A BRAZILIAN REFLECTION ON JESUS AND THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

 

Halfway through the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, it has already been powerful and transformative to engage the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4 – at morning prayer, through guest reflections posted to this blog, and in preparation for the regional evening service tomorrow night at Plymouth Church United Church of Christ in downtown Seattle at 7:00pm. Our sister and brother Christians from Brazil were invited by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to create global prayer and worship resources for 2015 – they chose the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. The following is the reflection the Brazilian folk prepared for today, Day Four, especially on John 4:25-28.

Blessings,

Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor, Director of Worship

School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University

§§§

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows that dialogue with the different, the stranger, the unfamiliar, can be life-giving. If the woman had followed the rules of her culture, she would have left when she saw Jesus approaching the well. That day, for some reason, she did not follow the established rules. Both she and Jesus broke with conventional patterns of behavior. Through this breaking forth they showed us again that it is possible to build new relationships.

As Jesus completes the work of the Father, the Samaritan woman, for her part, leaves her water jar, meaning that she could go further in her life; she was not confined to the role society imposed on her. In John’s Gospel she is the first person to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. “Breaking forth” is a necessity for those who desire to grow stronger and wiser in their faith.

That the Samaritan woman leaves behind her water jar signals that she has found a greater gift, a greater good than the water she came for, and a better place to be within her community. She recognizes the greater gift that this Jewish stranger, Jesus, is offering her.

It is difficult for us to find value, to recognize as good, or even holy, that which is unknown to us and that which belongs to another. However, recognizing the gifts that belong to the other as good and as holy is a necessary step towards the visible unity we seek.

Morning Prayer Meditations Week of Prayer 2015

DAY FOUR: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY – Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reflection

by Kathryn Sharp, Mission President – Greater Pacific Northwest-USA, Community of Christ (ksharp@cofchrist.org)

WP_20140425_17_16_20_Pro

“We worship what we know”

A few years ago my faith community, Community of Christ, celebrated the 50th anniversary of our retreat center on Samish Island, north of Mount Vernon, WA. Samish Island Campground is a center for intergenerational family camps, youth camps, fine arts and congregational retreats, weddings, family events, and more. Owned jointly by our members in Washington state and British Columbia, it has a long history of honoring American and Canadian culture. Because of the spiritual and fellowship experiences we’ve shared together over many years, we often refer to Samish Island Campground as our “sacred ground.”

From the beginning, our community respected the burial grounds of a Samish chief overlooking the bluff within our property, but our contact with Samish tribal members was limited. We’ve rented our grounds to a wide diversity of people, including Zen Buddhist groups, water colorists, elementary public-school students, adults with special needs, and even young children scarred severely by fire.

Planning our weekend commemoration, we knew that all these groups made our campground sacred, not just our own Christian community. We wanted everyone to come celebrate with us, culminating in an interfaith worship service. We wanted to create a sacred and welcoming space for all people and all religions (and no religion) that had loved and blessed our grounds. Unfortunately as the worship service planner and presider, I had no knowledge of Samish culture, little of indigenous spirituality, and even less experience with Buddhism. I didn’t know the representatives from each group or even the next-door neighbors to our campground. How could we bridge these gaps, honor each one, celebrate the spirit of the place, and acknowledge the divine in each other?

I need not have worried. The service opened with a haunting and thrilling welcoming song of the Samish people, sung by a Samish tribeswoman. Telling us about her tribe, she said how welcome she felt to see our chairs arranged in a circle, with the four cardinal points (north, south, east and west) to which Native people pray. (I had arranged them this way without any knowledge of this custom.) We sang adapted hymns so that verses could be sung authentically by all—songs praising the beauty and power of creation and the Creator. The Zen Buddhist representative showed us how to use a Buddhist prayer wheel, which they presented as a gift for permanent installation at Samish.

Like Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, we quickly bonded. Christian tradition identifies such unity as the work of the Holy Spirit. We shared openly and trustingly our faith traditions, values and spiritual ties to this place. We intimately connected as “We worship what we know” (John 4: 22b). Bridging our differences, we shared in the rich gifts each brought to this special nurturing place, going back countless generations. Many said this unifying interfaith service was a powerful spiritual highpoint for them.

Our beloved and blessed Samish Island: mountains, mudflats, sandy beaches, forests, clearings, blue herons, eagles, deer, rabbits, shellfish, tides, . . . and Living Water!

—»»» Ω «««—

Theme for the Day: RENUNCIATION

Scripture Readings:

Genesis 11:31-12:4 God promises to make Abram a great nation and a blessing

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd

Acts 10:9-20 “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”

John 4:25-28 Then the woman left her water jar

Questions:

  1. Meeting Jesus demands that we leave behind our water jars, what are those water jars for us?
  2. What are the main difficulties that prevent us from doing so?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Social Analysis class taught by Jeanette Rodriguez; Mark Markuly, Dean; Colette Casavant, staff; Ann Mayer, graduate assistant; Danelle Heatwole and Chrysty Hendricks, students.

Prayer

Loving God,

help us to learn from Jesus and the Samaritan

that the encounter with the other opens for us new horizons of grace.

Help us to break through our limits and embrace new challenges.

Help us to go beyond fear in following the call of your Son.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Guest Reflections Prayer Resources SU STM Daily Prayers Week of Prayer 2015