(reflections on John 4:5-42)
Sometimes when I think about Jesus he seems so far away – someone in a distant time and place – more spiritual than physical – more transcendent than incarnate. I get tired and I wonder if Jesus is really calling me or if I am just hearing my own desire echoing back across the hills. And then, three Sundays into the Lenten journey, he shows up “at about noon” in the Gospel and I am right there with him, thirsty and needing a drink of water to refresh my spirit.
This past Sunday I went again to the Cathedral in the Light, the outdoor worship service in Greenfield. I went because our church had accepted a request to help with making the meal for the worshipers. So right after our 10am worship a group of us gathered around the table downstairs and we made sandwiches to go. Ham and cheese. Peanut butter and jelly. It was fun slapping those sandwiches together. We laughed and we said a prayer that everyone would be blessed by this activity. I said that I would bring the food to the Cathedral. I wanted to be there and I also wanted to be home. It was a long day.
I got to the common with my box of sandwiches. It was about 2pm. Cold and windy. There was a storm on the horizon but it held off. People volunteered to take different parts in the worship service. The musician played “Sanctuary” on his guitar and we got ready to be a living sanctuary. We sang and prayed. There was a very drunk person reaching out to everyone he saw and asking “Is this church?” Yes, this is church.
Then Jesus showed up – tired, thirsty, and hungry – in us, around us, between us, among us. Knowing us and connecting us; showing us what we needed to see about ourselves and God and what it means to be a sanctuary where everyone is invited not in spite of who we are but because of who we are. Like Jesus and the woman found their place at the well in today’s Gospel story, we found our place on the common.
After communion I helped serve food. One man asked repeatedly for the potato chips bag. Not for the chips, although they would be fine too, but for the bag. Twice he asked me before another man had to tell me “The potato chip bag is sturdy and will keep food fresher in all kinds of weather. Give the man what he needs. Not what you think he needs.”
Jesus and the woman at the well were called to give each other what was needed – respect, water, words of encouragement, testimony to the power of being seen and loved and saved from the seemingly endless loop of discouragement and invisibility. Sanctuary.
Jesus says “the hour is coming and is now.” Now, with all of us giving and receiving what we need and being known for everything that we have done and not done. Yes we are thirsty and hungry. That is how we know we are alive. Like Jesus and the woman at the well and every other searching person, our food is to do the will of the one who sent us. No more, no less. That is plenty for today.