A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
Do you remember that time when you realized that it was not all about you? Do you remember that time when you realized that God was not just planted in your home sanctuary waiting for you to enter? Do you remember the time when you realized that there was, oh, so much more? There is some point in all of our faith journeys when we realize that the road we are following and the understandings of faith that we hold are not all there is to God. It happens to all of us as we begin to see that God’s reach is far beyond where we are standing, even greater than the distance that we could possibly traverse or, for that matter, even imagine traversing. As our journey winds toward Jerusalem, we remember that day when we realized that there was something more.
It’s probably a good thing that the disciples didn’t seem to be around for Jesus’ indiscretions. They probably would have felt the need to pull him back into what was expected of him, what was expected of all of them. After all, he was supposedly the Messiah. This was surely going to be a big ugly black mark on Jesus’ Messiah resume’! Here he was, not just breaking one big rule, but at least three! First of all, he approaches, unescorted, and speaks to a woman. Well see, this was just wrong. After all, anything could happen! (After all, there were writings in the Talmud that contended that speaking to a woman would ultimately lead to unchastity–or even worse!) Then, secondly, Jesus speaks to this woman that apparently, for whatever reason, did not have the best reputation. Now, in all probability, this woman was probably just a victim of some form of Levirite marriage process gone terribly bad, where she had been handed in marriage from relative to relative as her husbands died, leaving her penniless and out of options. But we have to obey the rules, right? Even if they make no sense! And, as if all this wasn’t bad enough, here Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan, the so-called “enemy”, one who thought differently and believed differently and worshipped differently than the standard fare of proper society. And Jesus, in pure Jesus fashion, did not just speak to her but actually engaged her in conversation, engaged her in spiritual and theological dialogue. (I think Jesus may possibly have been a big talker!) Yeah, good thing the disciples weren’t there to see THAT!
But, really, who made those rules? I mean, they weren’t bad rules. They were made to keep the faithful, to insure the identity of people of faith. On the surface, that doesn’t sound all bad. After all, this faith journey is hard enough, right? But, oh, think what you would miss. The truth is, this story is about more than Jesus breaking rules. The boundaries of the first century understanding of God and God’s children are crashing down at this moment. We have grown accustomed to The Gospel being a story of encounters–encounters with God, encounters with each other, encounters with those that believe the way we believe, that can encourage us on our journey. But in this story, all those pre-set notions of what encounter means begin to fail. Jesus enters a new phase of the journey.
Up until this point, Jesus’ encounters have been pretty ethno-centric. But, here, the Gospel begins to spread to other ethnicities and other peoples. It begins to include an encounter with the world. In this story, we finally realize that there is more than what we know, more than that to which we have become accustomed, more than what we can really imagine. This was the point when we encountered a Savior that was not just ours, a Messiah that did not come just to release us from our tightly-held little world, a God who is created all there is and called it good. Think back to this moment when you realized that Jesus was indeed the Savior of the World.
This is something that we so easily forget. Our social language turns to self-preservation, to making ourselves great, and we forget that the needs of the world our ours. We forget that if we have a voice, we are called to speak out for others. We forget that if we have a heart, we are called to care what happens even to those that we do not know. Because just because we do not know them does not mean that they are not our family, that they are not part of us. The pictures are hard. We’d rather turn and go back to our comfortable lives and hope and pray that terrorism and tyranny and thoughtlessness never touches our borders. But the problem is that these pictures are ours.
I posted this before the United States sent 59 Tomahawk missiles to Syria in retaliation, or to prove a point, or just to exercise muscle. Now, honestly, I would like to say that I’m a pacifist. I think it’s the right thing. I think it’s the Gospel thing. I think it’s what Jesus would have done. I think it’s the God thing. But I’ve also walked through Auschwitz. Surely, we need to do SOMETHING. So, I guess we did. I pray that no one was hurt. I pray that it doesn’t go farther. But I also pray that we will PAY ATTENTION to others’ needs.
Our Lenten journey is not just about preparing our neatly-constructed lives to be interrupted by the Cross. This Lenten journey calls us to a broadening, a widening, of our minds and our lives. On this journey, Jesus is gathering us to the Cross–all of us. So think back to the point when you realized it was about something more, that Jesus was not just your personal Savior, but the One who came to set us free–free from our tightly-bound existence, free to become fully human in unity with all the world, all of God’s children, all of Creation. The Cross means that we are called to realize not only that there is more than what we see, but that WE are indeed responsible for it–Tomahawks and all.
To belong to a community is to begin to be about more than myself. (Joan Chittister)
As our Lenten journey narrows toward the gates of Jerusalem, let it also be a journey that widens our minds and opens our hearts to all that God is and all that God desires for you. Let our journey widen to include the world.
Grace and Peace,