Speaking to the Soul: Bigger Questions

Week of 2 Epiphany, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)

Genesis 11:27-12:8

Hebrews 7:1-17

John 4:16-26

In today’s gospel, Jesus visits privately with a Samaritan woman at a well. The woman is avoiding her own community by coming to draw water in the middle of the day; Jesus is violating his own community’s norms by speaking directly with a woman. What strikes me most about their conversation, though, is how quickly the Samaritan woman brings Jesus her most burning theological question.

The conversation could so easily have devolved into the woman’s irregular relationship status or the relationship history that has most likely led to her being shunned. Jesus, perhaps uncomfortable spending so much time alone with a woman, asks her to call her husband. She answers, “I have no husband.” Then, in a moment of apparent clairvoyance, Jesus confirms that she has no husband, “for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.”

But instead of digressing into what legitimizes a relationship, or dwelling on the dissolution of her past relationships, the Samaritan woman changes the course of their discussion: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” The Samaritan woman sets before Jesus her pressing dilemma not about valid human relationships, but about valid worship of God. She wonders why her own people worship God on one particular mountain, while Jesus’ people insist that God must be worshipped in their capital city and its Temple. Whose way of worshipping God is right?

Neither. Jesus tells the woman, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”

Just when a conversation with Jesus could have been derailed by preoccupations about gender norms or relationship status, the Samaritan woman raises the bar. Jesus, in turn, lifts this woman’s heart and mind to worship the God who is not constrained by culture or place. Today, perhaps we too can raise bigger questions, and listen for answers that elevate us to a higher kingdom.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Past Posts