Saturday, March 07, 2009

Saturday in Lent 1

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
John 4:1-26
Sister Mahalia will now sing for us.

Two quick things:

I have an abiding fondness and respect for Mahalia Jackson. I shared this story here before, I am sure, but will do so again. When the First Baptist Church of Fresno had just finished building its new sanctuary and was about to have its first service, a fire gutted it. That same night Ms. Jackson was performing in Fresno. She donated her proceeds to help us rebuild. I was not even a teenager yet but I certainly had a sense that Mahalia Jackson was the kind of Christian I wanted to be. Eternal blessings upon her.

In the Gospel appointed for the Office today it struck me that both Jesus and the Samaritan woman were thirsty and gave each other to drink. I like the mutuality of that.

OK, a third, and not quick:

I am having a lot of trouble with the passages from Deuteronomy. I read them with a very jaundiced perspective. I took an entire course on Deuteronomy in seminary and we dug for all the really good stuff in the book, which is there. Still, right now, I'm stuck and find little to uplift me, even in the most familiar passages. The deuteronomic theology of blessing and curse is problematic.

While I do believe that blessings accrue from aligning our whole being with God and consequence (curses) follow from not doing so, I cannot accept this in any mechanistic or simplistic way and the reality attested elsewhere in the Bible is that God's blessings are showered indiscriminately (may we assume "curses" are also indiscriminate?).

The whole dispossessing others and taking the land as God's gift to you is the source of so much human misery in the centuries before and after that I simply cannot stomach it. The best I can come up with is that it is self-justification leavened with a theology that says "you get it but you didn't earn it and don't deserve it, so be grateful and humble."

The winds today, as usual, blow the sand (and everything else) about. It seems to me like an arid Lent this year. That is all right. I believe in the promise of Resurrection.

O God, by your Word you marvelously carry out the work of reconciliation: Grant that in our Lenten fast we may be devoted to you with all our hearts, and united with one another in prayer and holy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

--the BB

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