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.
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.