The reading for today is a single verse from John 4:9
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Do you remember the story we started on Saturday? A woman was going to a well and noticed a person in the distance. When she came closer, she noticed it was a man, and he asked her for a drink of water. She was surprised because he was a man and in that culture, not meant to talk to a woman, but as he looked really tired and thirsty, she was about to say yes…
“But”, she exclaimed, “you are a Jew! Jews would rather die of thirst than to even use a cup that a Samaritan has touched! How can you ask meof all people for water?? I am both a woman and a Samaritan.”
The stranger just continued to smile.
From seeing a shimmering, flickering image of a person in the distance, to making out that he is a man, to discovering that he is a Jew, too, this ‘bad Samaritan’ is slowly discovering who it is she is faced with. Perhaps tomorrow will show us a bit more about her journey?
But I wanted to just highlight one thing today and it is about salvation. Sometimes we think about salvation either as a “sinner’s prayer” or “commitment” once and for all – or we tend to think of it perhaps as a future event, something that will happen once God makes all things new. But the Greek word sozo, which means “salvation” also means “healing”, “deliverance from enemy”, “restoration” and so on.
There is an element of salvation when justice is done. A bit of salvation happens when the blind see. God’s kingdom comes when the oppressed are set free, when lies are exposed, when social balance is improved, when demons and shame flee, when peace is restored.
And one part of this is giving people back their agency and self-respect. I think this is what Jesus is doing when He asks for that drink of water. He puts the woman in a position where she has something to give, Jesus is human and tired with real needs, with a real body that needs water, and a real soul that needs other people, and he makes himself vulnerable to rejection when He asks for something from her. She could have very easily said no. Jesus gives this woman a choice, and in that little choice is a seed for empowerment.
I used to have a friend who was homeless. He would spend most of his time in a doorway and people would generally be very friendly to him, not least because he was genuinely pleasant. I had met him when I started ministering. Most people would say hello across the street. Some people would give him food. A few of them would stop and chat. But one day as I was chatting, God prompted me to sit down with him. It was a bit of a mess – sleeping bag, a tin for coins, some cigarette ends and a bit of pigeon poo. I felt a tiny bit uncomfortable – would I be taken for a homeless person too? But over the next few months, God showed me something I would not have thought of myself: He taught me how to receive from people who have very little, and how in doing that, sometimes a tiny bit of God’s kingdom would come to a situation. I’ll give you two examples: Sometimes, on an evening, I would sit next to my friend and just chat. He would be eating chips that had been given to him. And I would ask if I could have a few, just because I fancied them. Another time, I was due to do communion for the first time, and I told him I was a bit nervous, having never handled the bread and wine before and not sure I would get the order right. This man, who said he didn’t have much faith if any, jumped to his feet, slapped his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me with some gusto: “Jesus, I just pray that you will BLESS Misha and make it go really well!!” Then he sat down as quickly as he had got up, and I was indeed both blessed and astonished. My awareness of the value of agency in situations like this one is based on the passage we are reading together at the moment.
If Jesus didn’t come to that situation with all the solutions ready-made, but humbled himself and asked for a glass of water from someone who probably felt that Jews were know-it-alls and holier-than-thou, then I too should probably accept my humanity and give options for salvation to come to other people through my willingness to accept grace from them.
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