A Woman, a Jew and a Samaritan

John 4:5-42

The woman at the well. The Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritan woman talking to a Jewish man at the well. These are all the labels John uses to describe this setting and interplay of characters. The woman notices he is Jewish and asking for a drink, the disciples notice he is talking to a woman, the author points out the time of day, noon, when no other woman comes to the well to tell the audience something about her before Jesus tells us. It all ends with the woman being the first witness and bringing the rest of the village to Jesus. It all starts with this conversation and being vulnerable.

Jesus starts it all by asking for a drink. He lets her know he is thirsty. The woman lets him know how surprised she is that he would request a drink from a Samaritan. Then the talk goes deeper. If you knew who it is that asks, in other words who is dependent upon your taste of water, you would reverse the question. Samaritan doesn't matter, it doesn't matter she questions him further about what living water is, her history of being with other men doesn't matter she is still the vehicle Jesus chooses to talk to. All the labels in the world don't matter and belief is at the end of the conversation.

We are told in this world all of this matters. Her shame is supposed to matter. Her talking to a man with her rep should matter. Her, a Samaritan, having a deeply spiritual conversation with him a Jew is supposed to matter. Its just not done. Its not done to open ourselves up to any of this and yet this is what she and Jesus model. Daring to have a deep conversation in spite of it all.

Just think of all the unrealistic expectations we hold for strength. You can't cry, you can't be emotional, you can't be vulnerable, keep secrets about yourself, put on the mask of strength. This is not what we are shown here this morning. One of my favorite mystery stories is a series by Louise Penny and the character is Armand Gamache. He is an inspector with the Qu├ębec police force and in every single book his strength is pointed out in weaknesses. In those who mock him and he doesn't respond, or in the fact he seems a complete failure because he doesn't take key positions in the force. He is willing to expose and explore all his vulnerabilities and in the end this makes him a strong character.

To enter into true conversation we must be willing to be vulnerable. To say we are thirsty, to say we are different, to say we don't have things all figured out and admit our past failings. These are the things that lead us to the well spring of living water Jesus is describing. Part of our Lenten journey is in traveling in the wilderness. In the wilderness everything is exposed as a danger and we are vulnerable to thirst, to hunger, to wild animals. Our ability to examine and asks what are we thirsty for, what is our hunger for, and what struggles have we encountered equip us for the journey to Easter. The journey to death of some things and new life.

The woman today has to admit her struggle with many men. Has to claim this is a part of who she is and allow Jesus to know her deeply. Then this becomes part of her witness, "Come and see the man who has told me everything about me." What can we say to others, come and see... Come and see what I learned, come and see this imperfect church filled with people who know whose and who they are. This makes the more profound statement of faith. Not cooked up perfection, not that we have become perfect, but that we still struggle, we still have faults and we still believe.

Come and see us dare to be vulnerable, come and see us enter into valued conversation, come and see how God still works with us. Come and believe its not secrets, but our own daring to be vulnerable which we lead us deeper this Lent. Come and believe.