Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Morning Preacher: The Woman at the Well

Samaritan Woman at the Well by He Qi
I am so grateful to the preacher I heard yesterday for how she talked about the woman at the well. She talked about how often this woman has been labeled a sinner, a prostitute, a fallen woman, and how that seemed unnecessary and possibly cruel.

I remember one of those sermons. It was during a preaching class in seminary, all of us in the class women, and one preached on the woman at the well in just that way. Five husbands! The shock! The horror! The sin of it all! When we gave our critiques at the end, I remember saying that I could just imagine this woman, perhaps barren, being divorced or abandoned by husband after husband, expelled from her family, shamed by society, living on the absolute fringes--and then we preach about her as sinful. And I found myself crying.

I'd forgotten about that until yesterday.

A Facebook friend asked if anyone had made the connection between the woman and Elizabeth Taylor. I hadn't. She said, "I would have preached it in terms of how people remember women more for their scandals but not the work, the Woman for her witness and Elizabeth Taylor for her AIDS work." I think that's accurate, and that scandal is used to minimize the work that women do.

Liz Taylor has proved an amazingly rich mine for sermonizing. I loved Dirty Sexy Ministry's entry this morning, Big Girls Need Big Diamonds,which you need to read.

"All of us have our big diamonds, our jewels within our souls that can gleam and glitter in the world - our gifts, our passions, our vocations. We all have jewels within our souls, those treasures that God has mined and entrusted to us. We are born with them, and our life experiences, our delving into the abyss where we stumble and recover the treasures of our life, give us access to them to share with the world."

Easier said than done, I'm afraid. And the women of DSM know the consternation that faces women when they claim for themselves that they are more precious than jewels, husband or no husband.

All of this comes with a backdrop of a phone conversation I had on Saturday with a friend who has recently gotten out of an abusive marriage and who is getting, oh, let's just say no help from the church. Over and over she said, "I need to heal. I need to heal." I'm afraid I didn't have much to offer her. I hope she finds Jesus at the well. I hope she gets some of that living water.

Church, dear church, so often you talk a good game about helping the oppressed. So often you fail to recognize them, much less help. I think that's why I cried that day in seminary. It's why I'm crying now.


it's margaret said...

cry. it's the best offering all. and true living water.

Anonymous said...

As our preacher said in his soft southern accent on Sunday:

"Jesus is not exposing her sin, he is recognizing her oppression."

And then he went on to talk about how Jesus' love restores the woman to her full humanity because he sees her as the person that she is underneath the stigma of her social circumstances.

It was beautiful.

Kurt said...

(From my sermon Sunday)

David Lose writes:

“Jesus at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all. She very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced (which in the ancient world was pretty much the same thing for a woman). Five times would be heartbreaking, but not impossible. Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what's called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband's brother in order to produce an heir yet is not always technically considered the brother's wife). There are any number of ways, in fact, that one might imagine this woman's story as tragic rather than scandalous...”

This dialogue shows the woman how much Jesus really sees: not only does he know her specifics...five marriages, now gone...Jesus also sees how she...and all women...are caught in a society of dependence. He sees how their identity is based on their marriage circumstance, and how vulnerable this makes them in this society. Lose concludes that “..she recognizes not just who Jesus is but what he offers -- dignity. Jesus invites her to not be defined by her circumstances and offers her an identity that lifts her above her tragedy.”

Kurt said...

A slightly different path was taken by my mentor, Tracey Lind. Her look at the woman, however, is still one of dignity.

"Living Water to Sustain Fierce Imagination in a Time of Rot"