Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wellwoman Part 3

Okay, He was losing her again. All this religious talk was exhausting. Her reply was simple: 'I know that when God's Promised One comes he'll reveal everything'. She had learned that much on her mother's knee.

'Oh, well, here goes then', He said to Himself, 'after all, I'm here to tell her the truth'

'I'm speaking to you now and I am Him'. Well, this was a change. From all out of luck and love, to first in line to greet God's great Teacher promised through His prophets. He ...knew her many mistakes and romantic failures and that hadn't even fazed Him. All He had given was honesty and reassurance. She asked herself: 'If that's what God's really like, then maybe...'

The disciples felt they had arrived back not a moment too soon. They were horrified that He had struck up a conversation with a Samaritan and, worse still, a woman without a chaperone. Surely, it was a formula for unnecessary scandal.

By this time, though, she had just about balanced the water vessels for carrying back to her home. And this day would not end with another round of the town's stinging rejection and public contempt. This was a new day for her and she was the herald of that town's very special visitor with a story about her encounter with God's message.

She went back to her town and didn't hold back. They could think of her what they liked, but what she now knew would make their hair stand on end. She had made a real friend who was far more important than she or they ever would be. And yet, He was probably her only real friend in the world, despite already knowing all of her shortcomings. A Voice in her thoughts began to encourage her. She exclaimed again and again: 'Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did (thinking 'and He never ran away') Couldn't this be the Promised One?'

The crowds ran out and gathered to meet Jesus. Some of the these townsfolk mingled with the disciples and took it upon themselves to get them up to speed on just what kind of woman Jesus had been talking to.

A few of the disciples took Jesus aside and asked how He could ever fix the level of shame and guilt that she could bring upon them: that she had actually brought upon herself.

Jesus smiled at first and then gazed with sadness into the distance towards Jerusalem before turning away. He sighed deeply, shuddered and then whispered: 'Don't worry. I have this completely covered'.

Tired, they thought: 'Another riddle for another's day'.

Perhaps, He'd explain tomorrow just what 'completely covered' really meant.


Wellwoman Part 2

He looked on her and thought that people rarely fail because they want to fail. They so often fail because they simply don't know how to succeed.

Here he was: a Jew talking to a Samaritan. The Jews had such a long-standing animosity towards Samaritans treating them as ethnic mongrels. 'A bunch of racists!' He thought: remembering the way that most of His countrymen considered all Samaritans to be morally tainted half-breeds.

The mutual contempt was exacerbated by the ugly 'religious' rivalry over whether Mount Gerazim or Jerusalem was designated by God's holy writings to be the centre for Temple worship.

His critics would have had a field day if they saw Him talking to her...and all because of her race. So sad!

'Not just that!' A voice shouted inside His head. He gazed into her eyes that peeped through a mask of resignation. After quenching his thirst with water from the ladle, He asked her to imagine what it would be like to discover water that contained the power to provide a new lease on life itself. An unending source of hope and second-chances.

'A life without thirst?, she laughed, 'Not a bad idea!' She thought that if it meant not having the daily ordeal of drawing this water, avoiding the scandalmongers and carting it home by the bucketload, she'd be first in line.

She really didn't understand His word-picture. 'A bit too clever', he thought, 'it's time to get practical'. He closed His eyes and wondered about the hidden shadow of sorrow cast across her face and sought insight.

'Ask her to...' the Voice said. He had hardly formed the mental reply: 'Ask her to what?', when the words tumbled from His lips: 'Go and call your husband!'

The woman rolled her eyes in near exasperation, issued her stock reply: 'I have no husband' and then looked away pretending to be busy with her chore. Jesus seized the moment to combine His hallmark of generosity with honesty: 'Well that's true. You've had five husbands and the man you're living with isn't your husband'

'Oh, okay. Different!', she thought and then quizzed herself: 'but how did He know 'five'? And I've never met this man before'

Yes, five marriages and now shacked up with her last resort 'boyfriend': someone she 'helped' and who 'helped' her. Women marked her with indelible suspicion, abandoning even social niceties. 'An insatiable predator' most thought, 'Guard your husbands!' And even though most men might publicly avoid her, she tired of those 'happily' married ones who always quietly asked whether they could meet her, um, discreetly.

