Leaving Your Water Jar
The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent Year A.
So Jesus went to Samaria and sat down at Jacob’s Well. In fact, not only did he happen to go to Samaria, but the verse before the beginning of today’s reading says that Jesus HAD to go to Samaria.
But nowhere does Jesus call this woman a sinner; nowhere does the author of the Gospel of John call her anything but a Samaritan woman, and that was bad enough. She was a member of the enemy tribe. She is not Elizabeth Taylor minus three. Women in first Century Palestine were the property of men who could abandon them for any reason. She could have been in a Levirate marriage. She may have been repeatedly widowed - life expectancy in those times was hardly what it is now. She may have been abandoned and then picked up by someone who was willing to take her in but not to marry her. Women didn’t always get to choose where they lived or with whom.
The point is, this woman was not a wanton sensualist. She was trapped, and perhaps victimized, by her circumstances just as was the woman with the issue of blood and the man who was born blind. We don’t know the specifics of her story and we don’t have to know, but Jesus does. And he HAS to go and meet her.
Now we see this woman doing the same. After her encounter with the living God, (I am! he says to her - the first time Jesus identifies himself as God, I AM, in this Gospel), she becomes an evangelist. She invites others to come and see this man who has changed her life by treating her with dignity. She’s not a sinner, at least not any more of a sinner than I am or you are.
She is an evangelist.
Can we tap into that living water that gushes up IN US into eternal life and offer it to those who are not only thirsty but who are yearning for a new identity while being trapped by their circumstances, who are wandering in their own wildernesses for whatever reasons, reasons that we do not have to judge? What would we as a church need to leave behind so that we could transcend our own circumstances and live into our identity as a faithful witness to the one who made us, who sustains us, who has redeemed us with his very life?
Can we accept that water when it is offered to us?
And here is my testimony. I know I spent fifteen years away from organized religion because I needed to hang on to my bad experience of the church during the Civil Rights era. I hung on to that experience and let my anger about it simmer because it distracted me from something far worse, my own self-identity as someone who was unworthy and unlovable by God.
And it was the church and the people in the church who invited me and accepted me, who healed me of my anger at the church and at the people of the church and at God.