COMMON WELL, COMMON LIFE
The timing for this Sunday’s Gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well seems important and relevant in our current time. The setting is Jacob’s Well where Jacob had met Rachel all those years ago. Wells were a common meeting place for such encounters, although the one between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is not so common.
Jesus is breaking all the rules here. I love that about Jesus. First he is at the well sitting with a woman. Second, the woman is a Samaritan, who were at best considered to be of a lower caste and at worst, viewed as unclean. Jews weren’t supposed to associate with Samaritans, and that awareness surely was not lost on the Rule Breaking Rabbi Jesus. Lastly, Jesus actually shared a cup of water with the woman as they sat on the margins together. Huge rule breaking there. Jesus is reaching into the margin, Jesus is sitting in the divide, and Jesus and the woman share a common cup. All this rule breaking makes this encounter even more important and relevant to our time.
We are in a time when division, not communion is the fare for the day. So many people are feeling excluded. Some seem to want to push people out instead of invite people in, but that is not what Jesus teaches (I was a stranger and you welcomed me). Some people feel the threat of not being able to have proper health care. But clearly that is not what Jesus wants for us (I was sick and you took care of me). The poor among us are feeling more vulnerable than ever before in recent history. Women are being disrespected and those who have a different way of connecting with God are feeling increasingly unwelcome in our nation and quite frankly in too many of our churches as well.
So this story of the meeting place at the well is important for us, because it reminds us of who we need to be if we are to claim ourselves as followers of Jesus. He reached across the divide, he didn’t push people away. He opened the borders of his heart. He asks us care for our neighbors and the sick and poor among us, not cast them aside as dispensable. =
We need to change. This is a time for that change. We can still hold our very rich Christian tradition and at the same time meet people were they are. That’s what Jesus did. He met the woman at her well. We need to reach out to people wherever they are and whoever they are. It’s an interesting paradox that people are so thirsty for life giving water – so hungry for making a connection with God as they understand God and yet they are leaving the organized church in droves. It’s a tragedy that so many are seeking and yet not finding their spiritual needs met in our churches.
We need to reach out. We need to connect with people where they are with God and not so much where we are. We need to move out into the places where we can have real meaningful encounters with people on our common spiritual journey. We need to meet people at the common well instead of waiting for them to find their way to our doorstep.
We need to come together regardless of social distinction, religious affiliation, national origin, gender identification, how we love of who we love, or the color of our skin. We need to break some established rules – or ever better – break a lot of those rules. This is what Jesus was doing that day at the well and we would do well to actually follow his example. Our very common life depends on it.