So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we Jews worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."
... Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?"Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,"Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" They left the city and were on their way to him.
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."
Marginalized people live by a set of rules; rules much different than people in the mainstream of society. Marginalized people know where they can go and where they can't. When you are marginalized, you know who you can talk to and who you can't (at least without consequence). You know who accepts you and who does not. And something else happens to a person when they are marginalized...something internal. When you have been excluded long enough, oppressed long enough, told you are not enough- that crap sinks in- and you start believing it! And it can become such a part of what we think of ourselves, it dictates our expectations- not just from others, but from God.
To be marginalized means to see yourself as different... separate from... broken... not normal...
This is the woman at the well. She is alone- collecting water for her household long after all the others from the village had come and gone. She wasn't a part of the daily gathering early in the morning; when women would check in with each other, share gossip and news and laugh and cry and care for one another.
We don't know why she was excluded- but we know someone like her, don't we? She is not difficult to locate, though she is barely noticeable. She's learned not to draw attention; to not make waves. She is an "other" in the most literal sense.
I love our banner that says, we welcome everyone... really. Our church is open to everybody coming here; we welcome the "other..." when they come to us.
But Jesus didn’t wait for the “other” to come to him… Jesus sought out the “other.”Jews and Samaritans were not supposed to even talk to one another, yet Jesus engages this Samaritan woman... this unclean woman, this lowest of the low, outcast from her own community, and meets her where she is...
"Give me a drink," asks Jesus.
She’s wary perhaps; maybe a little fearful. But she is also toughened by years of cruelty. Who was this man addressing her?No one addressed her.
And she looks Jesus up and down... and she squints one eye and wonders aloud... "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" I love that she names who she is- what she is- it's the sincerest form of confession, simply naming who and what we are before God.
But instead of whatever she was expecting Jesus surprises her by responding- "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."
He knows what I am and didn't run...OK- I'll play... "Sir”, she says, “you have no bucket, and the well is deep.”
But then for some reason she drops her guard... a new thought, “Where do you get living water?”
Jesus answers, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
And in the response the pours out of her, we get a glimpse of the true suffering of the Samaritan woman… "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
At one time or another, all of us, perhaps, have felt like the woman at the well.All of us felt like we were the ones on the outside, marginalized... outcast, unworthy- maybe that’s why the story works and translates so well for so many of us.Who among us hasn’t felt the desperation of this woman- “Sir, give me the living water so that I won’t have to keep coming back here day after day… Jesus, give me something, so I won’t have to keep feeling like I’m banging my head against the wall trying to get it right….God! Give me the living water so that I can be accepted… so that I can know that you love me… too… not just those on the inside, not just those who are "in", who have position or great jobs or money or leadership… not just those who tell me that I’m not good enough, or haven’t lived right, or don’t pray right or don’t give enough or do enough or have faith enough.Give it to me! Show me how to be enough!
But Jesus lets her in on a secret… her life of “not enough” has been no secret to him… and Jesus lays her past out for her, including her non-stellar track record for marriage- "You've had 5 husbands, and the one she is living with now isn’t even your husband," Jesus reminds her…
(and before we start judging, maybe she was taking it slow… if you were married five times before and none of them worked out, wouldn’t you maybe be more cautious before tying the knot a sixth time?)
In any case, how do you think she felt when Jesus told her that she had been married five times and the person she was living with now wasn’t her husband? No one likes to be called on their stuff; I don’t care who you are.
So she puts her back up, gathers her wits about her and shoots back: “OK, so you’re a prophet” but then goes on, like most of us do when we've been challenged, to attempt to turn the tables, and accuse Jesus: “You know, this is our mountain… Samaritans... and we’ve worshiped here for generations- and you Jews tell us that people can only worship in Jerusalem…. So what do you say to that?”
And Jesus doesn't flinch, (Jesus never flinches, btw) just simply responds with the truth- "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth” In other words... "It's not about when, how and where you worship- this is about worshiping God with a pure spirit..."
Maybe it was the tone of his voice… maybe it was the calm in his presence, or the compassion in his eyes- maybe it was just that it was Jesus, but she feels comfortable enough for one last sentence: “I know the Messiah is coming, and when He comes, he will tell us everything…”
Is she baiting him to see if he is the one?I don’t know, but if she was, then it worked.Because for the first time in the Gospel of John Jesus reveals his identity as the Christ.His answer, in the English translation- I am he, is enough to tell us that Jesus is the Messiah… but in the Greek its even more powerful- in the Greek his answer reads simply “I am.”
“I AM!”The same I am that was, and is, and is to come…. The “I am” of the burning bush, the “I am” of the parting of the red sea, and water coming out of a rock… the same “I am” whose breath hovered over the face of the deep… “I AM” the first and “I AM” the last… beside which there is no other God… I AM”
Ahhhhh, the answer she was hoping for… the answer we all long for…. the only answer that truly satisfies. I AM is at the well, standing in front of her, calling her on her stuff, but not for one second letting her out of his holy engagement… And for this lowly, marginalized less than enough woman, it was the moment of transformation... transformation to forgetfulness...
Have you ever experienced that transformation?The transformation to forgetfulnesstakes place the moment we realize we are standing in the presence of the Mighty One... and we forget who we are and only remember whose we are, and we get so caught up in the Glory of I AM that everything else we knew to be true ceases to exist.
And in her forgetfulness she runs from the well back to the village… forgetting her water jar… what good is that now?Forgetting that she is an outcast in the village, forgetting that no one has listened to her or taken her seriously in years, forgetting that she is the lowest of low, forgetting that she is not supposed to talk to the women of the village, much less the men…
and runs right to them, unable to contain the living water that is now gushing up from inside of her, spilling out of her like a flowing fountain, leaving puddles in the footprints behind her.Living Water is bubbling up and pouring out through her saturated spirit so that everyone she comes in contact with can’t help but to get soaking wet as well.
Because that kind of drenching transformation to forgetfulness- the kind of genuine transformation that only comes from an encounter with the living God is the kind that waters everything in its path until it eventually bears fruit.
So, when through tear filled eyes she pours out her message, “Come, see the man who told me everything I have ever done”and it splashes all over the thirsty villagers, they soak it up like a sponge... the Spirit that was poured into her at the mention of “I AM” was now working to transform others to forgetfulness… they forgot that this is the woman they cast out, the lowest of the low, the immoral… they only saw a spirit washed pure and clean… they forgot, and they followed her, and they believed.
My friends, this morning I AM is at the well... God is intentionally seeking to flood the driest parts of us with water that will change the face of who we are- as individuals and as a church! I AM is at the well, waiting for us to forget all the things we think we can't do and drink deeply of what we can do through Christ! I AM is at the well, offering each of us a transformation to forgetfulness... and you don't need a bucket, or a cup or a Nalgene bottle to capture it... this water is continuously pouring out from above.. all we have to do is put down our stupid umbrellas, lift our heads and open our mouths... and let that living water soak our souls... and I promise you, if we accept it, there will be so much water in here it will be flowing out into the streets... what a great God! Give me a drink!