and worship services. My ritualistic attendance to church speaks to another part of us that helps us to access God through worship-habit.
A disciple is a learner who is acquiring more information about God through the Scriptures but this isn’t the only place or the only way we learn about God. We are admonished by scripture to take captive every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5) and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). However, holiness is not an intellectual endeavor-sanctification by information transfer.
If we are what we think, then what we think should change who we are; but that isn’t the case is it?
• What do we do with the gap between what we know and what we do? “I know better!”
• Our hunger and thirst to be Christ-like doesn’t seem to translate into a way of life.
• It’s not that you don’t know enough or you’re not thinking hard enough. And thinking is important to countering the culture of impulse that has developed in the world where people do whatever feels good to them. So we are not rejecting thinking-“to recognize the limits of knowledge is not to embrace ignorance.”- (Smith)
We need more than knowledge. We need spiritual habits.
a right grasp in our minds of the way God really is, and a right response in our hearts to His worth.
• We will find rest when our souls are rightly oriented and restlessness when we settle for substitutes
o We live leaning forward. You cannot not be headed somewhere.
o We live towards what we want…what our souls hunger for.
o Worship is like gravity; it pulls us towards our proper place
o Oil poured on water positions itself on top of the water, fire reaches up, a stone falls to the ground and our hearts a drawn to God.
o Everything created seeks its own place
Worship is both hunger and habit- Ps 42:1-2
What you worship shows what’s aligned in your heart.
Liturgy is one way we develop the habit of worship. It gives our hearts patterns to be conditioned/aligned to God.
Guzik, David. Study Guide for John 4. 21 Feb 2017. 12 Jan 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Jhn/Jhn-4.cfm>.
Smith, James K. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016.