Thursday, August 16, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Shock Value

Wet Feet (In Progress), 2010, jfd+
Psalms 105:1-22; 105:23-45; Judges 14:1-19; Acts 6:15-7:16; John 4:27-42

Today, we have the second part of the account of Jesus and the Samaritans in John's Gospel. This story was meant to shock people, have us look at Jesus in different ways, and understand his mission and ministry in a new light. With the passage of time, that shock value has faded.

The Samaritans were a much maligned people, maligned by the ruling temple authorities. They were thought of as unclean, impure, to be avoided. Compounding the shock value of this story, Jesus is talking to a woman... alone...and a Samaritan at that.This would have caused the initial hearers of this Gospel to have their jaws drop open. 

Where the Samaritans resided was directly between two major areas. Most people would travel days out of their way to avoid coming in contact with these outcasts. Jesus took the direct route to his destination, taking him directly through "enemy" territory, bringing him into contact with this Samaritan woman.

One of the many things this account is meant to make us contemplate is whether or not we are taking a direct route in helping to create the kingdom Jesus opens for us, or if we are taking the long way around in order to avoid contact with undesirable and uncomfortable situations. Do we avoid going to certain places so that we do not have to encounter a particular individual who makes us uncomfortable?

God's kingdom is for everyone...those we like and those we would prefer to avoid. Our job is to welcome everyone, not exclude people by avoiding contact with them, ignoring them...At the same time, and as Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman illustrates, we are not called to be "patsies" and be bullied. Being direct with people about inappropriate behavior is not the same thing as being unwelcoming. Pointing out what is appropriate conduct is not the same thing as exclusionary avoidance.

Lots to think about in this Gospel of Jesus, the Samaritan woman, the Samaritan community and the well.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

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