The church and hospitality …
John 4:1-12 –
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?’
At the time of this event, disdain and animosity between the Jews and those of “mixed blood” who lived in Samaria and worshiped God on Mount Gerizim rather than in the temple in Jerusalem was such that the woman was incredibly surprised that this Jewish man (Jesus) even spoke to her.
As Jesus does often, here he upends expected behaviors – just as he upended tables when the temple in Jerusalem was turned into a market place (Matthew 21:12). So much needs to change before the people to whom Jesus was preaching and teaching could be reconciled to God. No longer could they look down on those who were different from them, thinking / believing themselves to be “better than.” This wasn’t the way of God, but it had become the way of the religious leaders of the day, who then insisted that all follow suit. Jesus came to upend all manner of being, and in this story, he does just that – he reveals genuine hospitality and welcome to this woman who doesn’t even warrant a name by the gospel writer. We only know her as “The Samaritan Woman” or “The Woman at the Well.”
One of the most fascinating aspects of this narrative is that Jesus walked out of his way to be at her well that day at noon. He didn’t have to be there, but chose to do so to welcome her into his life and love, and he was already there when she arrived – he was waiting for her with wide open arms and heart – already knowing her story full well.
Likewise, Jesus already knows our stories full well – he knows any prejudice we feel towards those who are different from us. He knows whether or not we presently welcome everyone – no matter their race, ethnicity, social status, gender identity, or whatever else sets them apart from how we identity to ourselves and to the world. He already knows us inside and out.
So, when we stand naked before Jesus Christ, our Lord, how do we present ourselves?
What can we learn for today from this narrative about genuine hospitality and welcome into our lives – into our places and spaces and tables?
“God’s Holy People”
Here we are, you and I,
called to be God’s Holy People,
Jesus chastised the self-righteous,
the ones who didn’t have time for tenderheartedness.
But, here we are, you and I
called to be God’s Holy People,
called to pay attention
to the things Jesus taught
to ordinary people like you and me.
Here we are, ordinary people,
called to be the Holy People of God.
If you have eyes to see and ears to hear,
see and hear God’s holiness in your life,
and God’s call to you and me to be
the Holy People of God.
(portions of Ann Weems, “God’s Holy People,” from “Searching for Shalom,” [Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991], 75).
Family of God – the church – may we go out into the world today – in thought, word, and deed, being true followers of Jesus with our arms wide open in genuine hospitality and welcome for everyone we encounter today – and every day. In his name we pray together, Amen.
Rev. Susan Carter Wiggins