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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Lent 3 – Year A

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, He told me everything I have ever done.

Let me ask you a question. Is there anyone in your life who knows every last detail of your life? Everything that you wish you could take back: every misdeed, every lie, every evil thought or action? Is there anyone who truly knows your shame? Probably not. Hopefully not. Perhaps some things are better left unknown. Personally, I doubt I have the capacity to get past all that pockmarks the lives of the people I know and love if only because I can’t imagine anyone getting past my own encyclopedia of shortcomings. We’re all too human.

The Samaritan woman says a remarkable thing after her conversation with Jesus.  Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done. Yet, she says this not with shame, but with awe. In effect, she announces publicly, at high noon, for everyone to hear that she has no more secrets, that all her sins are known.

Now, many who read this story assume she was a fallen woman. Customarily, women made their trips to the well in the morning, when they could greet one another and talk about the news. The fact that this woman showed up by herself at the noon hour meant that she was unwelcome at the morning social hour. Furthermore, by first century standards, the conversation she has with Jesus is scandalous something she herself points out when she asks him,  How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? (4:9). It was taboo for a Jewish man to talk to a woman in public, much less a Samaritan woman, considered by purists to be a half-breed, a pagan, and an enemy. And to put one’s lips on the same ladle as such a person would be not only taboo, but ritually unclean.

In ancient times, the sharing of food and water was considered such an intimate act that it was done only with those of like minds. To eat and drink with another was to fully embrace his or her religion, class and assumed position in God s order of things.

As we all know, though, Jesus is not one to be limited by social conventions and restraints. He breaks boundaries in his conversation with the Samaritan woman: the boundary between male and female, the boundary between the  chosen people and the  rejected people, the boundary between clean and unclean. When Jesus asks the Samaritan woman to go and call her husband, she says, “I have no husband.” Jesus, having been given this honest, even shocking, answer, does not pull away from her. Instead, he draws closer. He tells her the rest of the truth about herself, illuminating herself to herself. She feels this man seeing through her everything she is and has ever been and yet she feels no judgment from him. He shows her that he knows what she knows that she has been married five times and is now with a man who is not her husband and yet he still wants a drink from her. He wants to give her one, too.

I love this story. I love the way Jesus confronts the Samaritan woman with his sure knowledge of her secrets, and thereby shows her both who she is and who he is. I love the way the Samaritan woman, this most dispossessed of persons, goes out and becomes the first evangelist for Jesus. And I love the way these two meet in broad daylight, that Jesus chooses the time of day when the sun casts no shadow to raise this lowly woman out of the shadows, her shadows, and into the light, his light. Have you ever noticed that your secrets never seem that bad when you share them? That their ugliness, their shamefulness, dissolves in the cleansing light of day? Well, that is why Jesus comes to the Samaritan woman at high noon: so that n o one present can claim that the light was poor, that they didn’t see it when Jesus, the Messiah, our God, offered himself as living water at high noon to a nameless, anonymous woman.

The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman turns out to be a love story. For only one who loves you can look at your past without judging, without blinking. Only one who loves you can know you as you are and not as you pretend to be. Only one who loves you can know your flaws, your vulnerabilities, your weaknesses and refrain from exploiting them. This is what I meant earlier when I said I’m not sure if we mortals have the capacity to truly brush over the mistakes we make in our lives and let them go. Humans are flawed and sinful given the chance we just might exploit confidences and vulnerabilities. But it’s not this way with Jesus.

The Messiah is the one in whose presence you know who you really are the good and bad of it, the all of it, the hope in it. The Messiah is the one who shows you who you are by showing you who he is who crosses all boundaries, breaks all rules, drops all disguises speaking to you like someone you have known all your life, bubbling up in your life like a well that needs no dipper, so that when you go back to face people you thought you could never face again, speak to them as boldly as he spoke to you. “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done.” Amen.

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