Monday, May 14, 2007

Changes: The Woman at the Well

The only way to propagate a message is to live it. Jim Wallis

The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief. T.S. Eliot

We can only live changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create. Ivan Illich

Everyone wants to change the world but no one wants to change themselves. Leo Tolstoy

Paradox, irony, and surprise permeate the teachings of Jesus. Don Kraybill

“Read your Bible every day to know Christ better.” Billy Graham

John 4
Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."

The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?"

Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."

The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!"

He said, "Go call your husband and then come back."

"I have no husband," she said.
"That's nicely put: 'I have no husband.' You've had five husbands, and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough."

"Oh, so you're a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?"

"Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."

The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story."

"I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.

Jesus is out on another journey. This isn’t a common run of the mill story for a regular Jew though, unless of course your name is Jesus. What in the world was He doing in Samaria?

Pious Jews avoided Samaritans. Samaritans were half-breeds, considered unclean. Why does Jesus go right through Samaria? Because he loves the outcasts and the broken people of this world. Welcome to the way of Jesus.

He stopped at a well. Anyone in the first century would have understood the significance of that. Wells in the Old Testament were associated with marriage. There was the servant looking for a wife for Isaac who found Rebekah.

There was Moses who stopped at a well after leaving Egypt and met the daughters of Jethro, one of whom would become his wife.

There was Jacob who me Rachel at a well in Genesis 29.

This story is a story of marriage. Jesus Himself was the marriage of the human and the divine. He is the marriage of heaven and earth.

In the Bible there is the image of Jesus marrying his bride, the church, all of us! Jesus wants to marry us.

Is there significance to Jesus being tired at the noon hour? Well He is the light of the world and this is a story of illumination and truth. Remember when Nicodemus came to visit Jesus? At night. Or when Judas set out to betray Him? At night.

This is a story of light bringing life.

The Samaritan woman comes to get some water. Jesus, “Would you give me a drink of water?"

What a reversal this is from the early days of God’s people. In the OT, people thirsted after God, and yet here we have God being thirsty after us. “As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you God” Psalm 42.

Jesus’ question throws the woman off and she gives a defensive response. Why is that?

She was a triple outsider. First she was a woman in a very patriarchal society. Second she was a Samaritan. And third she was a woman coming alone to a well at noon. Women tended to come in small groups for water to share the load at favorable times of the day, be it early or later. They wouldn’t come during the noonday heat.

This woman is an outcast, a shady questionable person who is forced to go get her stuff when no one else is around, perhaps fearful of gossip and judgment.

This is just the kind of broken person that Jesus is interested in. just the kind of person that Jesus loves. Just like you and just like me.

To her negative reaction Jesus simply says, “If you knew the generosity of God, if you knew the gift of God you could get living water.”

Wow, that’s perhaps the best shorthand description for the Gospel in all of Scripture. That’s the mission of God.

Who is God? God is the one who gives. Does God need this world? No. The fact that the world exists means that it is a gift given to us in love. The greatest gift of all?

John 3:16-18
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Summary: God gives, we receive and then we give it away. We don’t cling to it. The prodigal son said to his father, ‘give me my share. I want to do life my way.’ If you cling to what you have you will lose it! You keep your life by giving it away.

The Gospel loop: God gives- we receive- we give it away- God gives-and the cycle repeats.

This woman goes to the well, we all go the well looking for fulfillment, and we have misplaced desires. We are made for a conversational relationship with God but we go other places looking for satisfaction. And just like the Rolling Stones we don’t get no satisfaction!

So Jesus says, “Go call your husband.” In that day, it was a sexist society. A woman’s’ worth was based on her husband. He governed her life. Jesus says, ‘Tell me who governs your life.’ Is it this guy or that guy? Is it this teacher or that teacher? Is it this style or that style?

Jesus is asking for marriage here. Jesus is asking for commitment. All of us who follow Christ and are baptized say that we want Him as the CEO of our life. Jesus is our GPS. He is our centrepoint. In biblical expression we worship Him. And that’s what the text says:

"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."

True worshippers worship in spirit and truth. They go together and they create a synthesis and a synergy of perspective and life. Adoration means, ‘from out of the mouth.’

Have you ever been a told a joke, you’ve heard the words, expressions, all the details but you don’t get it? It seems like everyone is laughing but you’re there on a tape delay and then finally you get it? What’s different? Nothing was added, but a pattern emerged and became clear that brings humor.

So it is with Jesus. A pattern emerges. He is the life. Jesus is the pattern of our life. The woman at the well gets it. She realizes the deception that she’s been caught in, but Jesus doesn’t bust her.

How freeing that must have been. She is standing there and gets it. A God wink, a God kiss, God shows up, she almost missed it and now she is surprised by joy!

Don’t look now but see who else shows up and is more than a little bit surprised. Why it’s Jesus most ardent supporters, the disciples. Here’s James, John and the rest, the Stew’s, the ____. We’re all there.

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.

Ever had that kind of reaction when Jesus is busy doing his thing accepting the unacceptable, of loving the unlovable at serving the ones who have no status?

The woman leaves her water pot behind and becomes the first evangelist by going back to her village and telling what happened. How to share your faith 101 is right there. God gives each of us a story and we go tell others of our story. No need to argue or convince them, we can let God do that.

Our biggest leverage is the water pots that we’ve left behind, of the old ways that are changed because we now follow the Jesus Way. She left her old life behind. She set down the burden of her past.

She left hers behind. We can too.

What’s the water jug of your life?

What are you carrying? Is it a concern for money, power, esteem, or glory? Is it a past hurt form someone in a church?

Jesus allows us to set it down. She tells everyone about it. When you see something beautiful you tell others. You don’t keep it to yourself. Change is beautiful!

[God] wants us to be just like Jesus. Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.” You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one.

Where did we get the idea we can’t change? From whence come statements such as, “It’s just my nature to worry” or, “I’ll always be pessimistic. I’m just that way.” … Who says? Would we make similar statements about our bodies? “It’s just my nature to have a broken leg. I can’t do anything about it.” Of course not. If our bodies malfunction, we seek help. Shouldn’t we do the same with our hearts? Shouldn’t we seek aid for our sour attitudes? Can’t we request treatment for our selfish tirades? Of course we can. Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his. Max Lucado

Many of the Samaritans believed because of her. So much so that they wanted Jesus to stick around for two more days. Might those have been two very uncomfortable days for the disciples? Do you think they all 'got it' at the same time?

Luke 17:11-19
The only leper that was healed that came back to see Jesus was a Samaritan! Did the woman at the well have anything to do with that?

Go back to your little villages and tell everyone what Jesus has done for you.


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