Between Sundays for Week of March 13, 2023
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . . ” (John 3:16), one of the most recognizable passages in the Bible, proclaims the good news at the heart of our faith. But who exactly is included in “the world” God loves? To explore that question, we only have to keep on reading in John’s gospel. The next chapter includes the story of Jesus’ encounter with an unnamed Samaritan woman. (You can hear the entire extended passage which was part of Bethlehem’s Sunday worship service. The gospel reading begins at 18:45.)
As Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman unfolds, something very important is happening. In the bright light of day, Jesus breaks every down every barrier that might exist between them. In doing this he makes clear that in the world that God loves, there is no Other.
Jesus is a man and yet he still speaks to this unknown woman. Jesus will not Other her gender.
Jesus is tired and alone, but that does not prevent him from asking for a drink from this woman, whose history may raise eyebrows. Jesus will not Other her lifestyle.
Jesus identifies as a Jewish rabbi, but that does not prevent him from making his way among religious strangers and declaring “a new day is coming . . . “. (In truth, the Samaritans had been enemies of Jesus’ people for centuries.) Jesus will not Other the faith commitments of these Samaritans.
With intention and purpose, Jesus leads his disciples into the most “othered” environment they could imagine in their day and shows that his ministry is one of healing age-old divisions and erasing every Other that we could create. And Jesus invites us to follow where he leads.
In this astounding encounter, and through his own vulnerability, curiosity and self-disclosure, Jesus shows us that we belong to each Other. This is the living water that Christ offers us! What would it look like to quench our thirst on this good news?
P.S. Soup suppers continue Wednesdays at 6 pm throughout Lent, we gather to talk and eat before Holden Evening Prayer at 7 pm. Visit our website to read about Bethlehem’s Lenten theme and share in gatherings where we lean into the questions of faith together.
From our world full of divisions, we hear the story of Jesus’ encounter with an unnamed Samaritan woman. In their lenghthy conversation, we realize exactly who is part of the world that God so loves. Thanks to Roger Kolker and Koosje Jeanotte for assisting in bringing the gospel reading to life.
Interpreters of John 4 have long been satisfied to identify the Samaritan woman as promiscuous, unchaste and immoral, though the Biblical text doesn’t actually say this about her. Humanity in God’s Image: A Bible study series advocating Gender Justice, prepared by the Rev. April M. Almaas (ELCA Pastor), explores various scripture passages, including the story of Jesus and the women at the well. Reading her commentary provided a revelatory new perspective on this passage that makes Jesus’ encounter with this woman even more amazing and eye opening! Curious? Go deeper by reading Pastor Almaas’ commentary on John 4. (Commentary begins on page 9.)