Make a Connection that Counts!
It’s no secret that one of my favorite teams is the Michigan State basketball team. I love seeing it when they throw an alley-oop dunk – there were a few of them yesterday even. It’s a high-energy play and takes skill to make sure the pass connects from the point guard to the other player. Throw the ball too soon, and the pass hits the backboard or goes out of bounds. Throw it too late, and it soars behind the intended player. Either way, there’s a missed connection in the pass.
There probably aren’t too many of us here today that have had the opportunity to catch or throw an alley-oop pass. But, I’m sure many of us have had our own missed connections. Often, when you are flying to a destination, you have to catch a connecting flight. It doesn’t take much to miss that flight: your first flight could be late; you could mix up your time zones, or one of countless other reasons!
These missed connections can inconvenience us at any given moment, but let’s be honest – they are only minor inconveniences. In our sermon lesson this morning, we see Jesus making a connection. But this connection was not as insignificant as an alley-oop pass or a flight connection. As Jesus connects with the Samaritan woman, we see his example to Make a connection that counts! You make connections that count when you connect with your life and connect with your faith.
What Jesus did was unthinkable! Jews in his day went out of their way to walk around the land of Samaria. It didn’t matter if it would add days onto their trip – they just wouldn’t go through Samaria! Jews just didn’t associate with Samaritans. Samaritans were looked down upon because they were only half-Jews – they had intermarried with the Gentile nations. It was even more unthinkable that Jesus would even talk with a Samaritan. And then, as if adding insult to injury, it wasn’t just any Samaritan that he talked to – it was a Samaritan woman! In his day, men didn’t talk with women unless their husband was in sight. What Jesus did was unthinkable, it was surprising, it was astonishing. But Jesus did it because he had to go through Samaria (v. 4).
Let’s break down this scene to the two main components. There, sitting by Jacob’s well was the eternal Son of God. And walking up to the well is a spiritually dying woman. The very Son of God, God himself, who cannot stand sin and has said that it separates them eternally from himself sat near a woman who reeked of sin. But just as he had to go through Samaria, so also Jesus had to connect with this woman. If he didn’t connect with her, how would she know that her Savior from sin sat in front of her?
And so Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink” (v. 7)? To the casual observer, it would seem that Jesus was hoping to get something from this woman. And yet, that is not how Jesus saw her. To be sure, this woman, on her own, had nothing to offer the Creator of the world. But who this woman was something completely different. Jesus didn’t want to get anything from this woman – he wanted to give her something! He wanted to give her something she needed more than water from a well. And so he made a connection with a woman whom he had nothing in common with.
Let me pose this question to you this morning: who are your friends? How would you describe them? Usually our friends are those who have something in common with us. They may have the same hobbies or enjoy the same activities. Maybe you cheer for the same sports teams or think the same way. But how about a more difficult question: whom are you friendly with?
Think about the last month of your life and about the literally hundreds of people that you have come into contact with. How many of those people have you viewed as people that you can get something from instead of people that you can give something to? We go to the store to shop, to the mechanic to get the oil changed. We go to the doctor to get a check-up and to the gas station to get gasoline. How often do we think about the connections that we can make with our lives? How often do we think about the eternal need that our neighbor has and use the God-given tasks and callings he gives us in life to make a connection with them? We are surrounded by those who need Jesus in their lives! It starts with those in our neighborhoods. But we don’t always look at what they need. Rather we dwell on what makes them different from us! They may look differently, think differently, believe differently – We may have nothing in common with them and they may have nothing to offer us – just like Jesus and the woman at the well. But we have something special to offer them!
Jesus approached each one of us in the same way that he approached the Samaritan woman. Before he approached us, we were like that Samaritan woman – having nothing to offer the perfect Son of God. But he connected to mankind by becoming a man for each one of us. He connected his life to our own by living perfectly in our place. He replaced our imperfection with his perfection by giving his life on the cross for our salvation.
Since Jesus approached us in that way, should we look at everyone we meet in the same way? No longer look at how others may have something to give you, but look at them and say, “How can I serve them?!” If you’re an engineer, design the best airplanes you can. If you’re a teacher, put your whole heart into teaching children. If you’re a factory worker, be the best worker you can be! If you work in an office, treat everyone you meet with love and respect. Whatever your job may be, do it to the best of your ability. Look at those you connect with in your life the same way Jesus looks at you – with love and service.
