What happened in Samaria, doesn’t stay there.

March 19, 2017


Sometimes it is good to spend some time with familiar stories.

John 4:1-42 is the well known story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria, or the Woman at the Well.  It’s a big story and there are many things to think about when we read it. The writer of John pays a lot of attention to this story. At 42 verses it is one of the longer stories in the Gospel of John. I think it has some things to say about women and how Jesus interacted with them.

  • Jesus talks to her, by himself. Apparently Jesus doesn’t have a problem with a man talking with a woman without someone else around.
  • Jesus also doesn’t have a problem treating her like a person of equal worth.
  • Jesus knows she has been married several times and now lives with a man. And he seems not to care about her marital status or her sex life. His mentioning of her previous husbands and current partner are a statement of reality, and in no way can be read as condemnation or judgement, or as approval. Her marital status and sex life have nothing to do with her encounter with Jesus.
  • After her encounter with Jesus the woman testifies, preaches, evangelizes- call it what you like- to women and to men. And they listen to her and follow her to Jesus. No man other than Jesus “allows” her to do this. Her calling is clear to her and to the others in her village who listen and respond.

This story also has some things to teach us about how we should interact with those who have different theological view.

  • Again, Jesus is respectful, he doesn’t belittle her views. There are no condescending comments about Samaritans.
  • He isn’t distracted by her “lifestyle”or her Samaritan ways.
  • Jesus doesn’t hide who he is or pretend he isn’t engaged in a serious conversation with someone of a different tradition. He doesn’t paper over legitimate differences.

Most interestingly to me, Jesus says that both the Jews and the Samaritans have gotten some of this religion stuff wrong. Neither group completely “owns” the truth. The truth is not ownable.

20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[c] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Spending time with familiar stories helps us remember what we ought to do. Because mostly, I need the reminder.  I need to remember what Jesus taught and how Jesus acted.

Jesus is sometimes not as direct and clear as we might like. It would be much easier, in some ways, if Jesus had simply given us a series of rules and guidelines.

Women this…

Men that….

People with different theological positions…..

But he doesn’t. I used to find this quite annoying. I really wanted rules and some clarity about how to live. Jesus’s way is more subtle and more flexible. It is attentive to the particular situation one is in. It is attentive to whom one is speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to think about what we are doing and why. Jesus’ way requires us to think about who we are speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to constantly ask the Spirit for guidance.

The people Jesus encountered knew Jesus by what he said and by what he did.  And it is the same for us. We know Jesus’s will by what he says and by what he does.

The same is true about us. People know who we are by what we say and more importantly by what we do.



Saving My Life

March 7, 2017

“Come tell us what is saving your life right now?”

Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, An Altar in the World, tells of being asked this question. It is a question I think about. What is saving my life right now?

I have to say between our national life and the cloudy winter, most days I want to stay home with my cats and a good book. But like most folks,  I need to figure out how to get up, go out and do what I need (and love) to do. To do this for the long haul, I need to know and nurture the things that save my life. I’m not talking about making a list of things I am  grateful for, although I am grateful for these things. The things that are saving my life are practices and habits that keep me grounded and hopeful.

Worship, as always, is saving my life. There is something life giving and affirming about being in worship with other people. To speak and sing and pray together in the presence of God is life giving.

Spiritual formation and spiritual direction are also life saving. I am part of a small group of women who meet regularly to talk honestly about our spiritual lives. These wise, caring, and thoughtful people help me think honestly and sincerely about my spiritual life. Spiritual direction allows me focused time to recognize where and when God has been at work in my life.

Daily prayer  and daily silence saves my life. Morning and evening I pray using the Book of Common Worship, Daily Prayer.  This practice keeps my prayers from becoming small and self focused as each morning and evening the thanksgivings and petitions lift up different situations and people. The practice of silence helps me listen for God might be saying to me.

Good work is life giving and life saving.  I work with college students. Spending time with them and seeing their faith, honesty, compassion, and joy remind me that the future (and the present) are in their good kind hands.

Cats and reading, in other words, knowing when to stop working and when to stop engaging the news. Intentionally spending time curled up on my couch with my cat and a  book is good for my mental well being.  My cat Peppy sits on my lap, purrs and looks adoringly at me.  When I adopted her from the shelter I saved her life and now she saves mine. And a good book, I don’t have to explain that do I? Long term engagement, at least for me, requires regular disengagement.

These are the  intentional and regular practices that are saving my life these days. Honestly they have been saving my life for years.

What is saving yours?

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