Today’s readings (click below to open in a new tab/window):
Psalms 130; 148,Genesis 11:27-12:8, Hebrews 7:1-17, John 4:16-26
Samaritans and Jews shared common roots but also shared a bitterness – even a hostility – over religious differences. When Jesus passed through Samaria, he sat by a well to rest while his disciples went into town for food. He asked a local woman for a drink of water, and as a result of the conversation that followed she recognized him as a prophet. Then, for the first time in John’s gospel, Jesus identified himself as the Messiah. John the Baptist and the disciples already believed this but, according to John’s narrative, Jesus had not confirmed it. So why would he choose to reveal himself openly to this non-Jewish woman in this non-Jewish place?
The well where they met was Jacob’s well, a site significant to both Jewish and Samaritan history. When Jesus said those who drank its waters would be thirsty again, but those who drank the living water he offered would never thirst again, he was saying eternal life was not found in or bound to any material source but in the truth. When the woman pointed out that Jews worship in Jerusalem and Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, he responded: “the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem […], when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” His words told her, and tell us today, God is greater than any constraints of tradition or culture.
What constraints do Christians place on God and worship today? We insist on creeds and denominations that are more products of political history than spiritual necessity. Within denominations we have yet more division among groups who believe they own more truth than others. Like a person who believes nothing exists beyond what can be seen through a single window, we can mistakenly use the Bible to limit our understanding of God rather than accept truth wherever it is found.
Unexpected revelation from God occurs not when we are certain and comfortable, but when we are questioning and in strange – perhaps enemy – territory. Sometimes we have to leave our temple or mountain to find where the living waters flow.
Comfort: God is greater than any box we try to put him in.
Challenge: Think critically about your own assumptions, including those taught to you.
Prayer: God of all creation, forgive me when I don’t love all you have made. Amen.
Discussion: What restrictions do you try to place on God? Who do you exclude as a result?
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