Thursday, 20 March 2014

The outcast woman at the well....

The 3rd Sunday in Lent   Year A
 John 4:5-42

The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is an unusual conversation.

Jesus is, first of all, not on his home turf.  Traveling from Judea in the South to Galilee in the North he could easily have skirted Samaria - as pious travelers frequently did if they were concerned about coming into contact with something or someone which would render them unclean.  Jesus takes the short route and ends up in a Samaritan town called Sychar at high noon. 

He is out of place - a solitary Jew in a Samaritan village with his disciples gone off on an errand.  A woman shows up at noon to draw water at the local well.  The woman in the story is also out of place. This is an unusual time for her to be doing this sort of thing.  Her contemporaries had all been by the well the cool of the morning.  It might indicate someone who was disorganized in her household habits or, as is mostly likely the case, somebody who was sincerely hoping not to bump into anyone she knew.  Women talked when they were together at the well.  The woman in our story has a chaotic life story.  Other women  at the well might have talked about her.

Jesus doesn't care that she is a Samaritan.  He doesn't even seem completely perplexed by her complicated personal history.  He asks her for a drink of water.  She rambles on - nervous and bemused at being spoken to by a stranger.  She's even prepared to enter into an ecumenical discussion about the differing practices and holy places of the Jews and the Samaritans.  Jesus dismisses these bluffs and platitudes as religious nonsense.   He proceeds to tell her exactly who she is and who he is and what might ensue should she ever come to her right mind and ask him for the gift of life - summed up in his words about Living Water.

So many of the transforming moments in both the Old and New Testaments occur when the comfortable safety of stable and respectable life is either lost or set aside.  The character in a biblical story about transformation is more than likely to be a wanderer, a prisoner, an expatriate, a social outcast or a solitary seeker. 

You might not seek such a life for yourself.  If it is thrust upon you, however, take heart.  Unaccustomed times and places are putty in God's hands.