Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Woman at the Well

As I read the comments and posts floating around the Methoblogosphere I am happy to see the text for this week. I think no other time would be appropriate to look at Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. She is the outsider and Jesus invites her in. She is the outcast and Jesus makes her feel at home. She is the shunned and Jesus offers her love and compassion.

This text reminds me of my field education placement while in Divinity School. While running away from the idea of being a preacher in the local church, I tried many different ministerial routes. I took a placement working at Duke University Medical Center. There I worked with a non-profit organization called Partners In Caring. They ministered to HIV/AIDS patients in the hospital and in the surrounding areas of Durham. It was an eye opening experience and I will remember it for eternity. I was able to come face to face with some of my own fears. It pushed me past my own comfort zones and I am better for it.

During one of my talks with my mentor at his placement he asked me what the first thing is that pops into my head when I met people living with HIV/AIDS. Fear of contamination? No, I knew too much about the disease to know I could get it from holding a hand or sharing the same air. The truth was the first thing that popped into my head was “how did they get this disease.” I wanted to know how, drugs, homosexual or heterosexual intercourse? I wanted the juicy details but then my mentor asked me why? “Why do you want to know? To make yourself feel better they have the disease? Will it enable you to cast judgment upon one moment in their life that they now have to pay for for the rest of theirs?”

When I was honest with myself I realized that if I knew how they got it, I could pass judgment upon them and reconcile to myself that they deserved to be in that hospital bed. When I came to this realization I felt dirty and I felt like I wasn’t doing ministry. I was offering judgment when I should have been offering living water instead. Maybe it wasn’t with the words I said, or the prayers I prayed, but in my heart was where the judgment laid and I knew the patients could feel it.

That is why I got so angry when MethoDave wrote his post about telling a dying homosexual that he will not meet Jesus when he dies. MethoDave since has deleted his post and stated that it was all sarcasm and hyperbole. Yet that is an ongoing thought process in our denomination and in our world.

Another thing my mentor said that will stick with me forever is that he has seen nothing in the Bible about people getting into trouble for having too much compassion. He said, “When I die and I meet Jesus I can see him upset that I judged too much but I cannot envision him telling me he is angry because I had too much compassion.” If God does get angry that we are too compassionate, then I don’t want to worship that God anymore.

Compassion, care and grace are at the heart of this week’s text. The woman at the well is a prime example of how the church should be reaching out to the outcasts, the lost and the shunned. To do true ministry we need to put down our judgments, our condescending behavior, and our own inner turmoil and we need to be with Jesus. We need to be with Jesus who is at the well talking to the woman who is living with a man and has had 5 husbands already or who ever that represents in our society today.

6 comments:

John Meunier said...

Great post. Thank you.

DogBlogger said...

Yes, thank you for this post.

Dave said...

I get so frustrated by folks being judgemental that I feel the need to show them what it looks like if they take their statments to the absolute absurd. Or I give an opinion 180 degrees just to try to get them to see things in a different perspective.

PamBG said...

Another thing my mentor said that will stick with me forever is that he has seen nothing in the Bible about people getting into trouble for having too much compassion. He said, “When I die and I meet Jesus I can see him upset that I judged too much but I cannot envision him telling me he is angry because I had too much compassion.”

This is a really helpful comment.

Thank you for passing it on.

Dave said...

I am a Stephen Minister, and part of the training is learning to "Speak the Truth in Love". Speaking the the truth can come in various forms, regardless though it is important that it be done.
Speaking the truth in love may mean we offer to take the drug user or alcoholic to treatment, or even that we place boundaries "I love you, and I care about you. But I can't be around you unless you are clean and sober."
If we think of Jesus with the woman at the well, he didn't let her off the hook, but he didn't condemn her to hell-fire either. Instead he offered her another choice, another way to live her life.
The same is true in John's Gospel with the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn't let her off the hook, instead he literally saved her from physical death, and even though we don't know the "rest of the story" we come away with the belief that she was spiritually saved as well and "sinned no more".

Rev. J said...

Thank you dave for the comment. And I understand our human need for boundries so please don't get me wrong here...but to push it a little farther would Jesus say "But I can't be around you unless you are clean and sober"? I don't think so. Now don't get me wrong he doesn't agree with one's sins and neither should we, but we should be there through the whole transformation. We need to be there when they are not clean and sober to help them move towards perfection, for that is where Christ is. Like I said in my sermon in the post above, "He doesn’t ask us to change before he comes but he doesn’t promise we will stay the same once he stays."

Thanks again for the insight and making me think deeper about this important subject.