The Rev. Deacon Anne Achor
Reference Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-42
I began my reflection on this gospel passage in light of our theme today for this part of the Lenten series on Transformation, Didascalia/Study and Learning: Mind, heart, and practice. It came to me that in the dialogue Jesus has with this woman, when she expresses her thoughts and challenges about what living water means to her, Jesus shows her respect even though she is female and a Samaritan. Jesus is not afraid to overcome old prejudices and is willing to break the social conventions that dehumanize others of his day.
The living water that Jesus promises her, is also symbolized in the water that, for Moses comes out of the rock in the reading from Exodus. This is God’s purifying water, that purifies our hearts of old hatreds prejudices and hostilities and forms us as a diverse people of God on earth.
Further, Jesus is not going to accept this woman trying to pull the wool over his eyes and likewise, she shows respect to Jesus for what he knows about her.
For me, this gospel passage, shows that John’s Jesus is following in his Jewish tradition of accepting discussion and challenges with people who wish to understand and deepen their beliefs in whom this person, this teacher Jesus is.
Rabbi Jacob Neusner, in his book, A Rabbi talks with Jesus, explains that for a rabbi to argue and dialogue with others is a sign of respect:Neusner says … “It, ….that is argument and dialogue, ….is my form of respect, the only compliment I crave from others, the only serious tribute I pay to the people I take seriously — and therefore I come to respect and even love them.” I feel that the nugget in this gospel passage is in the closing verse after the Samaritans have spent time with Jesus and they say to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.”
It is through their personal encounter, talking and discussing with Jesus that they are able to come to their own understanding about whom he is. I believe It is through reading, studying and reflection that we enter more deeply into who Jesus is for us. It is as we enter more deeply into our understanding of scripture and our tradition that we are able to answer, for ourselves the question Jesus asks the disciples
,,,, who do you say that I am
At the beginning of each second year of EfM (Education for Ministry), I challenge the 2nd year students, to study the Christian Testament with this question in mind. I hope that by the end of their 2nd year they are able to answer this question ‘who do you say that I am’ from the depths of their heart and soul.
I believe, that when individuals are able to work through a response to this question they are more empowered to embrace the teachings of Jesus and incorporate them into their daily life.
When I was in Elementary School I loved to read. I always had a book that I read at night until I fell asleep. I would usually wake up in the morning and start off my day by reading until I had to get up for breakfast. As I reflect back on this time it is still surprising to me that as such an avid reader I was put in a remedial reading comprehension program.
I suspect if I were in school today I would have been diagnosed with a learning disorder.
I remember during my university days as my mom typed up my essays for me (I was useless at typing) she would often challenge me about what I was saying because it didn’t make sense to her. This was frustrating to no end for me as my scrambled brain understood what I was saying but for an outsider reading it there would have challenges.
But now, I think these experiences have helped me in life and especially with studying texts and scripture. I think they have helped me because I have come to accept that what may be my first insight into something is not usually the only insight I will gain from what I read. I further think this has allowed me to have an open mind as to what others see and understand in scripture and why I am so passionate about Christian Formation, Bible study and Theological Reflection.
As the world changes so rapidly around us we are challenged in our understanding of our faith response to these changes and what this means to our daily walk through life. I hold firmly to the belief that we never fully know what it is to live out being Christian in our lives. As we read and reread scripture, as we study and discuss scripture and even church history I believe we are adding layer upon layer to the pearl of God’s message for each of us.
To seek out wisdom and new knowledge is best done in community so that one gets insights from others. This allows for dialogue (as we see in the gospel between Jesus and the Samaritan woman) that leads to richer understanding and deeper wisdom.
Our current Unit in EfM is titled ‘Integrating Belief, Behaviour and Doctrine’. In the opening session on ‘Living into Wholeness’ we are introduced to the concept of
‘Theological Conversations that Lead to Wholeness” .
The author writes …
“As a person swims in the ocean of God, the Spirits currents move simultaneously
towards wholeness and union. Living and moving within God’s currents encourages
integration gradually to occur as one seeks a comprehensive and coherent theology…..
A comprehensive theology is not a finished product that declare the ‘whole truth and nothing but the truth’. It is a momentary expression of how knowledge from various disciplines fits together to form a whole”
I feel that this theme is why the opportunities for Christian Formation studies that are offered in the Anglican Church and have had and do have in this community of faith, which shape our learning, insight and wisdom and that bring about wholeness is why studying scripture and reflecting on it is so exciting to me.
I see this excitement on the children’s faces as they participate and study in Godly Play and our worship, I have seen this on parents faces as they participate in discussion groups as they prepare for a child’s baptism and I see it weekly as new insight (no matter how challenging to previously held beliefs) is gained in EfM.
If we are to grow in faith and service we will seek the water from the stone given by God to the Israelites and we will search for the Living waters of Jesus. As we do so we grow into a more comprehensive theology that is about wholeness and incorporating our belief and fulfilled in our service and actions to others.
Our Christian journey calls us to seek out ways that help us to understand what impact our belief has on our actions with others and what this means for us in our daily lives.
So I leave you with these questions for reflection and discussion later that I hope you will participate in after the service during Coffee Hour downstairs.
How are you being fed to reflect theologically and spiritually at St. John’s?
How are you being fed spiritually so that you are able to be Christian in your life living out your baptismal identity with each other and in the world?
What Christian formation/Discussion group events have you participated in at St. John’s?
What particular discussion has had an impact on you at St. John’s
What other forms of group discussion, theological reflection or Christian formation would you like to see at St. John’s?