John 4:1-42 is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. This is a fairly common Jesus story because it shows Jesus reaching out beyond the circle he was supposed to belong to. Jesus was supposed to be focused on Jews, and primarily males. Instead he approaches a female outside of his family, and a Samaritan nonetheless. A simplified history of the Samaritans, is that they were the descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel that the Assyrians destroyed in 721 BCE. Unlike the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the Northern Kingdom never recovered or rebuilt. They intermarried with their conquerors and were not seen as "pure" by the Jews who worked hard to remain as ethnically pure as possible. Yet here is Jesus, the Jews' Messiah, relating to the Samaritans, and a woman at that!
For many of us, family and ancestry matter an awful lot. Personally, I think it's crucial for each us to know and wrestle with our families of origins (including all our stories of adoption, formal and informal) . Families of all sorts define us in many ways. In working with teenagers, I ask them regularly to realize what formed them without their choosing. The flip side is to also realize, that was we grow older, we have the ability to choose what will form us. Said another way, we do not choose the people we belong to/from as a child very often, but as an adult, we can definitely choose the people we belong to (at least to some degree). And yet, we cannot ignore the cultural forces that encourage us to stick to the people we are "supposed" to belong to. We must work for the survival of our predetermined family foremost. This of course comes from the human (mis)belief that there is not enough food, land and love for everyone, and that there certainly is not enough power and security for everyone.
In this single magical moment at a well, Jesus simply says "no" to this belief in scarcity. Jesus believes in his core that there is enough love, family, water, forgiveness, hope, inclusion, honesty, trust and dignity for everyone - including the culturally defined lower class Samaritans and second-class females. God's family and kingdom/nation is open to everyone. Jews, Samaritans, Romans - Christians, Muslims, Latinos, etc. - we all belong together. There is plenty to go around if we'd focus on sharing and spending time together, instead of focusing on hoarding wealth and weapons and isolating each other.
Who do you know that our society would not expect to find in your "family" photo? How are your closest relationships a representation to society that there is enough for everyone? Who helps you that society would not encourage to do so? Do we work hard to get ahead of our neighbors, or do we work hard for the satisfaction of our neighborhood?
Children can follow along in the Shine On Story Bible (190) or Spark Story Bible (420).
Choose a prayer today to recite, remember and live by:
Lords Prayer (198 in Shine On, 278 in Spark)
Psalm 23 (129 in Shine On, 160 in Spark)
Events & Evites:
Tory - Pastor of Children and Youth Faith Formation.