Saturday, March 25, 2017

Story of the Samaritan Woman - John 4:1-42

Well, I don't know what's going on, but I KEEP seeing and hearing references to this story of Jesus talking with a Samaritan Woman (verses from Bible Gateway below). I decided to write about it.

I read our granddaughters Bible stories using some really cute books that come in a box. It's called God Loves Me Storybooks, the Bible in 52 Storybooks, The story of the Samaritan Woman at the well came up the last time I read one of those! And that was after I had already seen several other references to it. Then the Bible study I'm going to had a lesson on this story last night. And today I was going through my "Feedly" (a collection of blogs I read) and there was another one, a sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber.

So, after all those "signs," I wondered whether there was something special I should try to glean from it. I've heard the story, of course, and never thought too much about it. I have a friend who suggested I re-read the story of Hagar and Ishmael when they try to escape because there are similarities and perhaps ties to this story, especially around the woman being seen by God. My sister suggested I re-read it and sit quietly receptive to insights that might come to me. Both of those are good ideas.

In the story of Hagar there are these verses, which talk about being seen: "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me." (Genesis 16:13) And as we studied and read the story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman, it was significant that Jesus spoke and associated with a woman, which was unusual in itself, and on top of it a Samaritan. A parallel to Jesus seeing this woman, like Hagar being seen. It is good to reflect on the fact that Jesus/God sees me.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with the time I have left in life, and it is good to know God knows what is in my heart. He sees my innermost being. To be honest, I wish I could see it! I can't decide what to do with. I figure I don't have to make a decision that necessarily is definitive for the rest of my life, but I'd like to know a direction, a goal to pursue, the next step to take. Right now I'm trying to be patient as I think and pray of various things and wait for something to seem like the direction God wants me to go in. I signed up for a 5-day guided retreat at the Jesuit center that I am hopeful may help me.

Here are some thoughts that go around in my mind:

  • Figure out what parts of my job I'd like to keep doing. Perhaps propose a change in my position that gives me more time on the parts I love, and that gives my co-worker a chance to advance.
  • Do something that involves my fascination with Jesuit spirituality. I think the practices fit in wonderfully with our Reformed beliefs and practices. Could I write about that? Study the Jesuit practices more?
  • Check into the Sierra Leadership initiative that Kevin Adams and Paul Vander Kley have put together. I signed up for attending the monthly session Paul holds, and I have gone to one or two seminars. Figure out a goal of what I want to get through that?
  • Pursue the idea I have of making our church into a center for arts and worship. One issue there is no one else I've talked to about it seems at all enthused. Maybe it's not as good an idea as I think. And then there's the financial side. I can't just do all the work on a volunteer basis. I do have to make a living still.
  • Maybe not worry about it, just continue as is, and pursue my interests on the side.
So there you have a lot of what's on the top of  my mind right now. Does the woman at the well story have any bearing on that? Not so sure. I am also drawn to the references of "Here I am" in the Bible. I have written a little about that before, and just saw it again in a reference to Mary saying it when the angel told her she was going to become the mother of Jesus. I feel like I am in a "Here I am" moment.

I recently started following Paul Vander Kley in social media. I like what he says about his blog being a working space. I was feeling a little bad that my writing on my blog is so informal. I don't edit much at all. It's kind of my "shitty first draft," as Anne Lamott would say, or it's just plain a stream of consciousness. I read a lot about writing and writers all talk about writing being more about editing and re-work than anything else. But I feel better thinking as Paul writes, that my blog is a workspace, not finished work. And, as he says, I don't get much traffic so I don't need to worry about it. 

If anyone who does take the time to read this has any thoughts, I'm open.




John 4:1-42New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many Samaritans Believe

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Footnotes:

  1. John 4:9 Or do not use dishes Samaritans have used

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Prayer is saying hello

This is a lovely episode of  On Being, Padraig O Tuama - Belonging Creates and Undoes us Both.

