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Lent 3 A ~ "You and Me and the Woman at the Well" ~ Susan McGurgan



Like so many women in the Bible,

we never even know her name.

She is “The Woman at the Well”

or maybe, after hearing her story,

“The Woman of Many Husbands.”


We never even know her name,

but if we read between the lines,

we discover that she was popular with men,

but not so much with women.

She had five husbands and one not-so-husband,

but went to the community well

alone

in the blistering heat of the noonday sun,

instead of drawing water with other women,

communally,

socially,

in the cool of the morning.


We never even know her name,

but if we read between the lines,

we catch a glimpse of a life that was not easy

or simple

or drama free.

After all,

five husbands,

and a not-so-husband?


We suspect that maybe she wasn’t exactly

Queen of the Cotillion

or voted “Girl Most Likely to Succeed”

but whatever the reality of her life,

she was probably a woman who was more talked

about,

than

to.


Yet,

against all odds,

the woman at the well,

the Samaritan with five husbands,

a not-so-husband,

and very few female friends,

became a bold and powerful evangelist.

Her life took an unexpected turn,

and she became an unconventional

and downright astonishing

Witness for Christ.


Or is it really so surprising?


Is it possible Jesus stopped

and engaged her in conversation,

specifically,

intentionally,

purposefully,

not despite her life story,

but because of it?


Could it be that God wanted her—

wants us—

to evangelize,

to witness,

to accompany,

to preach and teach—

not because we are perfect or wise or

conventionally blessed,

but precisely because we are…

not?


What if God calls some of us as witnesses

because of

our unsavory friendships,

our sketchy histories,

our disreputable relations?

What if God comes to sit beside us at a well

because through our flaws and foibles

we have developed distinct and irreplaceable connections—

quirky skillsets

or perhaps an outlook on life

that allows us to bring the Good News

to people and places that are

invisible to others,

off the beaten path,

perhaps a bit tattered around the edges?

What if we are uniquely suited to meet and minister

to men and women who are as lost,

and thirsty,

and grumbling for water

as we are?


Through the unexpected witness

of the Woman at the Well,

every person in that Samaritan town

who ever felt isolated or lonely,

grieved or discarded--

every person who had abused power

or used others

was suddenly and unexpectedly

invited into something new.

This woman—

this most unlikely preacher—

brought the people of her town

into a life changing encounter

with the living waters of the Living God.


We never even know her name,

but because of her

every person with a colorful history or a blotted record book—

every person with a fractured or complicated life--

every person who raises eyebrows--

every person who secretly wonders

Is there truly a place for me in God’s world?

can answer confidently, “YES, there is!”


Because you see,

the scripture stories we proclaim each week

are not static, inanimate things.

They’re not quaint echoes of a dead or dusty past.

They are alive with meaning.

That same Jesus who sat beside a well in Samaria

and started chatting about water,

sits in your town, too.


God has given us the gift of scripture and story

as a way to express our hopes and fears,

as a way to see ourselves in God’s story,

as a way to live into the Paschal Mystery and claim victory

even as the world celebrates our defeat.


When we meet Jesus at the well,

your story,

my story,

no matter how unconventional,

or odd,

or downright sinful—

can be taken up,

redeemed,

and handed back to us

as powerful testimony.

All of us—

You,

Me,

The woman of 5 husbands and one not-so-husband

can be found right there in the Bible,

because Scripture gives honor and space

and the hope of redemption

to the painful,

as well as the glorious chapters of our lives.


Scripture continues to speak to you and me

because it’s not just the victors,

the conquerors,

the strong and perfect of the world

who can be found in its pages,

but the hurting and the lost--

the grieved and broken--

the women who must go to the well

alone in the heat of the noonday sun--

are all given a place of dignity,

and our voices ring out loud and strong and clear.

Come and See!

Come and see a man who knows all about me,

and yet,

offers me new life.

Come and See!


Of course,

this encounter will change us.

It can’t be business as usual after meeting Jesus at the well.

We will discover that old ways

no longer satisfy or appeal.

We will learn new ways of living and rising.

We will find ourselves,

in spite of ourselves,

transformed.

Our encounter with living water

quenches thirst we never knew we had,

and leaves us thirsty for more.


But before we race too quickly to sanitize our history,

Before we ruthlessly weed out

old relationships and connections

because they no longer "fit"

or erase the past so completely that no one

and nothing survives the purge,

Consider the possibility that God calls us to witness

from the raw truth of our lives—

to share the Good News in places that only we can.

Using words only we know to say.

Ministering to people only we can understand

and love

and reach.


This Good News, like grace,

comes as a gift,

Unbidden,

Unpurchased,

and often,

from the most astonishing and unlikely messengers.


Messengers like you and me and the Woman at the Well.

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