“Give Me This Water……”© by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Homily thoughts on the Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017
In today’s Gospel Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. He commits the unspeakable by speaking to this person who is a member of the “other” people, the alienated ones who are different from the Jews. In this exchange Jesus teaches her about the living water of God’s love that runs in and through us all, regardless of nation, race, class, or status as citizen, immigrant, refugee. Upon understanding this message the woman asks, “Give me this water……”
Last Sunday we took up the question of identity as community. Today I’m inviting us to focus this question of identity on humanity, on our common likeness particularly as likeness through the recognition of otherness. This matters because much is made these days of the foreignness of the other. We are encouraged to fear the other, particularly of those who want to come to live with us.
Encouragement is probably not the correct word here. Let’s be clear – we are being told to fear the other. Fear the ones who come here out of desperation because they probably have terrorist tendencies, because they want to take our jobs, because they want to replace “our” culture with “their” culture, because _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (you fill in the blanks).
Recently, in Delavan, Wisconsin, on the weekend that the ACT College Entrance exams were given, students did not show up because they were afraid that the Immigration Police would be at the school to arrest them. Regardless of what you believe every student in the American public school system has a right to be educated. This right is protected by the United States Constitution. Fear is in the land.
Pope Francis stated not so long ago that a Christian nation that defends its faith by turning away people in need is not protecting its faith but poisoning it. He visited the island of Lesbos off the coast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea – the first landing for so many refugees from the Middle East. When he returned he brought back with him 12 refugees. They happened to be Muslim, a fact that he only highlighted by saying that all 12 of them are children of God. He wasn’t giving them a privilege. He said, “It is a privilege to be a child of God.”
So, how do we face such fears in order to share with the pope this view that we are all God’s children?
Fear is so easy to rouse up. Much has been written about its effectiveness in last year’s presidential election. Point to immigrants and refugees, we were told, and blame them if you have lost your job, if your children’s education is compromised, if you think simply that there are just too many of “them.” Fear for your safety from refugees, we’re told, even though the two most recently blocked terror associated plots were being planned by native-born, homegrown citizens of the United States.
Fear is at least partially the reason that Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other in the time of Jesus. One nation did not relate with the other based upon ancient grudges and violent entanglements having to do with land, language, culture, even determining the best place to worship God (Mountain/Jerusalem).
Fear of connection to the other is an emotion on the level of low-hanging fruit. It is so easy to make an enemy of the other and to so play into the hand of those who control the land, jobs, food, weapons, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (you fill in the blanks). How dare Jesus talk with the woman who is the “other.” How irredeemable is his contact and connection with her – in terms of the religious laws and cultural mores of his time. He is disallowed to have connection with her. He must fear, as the beliefs go, this connection to the other. Remember that, in his day, such connection to the other was a law enforcement issue – how ironic.
In that light we probably realize the silliness that keeps a grown man from asking a grown woman for a drink from the well because she has the bucket that will draw out the water – that simple. Or, if we be buy into the fear of connection with the other, maybe we don’t see the silliness here.
So, since fear is so powerful I propose that we own a different fear. It is the fear of isolation from the other. And it must replace the fear of connection to the other!
We need to fear isolation, to fear the compulsion to keep with those who are like me, like us. It is an endless, downward spiral we ride when we devote ourselves to stay the same, to make certain that you do what I do under pain of punishment. Certain cultures have constructed an elaborate social practice of shunning those of their kind who don’t want to remain isolated. Their curiosity and openness is met with punishment. They belong to a culture that fears connection with the other.
And yet, here we have Jesus who simply asks for a drink of water. Jesus will not be isolated. Let’s say he fears isolation from the other because he loves difference and diversity. His message – regardless of certain denominational claims to superiority – is of universal inclusion not isolation.
You and I have an identity in humanity, in a common set of wants and desires. Parents want to protect and nurture their children because they recognize dangers and insecurities. Individuals seek to better themselves while overcoming forces that would deprive them of resources. All humanity has the right to earth’s resources apart from those who lust after power and exploit their greed.
Jesus feared isolation from the Samaritan woman, so much so that he offered her living water. Not the water that takes life, but the living water that gives perpetually. We, you and I, are the living water because we likewise fear isolation from each other.
Let our common, human identity with its healthy fear of isolation from each other undergird the “hope that does not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts” (Romans 5:5).
A Prayer during Lent (JR)
I am your face to others as the other’s face is you regarding me. May we realize, O God, that the future, which is your hope for us, is in our hands.
What separates us from each other is too often used in the idolatry of greed by those who would exploit our differences. We pray with the Psalmist, “Let those who serve idols be ashamed, those who boast of their worthless gods.”
We are your image; creation is your gift. May we see this divine likeness within our differences. May your Spirit enlighten us to love and serve you in each other today, tomorrow, and through all time. Amen.