Yet, if you have ever heard this story of “The Woman at the Well” you have probably heard this woman described as a prostitute, a woman of ill repute, a multi-married harlot. If you talk to your friends and relatives who heard sermons on this woman today, you will hear her described as shameless, shameful, and sinful.
And yes, she was an outcast. She is all alone at the well in the heat of the day. In the middle eastern desert culture, all of the other women in her town would have come in a group to draw water from the well in the cool of the morning or the evening. The woman who encounters Jesus at the town well is alone there at noon with her bucket. She was outside the circle of “us” women. She is a “them” - the “other” - obviously the outcast.
There is no doubt that this woman was different. She was probably a lot different from the other women who gathered at that well who were married to their first husbands. When Jesus invites this woman to call her husband, she replies that she has no husband. Jesus agrees: "You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband" (4:18). She is an outcast -- a THEM, not one of the US crowd.
She is not just different from the other women, she and Jesus are very different from each other, the conditions perfect for an US-THEM fiasco. Jesus is male and she’s female, and that alone foreshadows the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus understanding gap. In that culture, a man and a woman would not be even that much alone together or to talk to each other directly. What’s more, Jesus is a Jew; the woman is a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans the text tells us “do not share things in common,” another way of saying they avoid each other to keep from being tainted by the other and to keep from killing each other. The woman is known, perhaps even famous, for her lifestyle; Jesus is the stranger in this town.
The beginning of the conversation foreshadows a major misunderstanding. She is there to get the cool wet well water that Jesus is thirsty for but has no way to reach. So, Jesus asks her for well water, and then he provokes her by saying that she should be asking him for something called living water that she doesn’t even know she’s thirsty for. Water! Sitting at a well, they can’t even talk about water and understand each other.
Surprising Words of Life: Temptation Matthew 4:1-11; Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 A sermon for Jerusalem United Church of Christ, Palmerton, PA
Crawfish adorned Christmas tree
This story of Jesus in the wilderness seems strangely familiar to us. Our Holy Scripture tells us that Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.” So it makes a lot of sense to us that Jesus, when he taught us to pray, included this particular plea: “Lead us not into temptation” and we pray that prayer every single Sunday.
“Lead us not into temptation.” God forbid that what happened to Jesus would happen to us -- that is, that the Spirit would lead us into wilderness places and put before us a buffet of delicious temptations.
I don’t know about you, but when I pray that prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” I find myself inserting my temptation of the week -- something I’m struggling with or something I want to avoid.
“Lead me not to the dessert menu.” “Don’t get me all tempted to get lost in a book when I should be doing housework.” “Lead me not anywhere close to that person where I might say something in anger.” Or the more general: “Lead me not into things I have no business doing -- the temptation to do this when I should be doing that.”
I sort of pray that prayer “Lead us not into temptation” -- as a general -- and sincere -- “Keep me out of trouble, God!” and God knows what that trouble is. My great fear, of course, is that surely God does know my temptation, so God could be really good at leading me right into it just to test me -- yet again! “Lead me NOT …” I pray!
I'm B-A-A-C-K! I'm back home in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains, I'm back from the boisterous and thoughtful adventure that was BE 4.0 and I'm back to blogging. Thank you RevGalBlogPal sisters (everywhere!) for this venue as perpetual encouragement and energy boost. I have coffee in front of me and a day of major big-time catching up ahead of me. And -- oh yeah -- it's Lent in just a few days! Ack! And ... I am still rocking a little, as if still rolling on that big boat!
What are some things you appreciate about the season of Lent? Perhaps you would share 5 of them with us. And for your bonus question feel free to share one thing you could do without.
Ash Wednesday: I like the messiness of the ashes as a defining marker of the beginning of the season. I don't understand Ash Wednesday without ashes, but I found out it does happen. In the first year of a particular call, I went along with our UCC church's tradition of sharing Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday services with a neighboring (happened to be Methodist) church. Their pastor was appalled that we were imposing ashes at the Ash Wednesday service, that year hosted at our church. He refused to participate in imposing the ashes or receiving them.
The Color Purple: I like changing paraments and wearing the purple stole. I found out on BE 4.0 that the clergy stole evolved from a pastor's need for a sweat rag! Well, then, give me a purple one!
A New Beginning: Like New Year's Day and the first day of school, the beginning of Lent feels like a good time to do some self-reflection, begin new habits &/or look to the future. So, Lent also gives me the gift of ...
Disciplines: I have lately started using the word "practice" instead of "discipline" because it helps me to remind myself to actually "do practice" or otherwise I don't think I will ever "be disciplined." I usually add a practice or two rather than taking something away.
Good Friday: It's a hard service to mess up or embellish a lot as the story speaks very well for itself. I like to wallow in it -- yes, wallow rather than immerse -- because the implications are profound and deep and I'm pretty sure I've not yet touched the bottom of that deep end.
BONUS -- The one thing I can do without: If I had to say one thing, it would probably be the church Easter egg hunt which is held, strangely enough, on Palm Sunday! The reason for that date: "People are too busy on Easter" and "The kids' Easter clothes might get messed up!" My childhood family Easter egg hunts -- yes, multiple egg hunts at multiple family homes -- were wonderful! I haven't figured out how the one we do at church adds a thing to what families can -- and will -- do for their kids. I have nothing at all against a church Easter egg hunt; I just don't get it.