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Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Going to the well

The encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob in John 4 is the longest recorded discourse of Jesus with a person that we have The story starts with Jesus approaching a Samaritan woman at a well.
Who Jesus approaches is important
It is the last person we would expect him to pick and offer his generosity to, his love, his spirit
A Samaritan
A Samaritan woman
A Samaritan women who has had multiple divorces (or relationships) and is living with a man, not her husband.
A woman who is going to the well at noon, when no one else is around - most of the women went in the morning – and the men gather in the evening  --  A woman who went to the well when there was no one there.. a symbol of her isolation, her rejection.

But Jesus engages that woman.  Jesus offers HER the totality of his resources, the spring of living water, the Spirit

This reminds us that Jesus was always "unraveling the world view" of those he encountered. Transcending what the culture taught as natural boundaries between male & female; "chosen people" and "rejected people".  Modeling the fact that God's transforming grace is available to all. 
Let’s face it!  Jesus broke the rules. He essentially said that the rules were less important than love.  Less important than compassion.  He went outside the box, and in doing so he illustrates that love is the most important thing 

The second important element in this story is the discourse itself, and in particular there is the odd discourse about the woman’s husband  Study the history of this text, read the commentaries, listen to the interpretations and you will learn that most commentators think this woman’s life was marked by promiscuity. The evidence? Five spouses and now living unmarried with a sixth man. We don’t know the full story… What we can assume is this woman has been through relationship hell.  She has looked for love, perhaps in all the wrong places.  And now here she is, five men later, with yet another man.  I can’t help think of all those women who go from abusive relationship to abusive relationship.  And here she is  Isolated.  Probably ashamed…and hiding.  Getting water in the heat of the day.  When she will have to face no one.

The hiding makes sense.  Who, with so many skeletons in his or her closet wants to be exposed?  Who wants the worst things about them brought to the surface?  And in that, she probably mirrors our own lives. We too are people with a past, people with a history. We are all Samaritan women.   People who have things we would prefer to hide.

Jesus finds her in the heat of the day, and he doesn’t let her hide. With this woman Jesus forced self-perception.  With one question he brought out the hidden, the real person.  So it is with us.  When we spend time with Jesus he brings self-perception upon us, the self-perception we’ve lacked for years just because we’ve preferred to be without it, as he puts any number of questions to us:
            “Go call your alienated child.”
            “Produce your income tax return.”
            “Show me the lonely person needing comfort for whom you gave up leisure time.”
            “What do you do when no one is looking”?

Unfailingly Jesus directs our attention to that area of our lives that is dry and brittle.  That place we would just as soon no one see.  That area is that is the desert part of our lives. 

NOW - People like her, people like us, people with a past, often live in fear of being found out.  We are so afraid if people know us, really know us, they will reject us, judge us, find us wanting.

And this is a sad place to be.  Because we really want to be loved for who we really are.  We all thirst to be seen and to be known at a deep intimate level, seen with all our warts, and flaws, and still be loved. 

When Jesus asked that woman that question about her husband he was inviting her to let herself be known.  And that was risky.  Being known she risked rejection. 

But that is not what happens. Jesus in this dialog does an amazing thing.  He strips off the fa├žade.  He penetrates the walls around this woman.  He exposes her, for who she really is…Jesus goes into the depths. He brings forth the real her…AND He accepts her anyway

Indeed he not only accepts her, but he offers her a great gift.  The gift of Living Water

The lack of which, was of course, the heart of her problem anyway.  She was dry.  She sought relief for that dryness in many wrong places.

This is the way it is for most of us.  We are dry.  And in our dryness  we all go down to some well. For some, like the Samaritan woman, it is the relationship well. For others it is the well of perfectionism. Others will draw from the well of power and control. Too many will drink from the wells of addiction. Many live at the well of busyness and denial.  Others go to the well of rigid religiosity. 

We could each name the wells from which we drink. Day after day, month after month, year after year we go to the same well to drink. We arrive hoping our thirst will be quenched. We leave as thirsty as when we arrived only to return the next day. For too long we have drunk from the well that never satisfies, the well that can never satisfy.

But Jesus offers the gift of another well.. It is the well of the Spirit. It is the well that washes us clean of our past. This is the well from which new life and new possibilities spring forth. It is the well that frees us from the patterns and habits that keep us living as thirsty people.

 “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.” This is the living water of new life, new possibilities, and freedom from the past. This living water is Jesus’ own life. It became in the Samaritan woman “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” She discovered within herself the interior well and left her water jar behind. She had now become the well in which Christ’s life flows.

This is the final point
The Spring of living water

As people with flaws
As people not at ease with ourselves, we live in a state of dis-ease
Afraid we will be found out
Afraid we will be judged
Afraid that there will not be enough
Enough intelligence, power, resources, love
To make it through life

Not only afraid that if we are open we will be found out
But afraid that if we are open, and more, give
We will run dry
Be taken advantage of
Be left without enough
Empty.

But with the spring of living water there is always enough of God in our lives
Always enough love
Always enough Spirit

The Amazon River is the largest river in the world. The mouth is 90 miles across. There is enough water to exceed the combined flow of the Yangtze, Mississippi and Nile Rivers. So much water comes from the Amazon that they can detect its currents 200 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. One irony of ancient navigation is that sailors in ancient times sometimes died for lack of water... they would get caught in windless waters of the South Atlantic they were drift, helpless, their stores of water depleted

Sometimes other ships from South America who knew the area would come alongside and call out, "What is your problem?" And they would exclaim, "Can you spare us some water? Our sailors are dying of thirst!" And from the other ship would come the cry, "Just lower your buckets. You are in the mouth of the mighty Amazon River."  The is fresh water right below you

This story says that God’s Spirit is always there.  Always there inside us.  The power is there.  The love is there.  And not just in limited quantities, but there, in a limitless manner.  It is like a spring of water, welling up.  Always fresh.  Always powerful.  Always renewed.  We just have to lower the bucket.

All we have to do is go to this well.  Go  to the Spirit
Sometimes we forget it is there
Sometimes we lose sight of the spirit and its power
And so there we are, dying of thirst, and the solution is right there, available

But we have a River of Life, welling up in us
And if we drink it we will thirst no more

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