I loved many things that Krista and Padraig discussed. One that really stuck with me is what he said about prayer. I'll start, though, with a few other nuggets.

There is a pretty long discussion of the concept of "here." It made me think of a short writing I wrote for our church's e-newsletter:

"Here I am."

Our pastor has been leading us in a sermon series of God saying "I AM." There is also a theme in the Bible of God's people saying "Here I am." When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses said, "Here I am." When God called Samuel in the middle of the night, Eli told him to say, "Here I am." When God spoke to Abraham, Abraham said, "Here I am." These words are used by God's people when God calls them and gives them a specific instruction, or mission, or assignment. God told Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. He told Samuel about his plans for Eli and the people of Israel. He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Each time God calls and the people answer "Here I am," God gives them a direction for the future. Our church is in a "Here I am" moment. God is calling us and has a mission for our future. As we respond with "Here I am, Lord," let us pray and listen for God's instruction about our church's mission.

(In Hebrew, the phrase "Here I am" is "Hineni" -- pronounced he-nay-nee. Here is an interesting article about Hineni.)

In the podcast, they are discussing the concept of "here" in the context of Ireland and its troubles, Different, but an intriguing connection.

One of his poems which Padraig read on this podcast also struck me.

“Pedagogy of Conflict”

When I was a child,
I learnt to count to five:
one, two, three, four, five.
But these days, I’ve been counting lives, so I count
one life
one life
one life
one life
Because each time is the first time that that life has been taken.
Legitimate Target
has sixteen letters
and one
long
abominable
space
between
two
dehumanising
words.

Devastating. Wow. Those words, "one life   one life    one life". They're like bells that toll for the dead.

About prayer, I want to quote some longer passages from the podcast:

“Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder. I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day. I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day. I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet. / Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast. / Hello.

.“..And I suppose I really think that prayer is also not only naming or asking, but just saying hello to what is and trying to be brave, trying to be courageous in that situation and trying to be generous to your own self, also. To go, “Here’s a day when I feel intimidated,” or “Here’s the day; I’m just waiting for the end of it,” or “Here’s the day when I have huge expectations of delight,” because those can also be troubling.”

Recently, I heard Eugene Peterson saying prayer shouldn't just be about asking -- that we should shut up and listen. I've been thinking a lot about that. As I pray, I try to be still and listen. I try to think of ways to present what I want to say without asking. It's hard when it's intercession -- praying for healing for a loved one, for example.

Thinking about prayer as saying hello is helpful. Padraig says he says hello to "my desire and my trouble." I can extrapolate that to being troubled about those I'm praying for, right?

Hello, God, my mother is getting old and frail. She is often confused, many times she is unable to speak. Hello, sadness. I am sad, Lord, that she is not the vibrant, eloquent, funny, smart-alec, intelligent, inveterate advice-giving, repeating story-telling person we've loved all these years. But hello, gratitude. Thank you that she is, from all we can see, not in pain and is at peace. Hello, God. Here I am. Here is my mom.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Psalm 23 is probably one of the most familiar passages of the Bible. Yet, like all of Scripture, new meaning can come even after hundreds of readings. Recently, the words, "thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" struck me in a way I hadn't thought of before.

I was wearing the necklace pictured above, which my dad bought for me when he served in VietNam. As I sat in church I was thinking about it because someone had just told me, "Nice necklace." I liked that after all these years it was still attractive.

Those words, "thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" came to mind. I realized for the sheep, just seeing their shepherd's rod and staff must have reminded them of their shepherd, and it comforted them -- it made them remember his great love for them.

That necklace, and a favorite shirt of my dad's that I now own, do the same for me. They remind me of my dad, and they comfort me. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Kiss

I KNOW SOMEONE
by Mary Oliver

I know someone who kisses the way
a flower opens, but more rapidly.
Flowers are sweet. They have
short, beatific lives. They offer
much pleasure. There is
nothing in the world that can be said
against them.
Sad, isn’t it, that all they can kiss
is the air.

