Saturday, March 14, 2020

A sermon I never preached

(Most Episcopal Churches in Connecticut are close for at least the next two weeks because of the virus. Good move. But I had a sermon I won't get to preach. I've emailed it to members of the church. But here it is for you.)

Lent III, 2020--Emmanuel Killingworth

John 4.5-42

The conversation with the Samaritan woman only happens in John's Gospel

And the key to the conversation is "location, location, location...."

It happens at Jacob's Well and Jacob was renamed "ISRAEL" by God.

You see, Samaritans were the 'non-people', neither fish now fowl, not truly Gentiles but not truly Jews either. In 721 BCE. there was an Assyrian occupation of northern Palestine.

The inter-breeding of Jews and Assyrians caused the Jews in the south to consider Samaritans as having 'impure blood'. That opinion created racism against Samaritans and very ugly prejudice.

Also, Samaritans considered Mount Gerazim to be the 'holiest of places' while Jews, of course, considered Jerusalem as the 'holy city'.

By having this conversation, Jesus breaks two immutable rules of Judaism. A Jew could not have conversation and relationships with the 'unclean' Samaritans. And a Jewish man could not have a public conversation with a woman (also 'unclean').


Water is the image of 'life'--'living water' is the image of abundance and eternal life.

After Jesus tells her about 'living water', the woman longs for such water.

Her understanding of Jesus moves from "confusion" ('what have you a Jew...?') to "respect" ("Sir....") to hopefulness ("you are a prophet") to 'acknowledgement' in the community ("could this be the Messiah?"}

That the woman is an adulterer is purely a creation of scholars. She could have been caught in the Levitical law about marrying your dead husband's brother--like Tamar in the Old Testament, like the questions of the Pharisees in Luke. Men could remarry in the first century, but not women. The woman's morality intrigues scholars, but is of no interest to Jesus. He has no judgment of her.

When the disciples return to the well they are confused and horrified and do not understand, but the Samaritan woman does--she calls the community to come see Jesus.

Those that 'get it' are not always the one we would expect.

The disciples are too hung up in rules and laws to recognize 'inclusion and hospitality and the absence of judgement as LOVE.

Jesus makes the same invitation to us as he made to the Samaritan woman. He invites us to drink the 'living water' of inclusion and hospitality and absence of judgement. 

He invites us to drink in his LOVE.

Will we, like her, accept his invitation and tell others about it?

I hope so. I pray so. I long for that 'living water'.

Do you?


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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.