On our best days

Last year, on a Delta airlines flight from Phoenix, a tragedy occurred. During the flight, one of the passengers suffered a heart attack. His wife called out for help. The trained flight crew responded as did a passenger who was a doctor. Another passenger attended to the passenger’s wife. He offered to pray with her, to pray for her husband, and he stayed with her as the tragedy unfolded. He stayed with her as life hung in the balance. He left the plane with her and collected her luggage. He carried their luggage to the car that was waiting for him and took the woman to the hospital. He stayed with her as a doctor broke the news that her husband had died. Continue reading

At the well: we have heard for ourselves

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellJesus’ words overflow with metaphor: living water, the hour, food, harvest. Each of these metaphors attempts to open reality in fresh ways for his conversation partners. Jesus wants to open the eyes of the Samaritan woman and his disciples so that they can see what is being offered to them in the present instead of continuing to view everything through the lens of old realities. Jesus wants the Samaritan woman to see who is speaking with her at this moment and the gifts that he offers (4:10). He wants her to see that the present moment is the time of eschatological fulfillment (4:23-24). Jesus wants his disciples to see that the harvest is ready now, contrary to popular understandings (4:35). In both conversations (4:7.26, 31-38), Jesus takes familiar images and fills them with new meaning in order to open up for his listeners the possibilities of a life defined by God’s gifts. The metaphors of these verses keep the terms of the conversations always fresh, always suggestive, always open to new meanings in changing circumstances. Continue reading

At the well: one sows another reaps

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellArrival of the disciples and departure of the woman.  27 At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” Continue reading

At the well: go call your husband

SamaritanWomanAtTheWell16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Go call your husband. Jesus introduces a new topic in v.16 possibly to provide a fresh angle on his identity. In vv.7-15, his invitation to the woman was couched in the metaphor of living water; in vv.16-18, Jesus’ invitation will be grounded in the woman’s own life. Continue reading

At the well: give me a drink

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellConversations between Jesus and the Sa­maritan woman (Jn 4:7-26). The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman consists of thirteen exchanges, one of the longest dialogues in the Gospel. It divides into two sections, each section introduced by a request/command by Jesus: (I ) vv.7-15 (“Give me a drink”); (2) vv.16-26 (“Go, call your husband”).

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Continue reading

At the well: context

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellJohn 4:5-42 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Continue reading

I own a bucket

durable water bucketI own a bucket. I suspect you do also. So…what is your favorite story about your bucket? Seriously. Ok, not so seriously. We don’t think about buckets a whole lot. It is not like we have a plethora of “bucket stories.” They are just kinda’ there when we need them. You use ‘em, you put them away. Back in the closet, pantry, or garage ready for the next time. And when the “next time” comes” and we go to find them and they are missing from their assigned place, it is not like the world has ended. Perhaps annoyed or inconvenienced, but not ended. A lots of times, the task is generally not too big and we can work around the missing bucket.

When I owned a home in the Catoctin hills of Virginia I gained a lot of experience with a bucket. The home came equipped with a cistern and a hand pump mounted atop it. It was charming and rustic looking when I was buying the property. The main part of the house had been built in the 1880s and did not come equipped with outside water connections. The cistern was charming; the charm wore off, but not completely. It was actually rather useful. But it’s usefulness was dependent on a bucket. I needed the bucket to prime the pump and the bucket to catch the pump discharge. Handy thing, that bucket. I used it for all the outside watering needs: flowers, vegetable gardens, washing the car, and mundane sorts of things. When I wasn’t hauling water with it, the bucket became a handy tote bag for tools, odds and ends, and what-nots.

Who knew I would carry my “bucket experience” with me on mission in Kenya. During the rainy season everyone had cisterns to catch rain running off the roof. Water was only a bucket away. Right after the rainy season, when the reservoirs were still full, there was water from the public utility system. But in the dry season in Kenya, the slums were the first ones to have the water cut off. Yet, we still had running water. You simply ran and got it. And yes, you needed a bucket. I can remember going to a place outside the slum where we thought we could get some water. Of course we got there, and sadly, no bucket. I could hear the Samaritan women’s voice: “you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep.

