Turning a Mess into Something Beautiful – John 4:4-19, 25-26 – Plus Video!

This is the script of a talk for ‘Come and See’ on 20th July 2019, using the Linked Hearts Mobius Strips.

Several folks have asked about how to make the linked hearts, so I have made a video showing you how to do it. The key is to make sure you have one right-hand and one left-hand Mobius strip. Here’s a video of how to do it.

writer mug 1I’m a free-lance writer and my children have a most inconvenient habit of growing. I’ve tried dressing them in paper bags, but they complain that they go funny in the rain. Kids, eh?

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I used to think that the Bible was all highfalutin’, nothing to do with real life, nothing to do with me.

Then I read it, and I found in its pages all of human life. Real people with real lives and real faults. people just like me.

Being a Christian is not about trying to pretend that we’re perfect, it’s recognising that we so are not. That’s why I love this conversation that Jesus had with the woman at the well. Because cultures change.  Languages change. Where we get our water from changes. But people don’t. This is a story about someone who is just like me, just like you, just like all of us. Warts and all.

A little bit of background for you. This woman was a Samaritan, but that doesn’t mean she was a nice helpful person, like we use the word today. People thought of Samaritans then the way we think of gang members and drug dealers now. No nice Jewish lad would be seen dead even talking to a Samaritan, never mind sharing a drink. So what on earth was Jesus doing there?

The passage starts by saying that Jesus had to go through Samaria. He didn’t have to. He could have gone around like most people. But Jesus didn’t do that. Then he breaks all the social taboos going. He talks to a woman – Big no no. She’s a Samaritan – Bigger no no. And she is, let us say, not a woman of high reputation – Hugest no no ever. What was Jesus thinking of, being seen with a woman like that?

This is not the kind of person you’d take to tea with the Queen, but I like her. She’s smart and she’s sassy. She’s no shrinking violet. There’s this lovely little to-and-fro she has with Jesus about who’s better, the Jews or the Samaritans, and she holds her own. Love it!

Then Jesus drops the bombshell. “Go, call your husband and come back.”


Jesus knew why this woman was getting water at midday on her own. That’s not when women usually went to the well. It was way too hot then. The other women would have gone for water earlier in the day, and it was a social occasion, where they all gathered to chat and find out if little Jonny’s chicken pox had cleared up yet.

But I think we can guess why our heroine was avoiding the other women. “You have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband“ – that would raise a few eyebrows even now, and it was much worse then. If she was living with a bloke not her husband, then he was probably someone else’s. Ouch.

It’s not the kind of thing you bring up in a casual conversation. In Britain we tend to stick to discussing the weather and the state of the roads. But Jesus cut right to the heart of the problem.  And the heart of the problem was the problem of the heart.

Jesus knew.

Jesus knew all the nasty grubby bits that she had in her heart, that we all have, and we all try to pretend that we don’t. All the bits that we’d rather nobody knew about because if they did, they might not like us anymore.

It’s like on Strictly. When someone leaves the competition, they show a ‘best bits’ reel: all the funny, heart-warming, lovely bits, the small triumphs and the heroic battling-against-the-odds. They don’t show the nasty bits: the arguing, the swearing, the bad-tempered tantrums. These end up like a tangle of tape on the cutting-room floor.

[show linked Mobius strips]IMG_20190614_100115

We all of us have a best-bits reel. It often ends up on Facebook or Instagram. But we also have a cutting-room floor, covered in all the stuff we’d rather no-one knew about. We pretend to ourselves that they never happened. Maybe we even try to cut them up, so that no-one can see what we’re ashamed to admit even to ourselves.

[start cutting first loop]

It all ends up a tangled mess. But Jesus sees my out-takes, and, astoundingly, still likes me. I’m going to say ‘like’ not ‘love’ because maybe ‘like’ is a stronger word. I know God loves me, it’s in his nature, I guess he kinda has to. But he likes me? That’s big newsIMG_20190614_100415

Jesus sees the tangled messes we make of our lives. I know I’ve made some huge messes. But by God’s mercy, he can do something about it.

[start cutting second loop]

Jesus knew about all the broken-ness of this woman’s life. She had a lot of out-takes on the cutting room floor, and he still liked her.

Jesus knows all about the broken-ness of my life too, and yours. I have a lot of out-takes on the cutting-room floor, and yet he still likes me, and you. And from the mess, by his mercy, he can make something beautiful.

[form linked hearts]



John 4:4-19, 25-26

Now Jesus had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  … “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”


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