Sunday, March 23, 2014

Of Wells And Weddings

William Dyce "The Woman of Samaria" 1860
In the semi-arid lands of the Bible, wells were a vital link to life, and travelers planned their journeys carefully to make sure they would have a sufficient supply of water. Wells were also places of meeting, a setting where people had conversations and tended to necessary business with their neighbors.

In the Hebrew Bible there are three well known examples of a wedding following a meeting at a well. In Genesis 24 Abraham sends a trusted servant to his home country to find a good woman of faith for his son and heir, Isaac. A generation later, Isaac's son Jacob himself goes to what may have been that same ancestral well to find a believing wife among his people. Much later Moses, fleeing from Pharoah in Exodus 3, finds himself at a well in another foreign country where he meets his future wife, Zipporah, virgin daughter of a Midianite priest.

In each of these cases, a well proved to be a good place to find a suitable, faithful and beautiful bride.

In John 4, Jesus is at Jacob's well waiting for someone who can draw much needed water for him to drink. The story takes place in the Samaritan village of Sychar, a town inhabited by people who practiced a faith considered foreign and anathema to Jews.

But might Jesus have been looking for a bride in this unlikely place?

The answer may actually be yes, but the beloved he longs for is a community of people to become one with him in bringing hope and healing to God's troubled world. And that world includes everyone--men and women, rich and poor, insiders and outsiders, Jew and Samaritan alike.

The first potential follower who shows up in this story seems anything but a good candidate for holy union between God and humans. This woman had been handed from one man to another, had been made wife to five husbands then abandoned to live with someone to whom she was not legally married.

But she is genuinely thirsty for Jesus' words of hope. She longs for living water.

Jesus is thirsty, too, not only for water from this ancient well, but for deep relationships with a reconciled people who share God's love and God's life with each other and with others.

And who want to share living water with everyone in the whole wide world.

I owe some of my inspiration for the above to an article by Kendra Valentine, "The Wedding at the Well", in the January 2014 issue of Ministry: International Journey for Pastors.
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