Scripture for the third Sunday of Lent:
Exodus 17.1–7; Psalm 95; Romans 5.1–11; John 4.5–42
In Menorca, it is easy to find the kind of well at which Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman with whom he had his longest recorded conversation in the gospels.
Although she must have been something of a pariah to be fetching water alone at mid-day, she must have had some kind of attraction: apparently 5 men wanted to marry her and a sixth was willing to be with her out of wedlock! What a totally unsuitable person for a respectable Jewish rabbi to have an unchaperoned conversation. Oh – and as a Samaritan, it would have been difficult to find a more despised specimen amongst Jewish males.
Nevertheless, Jesus persists in speaking to her – and although he simply asked for a cup of water (did he ever actually get one?), he ends up giving her a drink of spiritual water that refreshes and renews her to the extent that she becomes transformed into an evangelist, overcoming whatever social barriers she encountered before, to spread the news about Jesus and invite others to meet him.
God has a tendency to encourage and transform unsuitable people and unexpected things. Moses, in the wilderness with a thirsty and irritable people, looks around at the stones nearby and becomes anxious for his own safety: frustrated people might degenerate into mob rule, and a hail of stones was a good way to get rid of an annoying leader while letting off physical steam. God’s response is to take a big stone and transform it into a stream of life-giving water.
It is rather like another stone – a geode, that can look like a boring stone on the outside, but contain something precious, such as amethyst, within. That is what God sees in us.
The ultimate transformation of something unsuitable happens on the cross, of course: death is an unlikely harbinger of hope, yet that is what happens.
Meanwhile, back at the Samaritan well, the disciples are puzzled by Jesus’ claim to have been fed by doing the work of his father. In fact, what is accomplished through the dialogue with the Samaritan woman is fulfilling for Jesus, and nourishes him. All because Jesus ignored convention and assumptions about the woman he met.
I wonder how many of us, in our dealings with one another, can overcome our attachment to assumptions and conventions and conformity and both rise closer to the potential that God his invested in us, and not only let, but encourage others to do the same?