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The Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (05/30/2007)
By John Edstrom

As the years go by, the quality of our sleep grows increasingly brittle, and our dreams shallower, less convincing, lacking structure. They tend to break up, like safety glass. The other night, however, I had a dream as vivid and gripping and strange as I can ever remember.

It was a Sunday morning at the Congregational Church, where my father was master, for many years, of the choir in which his sons were dragooned on Sundays, home from school, to flesh out the bass section. For some reason accessible only to dream logic, I was slated to preach a guest sermon (something, of course, which would never have happened in life). I had prepared nothing, so there was great consternation; but my father told me to just go ahead with whatever came to me. At the last moment, the text occurred to me which begins:

"Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well:

and it was about the sixth hour.

There cometh a woman of Samaria unto him to

draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

John 4: 6-7

She replies, coquettishly, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh a drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" She is giving him a bold look of appraisal, not at all displeased with what she sees. He replies in the same bantering vein, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water."

Oh yeah? "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?" And Jesus answers, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;"

She faces him, hipshot, arms akimbo, a feline smile upon her face; "Sir, give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."

"Go, call thy husband and come hither."

She smiles a broader smile, and replies, "I have no husband." But she gets it when Jesus says, "Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband..."

Crestfallen, she answers, "Sir I perceive that thou art a prophet," and goes her way back into the city, telling people, "Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is this not the Christ?"

It is an odd, flirtatious exchange, in which Jesus lays out the promise of the Gospel, gives the woman a gentle nudge towards tidying up her messy life, and opens a ministry to the Samaritans.

Now, I asked the congregation, based on this scripture, would you say the Christian religion is basically an ethical construct, or more a doctrine of personal salvation?"

Then, I woke up.



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