Perhaps you’re already doing a good job of connecting to others with your lives. Perhaps you can say that you’ve built bridges to others, or developed friendships with them. And yet, just connecting with our lives isn’t a connection that goes deep enough. There is still another connection to make – one that counts eternally. We make the connection that counts when we connect with our faith.
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied (v. 16). Up until now, the Samaritan woman had thought that they were talking about water. And now, she realized this conversation had just turned in an unsuspected direction. Jesus had made a connection when he asked for water, but he knew there was a deeper connection to be made. He wanted to make a connection that would last for eternity – a faith connection. He wanted this woman before him to realize her greatest need was not water from a well, but was Living Water that she could get from only one person. Only Jesus could give her this Living Water.
The woman responded: I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. And then Jesus responded: I who speak to you am he (vv. 25-26). With these words, Living water poured into the woman’s heart and that greatest thirst of her soul was quenched. Her heart screamed out – Jesus has come to save me! This is everything that I never knew I needed!
Do you make that same connection with the people in your lives? If you don’t, then ask yourselves what stands in your way. If we’re honest with ourselves then we’d probably have to admit that we’re ashamed to point out another’s need for living water, or we’re scared of being labeled as “too strict.” What impression, ultimately, do we end up giving to those that we consider our friends? Isn’t it this sort of impression: I don’t value you enough as a friend to share with you what’s most important to me?
Can you hear your Savior speaking to you just as he spoke with that Samaritan woman? He comes to you in a Word so comforting it heals your guilty heart. This Word is so comforting that it makes a connection that truly counts. It is so powerful that death and hell have no other option than to release their grip on us. It is a word that says that we are no longer separated from God. It was a word that assures us that we no longer have condemnation or fear. It is a word summed up in the phrase, “It is finished.” Finally, it is a word that is found in the Word. From cover to cover of God’s Word, Christ comes to us saying, “I who speak to you am he.” This word from our Savior causes our hearts to cry out, “Jesus is everything I never knew I needed!”
That is how you and I want to connect to those around us! How do we do it? Connect, first with your life, to someone who doesn’t know Jesus or who hasn’t heard his voice in some time. After that connection with your life, connect to them with your faith by speaking of Jesus or inviting them to church, Bible class, or Bible Information Class.
Sometimes, the trouble with Evangelism Sundays is that often they are a way to act like cheerleaders on the sidelines. We can cheer out for others, and say “Yeah, it’s a good thing that you connect with others about your faith.” And yet, there we are, standing on the sidelines and failing to enter the game ourselves. Shouldn’t Evangelism Sunday be an opportunity for us to strap on the shoulder pads, to lace up the shoes and enter our own various mission fields?
A couple of years ago I was traveling with some classmates and a professor to North Carolina to do some canvassing for a church there. But our canvassing and telling others about Christ didn’t wait until the plane touched down in Asheville. Instead, it started while we were waiting to board the plane! As we sat in the terminal, my professor struck up a conversation with a complete stranger. That man told us about his life and how he played in an orchestra for some major plays on Broadway. As we sat there listening to his story, our professor was looking for an opportunity to confess his faith. Finally, that opportunity presented itself as the man told us about some of his down times. It was then that we all were able to share with him the joy and peace we have through Jesus.
If nothing else, I want you to walk away today with a game plan. And so, take a moment and ask yourselves – who can I connect to? Well, what about those with whom you spend your Saturday evenings? Do you tell them that your Sunday plans are laying low or watching the game? Or do you, unashamedly, confess that before anything else you will spend your Sunday mornings in church and Bible Class? Perhaps you can connect with your faith to a family member who doesn’t attend church or know their Savior; maybe it’s the person that sits in the cubicle next to you at work.
If you examine those in your various circles of friends – your close friends, your family, your acquaintances, or your neighbors – and can honestly say that there is no one in those circles who needs to hear about Jesus, then be like my professor. Find a new connection to make with someone you may have had contact with for the first time. Make that connection, but look for opportunities to share your faith about a Savior who loves both you and that person. If you still need help finding someone to make a connection with, use the insert in your bulletin. Fill that paper out and put it on your fridge. Continue to pray for those people, but even more – look for opportunities to show them their Savior by connecting to them with your faith!
A missed alley-oop pass can result in a turnover. A connected alley-oop pass can result in cheers and high-fives. We have a far better connection than a completed alley-oop pass and it certainly brings far more joy. Jesus Christ connected himself to each one of us. He connected himself by becoming one of us, living a perfect life for us and dying our death for us. Because he connected himself to us, he wants us to make connections with every person in our lives. God’s blessings to you this day and every day as you make lasting connections with others – through your life and with your faith.