Yes, yes! We are the lucky ones.



I took this picture of me holding my dad's hand on the last full day of his life. He was lying in bed and often would hold out his hand to hold mine. I loved feeling the pressure of his hand on mine, the real-ness of his being there.

Two times during my vigil by his bedside that evening he raised my hand to his lips, kissed it, and said, "Love you so much." I saw this poem quoted on Facebook shortly after he'd done that and thought, "Yes, yes! I am the lucky one."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

God's presence in a river

Today I read this devotional and it evoked a beautiful image of a gently flowing river representing the love of God.

I've always loved rivers. One of our favorite things to do is stay at the River Inn in Truckee, CA. It's great to get a room where we can hear the water flowing by, and sit on the deck to watch it. I read that flowing water -- rivers, waterfalls, the ocean -- put negative ions in the air, and that is probably why being near to water causes the positive feelings we often experience near them.

Associating a river with God's love seems wonderful. His love flowing through us like a river. Floating on the river of his love. Feeling the cool waters of his love. 

The Isaiah passages linked in this devotional are apt in this time of conspiracies and fear:
Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. -- Isaiah 8:12
And the Psalm is amazing.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day. 
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire. 
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. -- Psalm 46 
The part that says, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God" make me think of "There is a balm in Gilead..." from the hymn:
There is balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole
There's power enough in heaven, To cure a sin-sick soul.
The word "balm" just feels like a balm, doesn't it?

The reference to a river also reminds me of the Jordan River often talked about in the Bible. I love "Far Side Banks of Jordan" sung by the Cox family and Allison Krauss.  The chorus makes me imagine when we'll see my brother in heaven someday. I don't think he'll be "drawing pictures in the sand," but I can just see him: "And when I see you coming I will rise up with a shout and come running through the shallow waters reaching for your hand."

So much richness in thinking about God and a river.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
...
Be still, and know that I am God


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Blue Christmas

Nearly every morning I wake up with a song in my head. It seems very random -- it can be an old pop song, a hymn, a stupid commercial ditty -- I usually have no idea why that particular song comes to mind.

This morning it was "Blue Christmas." It keeps making me laugh because I know very little of the lyrics and it reminds me of a story my sister told me. She told me she was with my dad one day and she noticed that each time she came near to him he was singing, "...this masquerade...". Only those two words. He apparently didn't know any others.

Today, I keep singing in my mind, "...I'll have a blue Christmas without you, you'll be doing all right [probably not the right words] with your Christmas of white, but I'll have a blue, blue Christmas." Over and over.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A noticeably vengeful guy

I just finished the book The Arsonist by Sue Miller. I reviewed it briefly here. There's a passage in the book about the main character's (Frankie's) motivation for doing aid work in Africa. Her romantic interest, Bud, asks her about her religious background and Frankie says:
Protestant. My mother's religion. Actually my grandparents' religion. My grandfather was a preacher. Presbyterian. And we used to to go church regularly,...So I was a churchgoer. But not ever a believer, even in my memory...
...I think they would have had me believe. We did the whole thing early on. Sunday school. Confirmation class...But I was a gimlet-eyed kid. I saw hypocrisy everywhere around me among the grown-ups, who were always on about honesty and kindness, not hitting, et cetera, and yet were so much not up to the job themselves...And then there was God--such an unattractive character! Why be so jealous, so small with the whole universe your own? And why call on us to be so good--so giving, so forgiving, so open and sweet, when you hardly model that for us.
(Bud) Yeah, a noticeably vengeful guy.
Exactly.  (p. 132)
Wow.  Vengeful. Small. Unattractive. I've heard the whole thing about hypocrisy many times. But I can't remember hearing this description of God. I kind of don't know what to think, how I'd respond if someone said that to me.

What do you think?