Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lent XIX...The Third Sunday

John is one of the Bible's great story tellers.  He also tells long stories.  Three of his stories take up a lot of space:  the woman at the well (4:1-42); the man born blind (9:1-41); and Lazarus (11:1-44).  They are so long they are seldom read completely from the pulpit lest the pew sitter falls asleep from unaccustomed listening.  But, not even short attention spans changes the fact that each one of these long stories are powerful and unforgettable.  The story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well is one of the first stories I preached on long, long years ago and shows up this year in the lectionary on this third Sunday in Lent.
It is one of those stories with many open windows.  Each time we look, there is something different to see.   As the encounter between this woman and Jesus winds down, the disciples show up after having gone on a grocery shopping spree in the village.  When they saw the woman with Jesus, they acted like she was not there.  No one spoke to her.  Certainly, they looked at her.  No doubt their demeanor and judgmental silence made her feel like she felt around most of the community's religious people.  To underscore her invisible presence in their midst, when she left the disciples opened up their grocery bags and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, eat something."  Jesus must have looked upon them and their reaction to the moment in an incredulous way.  "How could they pretend she was not even there?" He must have thought.  Whatever might be said, it is obvious they were a long way from where He wanted them to be.

Yet, we can understand the reaction of those disciples.  After all, she was a Samaritan woman and they were Jews.  They were different and always had been.  Neither of their cultures allowed for any kind of acceptance.  And, we also see the invisible folks around us.  Looks like a strange sentence, does it not?  How do we see the invisible folks if they are invisible?  And if they exist, who are they?And, then the final question, if they do exist and we do not see them....why?


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