Lent 3A, Reflectionary

Look and see (Lent 3)

I’ve been trying for years now to be conscientious about listening to theological, political, and social voices belonging to people who are not exactly like me. Or at least I thought that was what I was doing. During this presidential primary season, however, as I have looked through my social media feeds, particularly the last few weeks, I came to realize that virtually everyone I follow who doesn’t fall into the category of “famous“, and some who do, have been supporting the same candidate.

Who am I really listening to? Have I unfollowed or unfriended everyone I found disagreeable? 

Who am I meeting at the well when I go to draw water for mind and spirit? 

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,
“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!
He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

John 4:28-29

When Jesus and his disciples were making their way through Samaria, the disciples left him sitting at the well while they went into town to buy some food. They might have made excuses for him, the way candidates handlers decide which news interview shows are worth their time, or the way people like me decide whose theories, opinions, or preferences are worth my attention. Jesus, though, has another idea in mind.  

“O that today you would listen to his voice!”

Psalm 95:7b

Jesus is ready to talk. And he really seems to enjoy the conversation, at least as it’s handed down to us by the author of John. It isn’t the only gospel in which he has a back-and-forth with a woman who would be deemed outside the category of someone he should speak to, by tribe if not for any other reason. I’m not particularly interested in unpacking the women’s history. It’s enough to say she’s going out to the well by herself in the heat of the day because no one else wants to be there with her. Rather than cast theories about first century culture, the relatable truth we can tell is that in every culture and every time and among every group of people, there are some who are not considered acceptable by the rest of the neighborhood. 

Think about Jesus, the Messiah, sitting by the well, ready to see this woman and to show himself to her, to show her the truth about who God is. 

“Come and see,” says the woman to her neighbors, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” I wish we had a word of description, something to tell us what they saw or heard in her that made them go right away, to look and see. 

Will we? Will we look and see who is pointing to the good news, to the gospel, to the Word made flesh? It is a woman on the outside of her community, a woman who went to the well alone, a woman. Sent by Jesus, she poses a question that points to the truth of who Christ is. 

If I were preaching, I might wonder with the congregation:

  • Who are we listening to? 
  • Whose testimony moves us? 
  • Whose questions are pointing us to Christ?

Look, and see. 

We believe in living water, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the need for clean drinking water. I just made a donation to Little Miss Flint’s GoFundMe. Look, and see the good work Mari Copeny is doing for people in Flint and beyond.

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Lent 3A, Liturgy

Quench our thirst (a centering prayer)

O God, we have come to meet you this day.
We carry the weight of our lives, our troubles, and our responsibilities.
Help us to know that you see us and all we carry.
Help us to put it all down long enough to listen.
Help us to set it all aside long enough to hear.
Speak to us in living words.
Quench our thirst with living water.
Hold us all with living love.

Everyone needs clean drinking water. Want to help? Check out Little Miss Flint’s GoFundMe.
You are welcome to use both the prayer and the image, inspired by the gospel lesson for Lent 3A, in worship.

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Prayers for Pastors, Transfiguration

Transfiguration (a prayer for pastors)

St. Pete Beach Sunset
St. Pete Beach Sunset

I’ll admit it, Holy One.

I struggle with this story.
I struggle with it,
and what it means.
I definitely struggle with
how to preach it,
year in, year out.
I grapple with the idea
not of what light once was
but of what we have made it,
not a gift from you to help us see,
or a means of sorting out order from chaos,
but as a badge of superiority,
an ID of supremacy.
It’s more than a metaphor now;
we have given it literal power.
A brown man with his brown friends
climbed a mountain,
saw historic figures
and recognized them,
suddenly looked brighter,
with clothes whiter than bleach
could make them,
and I could argue for
a spotlight effect
or something,
but in truth,
we’ve made the narrative
of light v. darkness
so sick,
it’s hard to do.
Yet it seems to be true
that your light
wherever it shines
puts things in focus
makes us able to see
better, even clearly,
for the first time
what matters.
In this season
of argument and fear,
help us to see
better, even clearly,
what matters now
(what always matters):
safety from violence
enough to eat
clean water
for all children
for all people
wherever they live.