26. March, 2011 - Jesus meets a Samaritan woman by the well of Sychar
Much has been made of this story – it’s a beautiful portrait of Jesus. A telling portrait of the times and it’s something we can visit again and again.
We could discuss this story on a number of levels. We could talk about this story from the level of social inequality and the way in which Jesus bridges that inequality. Middle Eastern women to begin with were of low stature in Jesus’ day. And it doesn’t take us long to figure out that this woman is poor: wealthy women do not draw water from wells – they have servants do it. And this woman was an outcast. The text mentions that she is drawing water at the sixth hour of the day – high noon to me and you. The respectable women, or their servants, would have come early in the morning, or if they had too, much later in the day, when the air was cool. They would have walked together. Talking and gossiping. And we could stress that our beloved teacher, the man of sorrows. G-d, though He hungered and thirsted like us, overlooked all these things to reach out to one so down trodden as this poor woman.
We could also look at this text from a point of view of prejudice and race hatred. The fact that she is a Samaritan is clearly noted. The Jews hated the Samaritans, and BTW the Samaritans hated the Jews. II Kings 17:21-41; Ezra 4; and Nehemiah 4 all provide more than glimpse of the Jewish attitude towards Samaritans. 1st and 2nd Kings gives us a history of the political events that engendered those attitudes: The Samaritans were descendants of the Northern Kingdom. The Jews were the descendants of the Southern Kingdom. Again, Jesus bridged the gap.
Both ways of looking at the text would teach us much. But I would like to suggest that both ways, as valuable as they are, are by themselves, incomplete. And what’s more, if we are not careful we cast our selves into the roll of ‘other’… we create a sense of us and them… there are THOSE people… there are the poor people… the rich people… the outcast people the accepted people…and we fit into one group and everyone else… well, they must fit into another… and then we miss the point completely. I believe we are ALL the woman at the well.
1. Will You Give Me a Drink?
When the Samaritan woman first meets Jesus... first meets G-d, He asks something of her. I believe this is true for us as well. And more often than not, we will meet the demand with incredulity. 'What are you doing talking to me?' We are aware of our disconnection to the divine. We know we are only human… not very spiritual… not very aware of much beyond our own needs and wants. What does this G-d want with us?
2. I Will Give You Living Water/Are You Greater Than Jacob?
It is at that moment of disbelief He will begin to reveal Himself to us. 'Ah, if only you knew to whom you were speaking… I can give you LIVING WATER.'
3. You Don't Even Have a Bucket!
Again, we meet the divine with disbelief: what can You really do for us? As the woman asks, ‘You have nothing to draw with… how can You give me water? YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A BUCKET! You can’t give me a thing.’
4. You... Insist on Jerusalem/Spirit and Truth
The ongoing dialog between Jesus and the Samaritan woman points out the endemic difference between the human and divine understanding of the nature of things: even and especially worship.
Odd, even perverse intentional allusion to a common Blues texture.
5. My Food is to do the Will of Him Who Sent Me
In this dialog with the disciples, G-d continues to reveal himself to us. He shows them and us that there is more to life than the things we crave. What ever we have, be it a little or a lot, we always want more. However much we eat or drink or consume… we always want more. Our civilization is ready to collapse in on itself for all we consume and we will always, always, want more! And G-d says, yes there is more… something I can give, if you grasp it, you will find it to be that which truly satisfies.
6. Now We have Heard for Ourselves
In the realization that G-d knows us… that we have no more to hide, for he is taking away our sin… talking away our thirsts… cleansing us and satisfying us… we begin to understand the truth: the days are coming when it doesn’t matter whether you look to the mountain, or look to the temple. Truly one is not more holy than the other. There is no more us and them, but rather the G-d who is spirit, unites the spirits of all who worship Him… the color of the skin is made meaningless. The nationalities are rendered null and void. Male and female rich and poor… no more us and them… only the family of G-d… united in spirit and in truth.
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