But a lot of people don’t want to hear it. Maybe you don’t want to hear it. Maybe you are tired of hearing about it. Hearing about loving neighbor, building community, and sharing hope. Here’s the thing church, “it” (whatever it is - whatever the current barrier building emotionally charged and polarizing hot topic is) it not going to go away if we ignore it, pretend its not there, or fool ourselves thinking it doesn’t make it in these doors. As followers of Jesus we need to be willing to have the difficult conversations, and I believe this text can help us do just that.
You know what I find fascinating about this encounter between Jesus and this woman. He never says to her, “be ye healed,” “your faith has made you well, go and sin no more” or some version of that, like he does in so many other personal encounters. Following other encounters Jesus has with individuals, he often speaks a word of forgiveness, healing, or direction. He doesn’t declare her healed, set free, washed clean, or made whole. He doesn’t tell her to “speak to no one of this,” or “go tell it on the mountain.”
That is another reason why I don’t think Jesus was there for her alone. I think he was there to speak truth to the barriers she represented. I think he was there to quench a thirst much deeper than that of a single individual, but rather, the thirst of a whole people. People the rest of us push aside, condemn, or even hate. I think he was there to show what it means to see the person and not just the issue, circumstance or controversy. I think he was there to confront cultural injustices, religious parameters, and historical / political power plays.
I think he was there dear church, for us. I think in that moment, he modeled for us how to reconcile the barriers we face today. Or at the very least acknowledge and talk about them. And he did so in an intentional way:
- First he sought her out. He didn’t have to go through Samaria. There was another route, longer yes, but still an option.
- Second, he did it by making himself available. It couldn’t have been comfortable sitting in the noon day heat, covered by dust and sweat from the walk, waiting for her to arrive. I’m sure he could have found something else to do or someplace else to go to keep busy or keep going.
- Third, he did it by listening. (Pause). He didn’t go off on her about her life, her DNA, her mental status, her choices, or her circumstance. He didn’t start by hurling labels and accusations.
- Fourth, he did it by speaking his truth in love. Only after seeking her out, making himself available, and listening, does Jesus then speak his truth to her and does so in love.
Reconciliation then happens when we seek to break down barriers between the “us and them.” Reconciliation happens when we make ourselves available for the tough conversations. Reconciliation CANNOT and WILL NOT happen if we do not listen to one another and those who stand on the opposite side of the barrier. Finally, reconciliation happens when we speak truth in love.
I am not saying it is easy. I’m not saying Jesus offers some magical / mystical formula and all of sudden we are gathered around the campfire singing kumbaya. I am not saying to reconcile means to fully agree with those who think, feel or act differently than you. I am not saying it happens overnight or even in an afternoon sitting at the local well having a drink. I am saying it is possible, it needs to happen, and we need to at least try.
May the God who created all things
The God who so loved the world
The God who breaks barriers both great and small,
Open our hearts, attune our ears, prepare our minds, and drench our thirsty souls in the living water of Jesus’ truth. AMEN
Pastor Jenothy Irvine