Private+Water+Well

DAY SIX: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Rev. Nindyo Sasongko (Elias Pohan Visiting Scholar, Jakarta Theological Seminary, Jakarta, Indonesia)

“Give me water to drink”
-Jesus, to the Samaritan woman (John 4)

My family used to live in a neighborhood where traditional Javanese (an ethnic group in Indonesia) houses could be found. When I was young, I was wondering about two things: Why did all traditional houses have a well in the front yard? Why did the owner put a ceramic pitcher (kendi—read: kindee) filled with water in front of their house? Later I knew that these were parts of Javanese hospitality, a hospitality which has its roots from Javanese philosophy of life.

When the dry season came, and many wellsprings did not have water, neighbors might stop by their neighbor’s house and asked, “May I draw water from your well?” This question is not just a superficial request. Many times such a question becomes a door to a long conversation between neighbors. So is with the ceramic pitcher. A thirsty traveler might stop at any house and asked the owner, “May I drink from this kendi?” and then they started conversation.

Water is essential to human beings. Water is central in human life. For Javanese people, water is believed to be essence from which human beings have their being. If land is like flesh to human body, water is like its soul. Take a look on the map and find the island of Java, you will see that this island is surrounded by water. Who can claim ownership over water? None. This outlook creates an understanding that water is to be shared with others. Indeed, water connects people.

“Give me water to drink” breaks the silence between two strangers at that noon. Jesus is a stranger to the Samaritan woman. But this woman too, she is not only a stranger in Jesus’ eyes but also to her society and even to the Fourth evangelist since John does not remember her name. We know what comes next. This passage indeed is one of the longest conversations in the Fourth Gospel. “Give me water to drink” breaks barriers, taboos, and stereotypes not only between individuals but also between societies. At the well, the host’s life is enriched by the stranger.

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