Sermon Meditation for Sunday, Lent III

  • Posted on Mar 15, 2020

The Samaritan woman said to Jesus, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans)  John 4:9

For the Samaritan woman, life changed that day at the well.
It was like any other day for the Samaritan woman.
Instead of going to the well early in the morning as the other women of the village, this woman went at noon—the very heat of the day—because she was seen as an”outsider.”
She was isolated in her village community-most likely a combination of her own self-isolating and the isolating of others.
She had been married several times and now lived with a man not her husband.
She went to avoid the stares and whispers of the other women—who did not know or want to know the vulnerabilities and fears that brought this woman to her current situation.

But this day, as she walks alone with her stone water jars in the dusty heat, she sees a man sitting at the well up ahead.
And this man asks her for a drink of water…too tired perhaps to even draw water for himself.
She is first suspicious of him.
Is this request a ploy to rob her or worse?
But she has compassion for this man, draws the water, and then her life changes forever.
She understands that human connection can be life-giving instead of shaming.
She has longed for some kind of community and now, out of her isolation, she has a community that she never dreamed possible.

Isolation is a word that we hear a good bit these days.
And it has been a very disorienting few days.
COVID-19 has scrambled all our routines.
And COVID-19 has the potential to scramble and divide our communities.
Our challenge is to distance ourselves physically from one another as best we can but not distance ourselves emotionally and spiritually.

In medieval times, the community well at the edge of town was a place of community—town news and gossip were exchanged there as folks drew their daily water supply.
But when the plague or other illness ravaged towns, groups were discouraged from gathering at the well.
Folks went alone or in family groups.
However, another phenomenon began to emerge at the well.
Families that were fairly healthy would leave food and supplies at the well for those in the community in need.
While no longer a community gathering spot, the well became a life-giving place for the vulnerable of the community who would find ways to collect the food and supplies but not infect others.

On Thursday Morning Bible Study. I discussed my decision to suspend worship and activities at Emmanuel for two weeks.
Everyone understood the reasoning, but most of us (including me) was already grieving the loss of community together.
I love this season of the year where Lenten introspection turns into resurrection joy as the creation burst into flower.
The worship life of the church is rich—from lectionary readings, prayers, and hymnody and anthems.
However much I would like to keep church open for myself and my own spiritual life, I found that I just could not risk the possibility of one of our beloved community falling victim to the virus because they had been in church.

But I grieve the loss of our worshipping and studying and visiting together as the Body of Christ.

Poet John O’Donohue writes that:

Each one of us wants to belong.  No one wants to live a life that is cut off or isolated.  The absence of contact with others hurts us.  When we belong, we feel part of things.  We have a huge need to participate.  When this is denied us, it makes us insecure.  Our confidence is shaken, and we turn in on ourselves and against ourselves. (from Eternal Echoes)

In fact, fear can take us over. 
And, for many of us, Emmanuel is where we gravitate when we fear.
So, as the Body of Christ at Emmanuel, we must find ways to be there for one another in community—even without our close physical presence with one another.  

We must remember that we are part of that new community that Jesus brought to the Samaritan woman that day at the well.

This community of Christ is marked by the virtues of understanding, compassion and hope.
And this community stands in contrast to the community of our culture which, as O’Donohue writes, is “complex and fast moving.”  A society which “is addicted to and incessantly nourishes and inflates the spectacular.”

O’Donohue says that “the invisible tissue of real belonging is never spectacular; it is quiet and unostentatious.”  In order to survive as a planet and as a society, we need to reawaken and retrieve these virtues as a Christian community to foster a sense of real belonging—even when physically apart.

As we go about our next few days and weeks, remember that understanding, compassion and hope are our calling cards.

When we go to the store and see the frenzied panic of the customers who are piling countless bottles of water and enough toilet paper for months into their carts, understand that fear has taken over, have compassion and pray for them.
Then, only buy what is necessary.
Think of someone who might be too afraid to go to the store or unable to leave their homes, and buy a package for them.
Sow seeds of peace as you walk the aisles.
Make sure to wash your hands and wipe with sanitizers as needed—but don’t avoid greeting with smile or a gentle ‘hello’ those at a distance.

Keep yourself spiritually and emotionally fed by staying in touch.
Emmanuel will be sending out frequent NOVAs to keep in touch.
Pick up the phone and call someone you love, or someone you know from church to say hello, or someone you might be worried about being alone or in fear.
Write a letter or note.
Drop off some soup on the porch or fresh baked bread.
If you need help, please call the office at Emmanuel and we will be there.
If you just need to hear a human voice, call.

Community is quiet and unostentatious but essential.
It is our living water.
Even when we must be physically distant, with community, we are never alone.  AMEN.


(c) 2020 The Rev. Martha N. Macgill

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