So I guess you're a prophet then?' she replied. Cornered by his candour, she threw in a diversion about the on-going dispute between Jews and Samaritans fighting over the rightful location of the Temple.

He explained to her that where people worshipped was not nearly as important as wholehearted honesty in worship. He called it: 'in spirit and in truth'.


Wellwoman Part 1

It was a long journey from Judaea through Samaria and back to the start of His ministry in Galilee. Jesus knew that His teaching mission was destined for a final and decisive show-down in Jerusalem, but He had to choose His battles wisely. It was sensible to return to his sea-side home district and consolidate the root-and-branch reform of what the synagogue leaders had misunderstood: rousing slumbering consciences where He could, healing the sick and fixing whatever seemed broken.

He had sought to peel away the crumbling accumulation of so many man-made Jewish traditions: rituals and regulations that clung on like barnacles to Moses' Law. The well-heeled religious elite had done everything to selfishly overcomplicate it in their favour.

Yet, wipe away all of that dross and only two things really mattered to God: loving loyalty to Him and a commitment of practical love towards others without self-seeking and regardless of their status.

'Easier said than done', He thought, rolling his eyes. Yet, if He could only expose the harsh 'one-size-fits-all' reasoning of the legal scholars who opposed Him, He'd be able to reveal the Law's ultimate purpose. It could engender humility and not their vile outward display of rituals. If they understood that, then maybe He could really help them: 'They didn't have to be religious. They could just be assured that God forgave them and then receive what was promised by the ancient holy men: a conscience free from fear of constant offence and empowered to do good, full of renewed sensitivity to God's telepathic Voice, the Holy Spirit.'

Despite all that those earlier prophets had foretold, his opponents seemed more interested in defaming Him with nit-picking remarks about healing and picking a few ears of corn on the Sabbath. Of course, that didn't stop them rescuing the odd farm animal or performing a circumcision on the same Holy day of the week. It was another exasperating double-standard.

His disciples had run ahead to another town to buy food. Strange that they were always short of money, despite receiving so many generous donations. He'd have to have a chat about that with their treasurer, Judas. He really hoped to God he wasn't skimming, although little else seemed plausible.

Not far ahead, there was a sight for His sore eyes...and throat. Water. The well seemed like déjà-vu. As He approached it, the name, Jacob, somehow stuck in His mind. Everything looked so familiar, He was sure He must have been there before, but He just couldn't think when.

'Give me a drink?', He asked with a cheeky smile. The woman drawing water recoiled at His dialect: 'How is that you a Jew ask me a Samaritan for water?'

He just loved the reaction when He challenged the status quo. As a rebel for good-will, He knew that no-one normally saw it coming. They were always taken aback by His generosity bombs. He thought back to the kind of change that they could effect in so many lives.

For a moment, He remembered His new friend, Zacchaeus. From a life so focused on extorting every penny he could for himself and the Roman bullies for whom he worked, he had finally understood the beauty of God's generosity and had thought about how He could start to reflect it: 'I'm giving half of my possessions to the poor and I'll make restitution at four times whatever I've extorted' His neighbours were flabbergasted, but it was music to Jesus' ears. Another selfish life turned around.

Nevertheless, this woman seemed very different. Yet, He was sure He could somehow move the conversation easily and nonchalantly from talk about short-lived thirst for water to the unending turmoil of those thirsting for hope in the middle of their hopelessness; the thirst for 'living' water: God's reassurance and empowerment to escape lives of disappointment, unending betrayals, and the exhaustion of constant self-justification and rejection.