The Samaritan women at the well in today’s gospel knows the value of a bucket. At the noon hour, when she encounters Jesus at the well, he says, “Give me a drink.” She replies, “you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep.” It is a reasonable assessment of the situation. In her own way she has sized up Jesus and her assessment, “The task is bigger than you think and you are not equipped to do what needs to be done.” Maybe she reached into the well of her own experience, her own limitations, her own humanity, and simply knew some things are not within our control. They are too much. Too big. Too far gone with no way to go back. Just too much.

There are lots of times when we face circumstances that are just too much and we fell ill equipped, unprepared, or reach into the well of our own experience, limitations, humanity, and are just daunted, haunted, and discouraged. It’s too much.

Between obligations, duties, and responsibilities at home, work, and school, you wonder how you are possibly going to be able to fulfill these commitments. The well is deep and you have no bucket. Maybe a loved one is struggling in life, health, or with an addiction and you feel helpless in the face of its power over them. The well is deep and you have no bucket. We lose a loved one. The well never felt so deep. We may feel this way in the face of the suffering of people in our own communities, the abuse of power, poverty, people without healthcare, the homeless, human trafficking, and the next thing to creep off the front pages into our lives and souls. The well always seems so deep and we have no bucket.

We always have a bucket. It’s just there in the closet, the pantry, or the garage. Sometimes we just need to use it. There is a story about how a vessel in the waters of the southern Caribbean signaled for help from another vessel not far off: “Help! Save us, or we perish for lack of water!” The captain of the other vessel’s reply was “Cast down your buckets where you are.” Supposing that the second captain had not gotten the message accurately, the troubled ship signaled yet again. “Help! Save us, or we perish for lack of water!” Again the nearby ship signaled back, “Cast down your buckets where you are!” This exchange went on until the first ship, in desperation, decided it had nothing to lose by following this outlandish advice. When crew members cast down their buckets, they drew them up filled with clear, cool, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon. They had not realized that the powerful current of the Amazon River carried fresh water from the South American rain forests into the heart of the ocean.

So it is with Jesus and our own lives. “you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep,” yet Jesus offers “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus is that well of grace, the living water. It is the Amazon of living waters of Christ welling up from the place of grace, the place where we just reach out in prayer, bucket or no, not to just receive, but to be awash, to be washed clean, refreshed, renewed, and able to take a deep breath – and get back into our life and to be that spring of graced water welling up to others who struggle. To be their bucket, a font of living grace, for others in each passing moment.

If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” May be it takes a bucket of prayer, maybe one just needs to stretch out one’s hands, to cup the living waters of grace.

Just ask. It is the gift of God. Just ask.

Amen.

The Samaritan Women: we have heard for ourselves

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellJesus’ words overflow with metaphor: living water, the hour, food, harvest. Each of these metaphors attempts to open reality in fresh ways for his conversation partners. Jesus wants to open the eyes of the Samaritan woman and his disciples so that they can see what is being offered to them in the present instead of continuing to view everything through the lens of old realities. Jesus wants the Samaritan woman to see who is speaking with her at this moment and the gifts that he offers (4:10). He wants her to see that the present moment is the time of eschatological fulfillment (4:23-24). Jesus wants his disciples to see that the harvest is ready now, contrary to popular understandings (4:35). In both conversations (4:7.26, 31-38), Jesus takes familiar images and fills them with new meaning in order to open up for his listeners the possibilities of a life defined by God’s gifts. The metaphors of these verses keep the terms of the conversations always fresh, always suggestive, always open to new meanings in changing circumstances. Continue reading

The Samaritan Women: one sows another reaps

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellArrival of the disciples and departure of the woman.  27 At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” Continue reading

The Samaritan Women: go call your husband

SamaritanWomanAtTheWell16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Go call your husband. Jesus introduces a new topic in v.16 possibly to provide a fresh angle on his identity. In vv.7-15, his invitation to the woman was couched in the metaphor of living water; in vv.16-18, Jesus’ invitation will be grounded in the woman’s own life. Continue reading