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Friday, March 21, 2014

Of Wells, Women, and Song (First Scrutiny, A3L)

Rosetti's "Dante's Vision of Rachel and Leah"
What is there to say? Is there a greater love story in the bible than that of Jacob and Rachel? OK,
maybe the Song of Songs is hotter, and there’s always a ton of begattin’ going around, but the story of Jacob, the well in Shechem, the daughters of Laban, has more begattin’ with a fabulous menage à quatre between Jacob, Rachel, her elder sister Leah, and the apparently inexhaustible servant girl Bilhah. It’s steamy as anything between David and Bathsheba, and rivals the best of the late Jackie Susann, perhaps without all the detail work. See chapter 29 ff. of Genesis.

It is at this very well that Jesus meets the Samaritan woman in today’s gospel. We should not expect anything less than a marriage to be arranged here, after some preliminary discussions about water, politics, and religion. It’s almost too hot to be polite. Good day to meet your husband.

This isn’t a gospel about a wayward woman who has lost her moral bearings. It’s about  people like us who worship false gods, who are thirsty, who have the number of the beast (6) carved into our karma: we are so utterly unfulfilled that restlessness and craving have left their tattoo on our soul. And suddenly, here is the Prince (Charming) of Peace, waiting to knock our cosmic socks off, asking for a drink. It’s like we’re coked up at Studio 54 Samaria, and Mr. Perfect asks for a dance, and not only gives us his cell number, but proposes to us right there when we have powder on our nose.

I lived most of my life in the desert, and there’s not much more frightening than being lost in the desert with no water. I personally knew two people, knew them very well, who lost their lives wandering in the desert after becoming disoriented and separated from broken-down cars. Nothing brings one more face-to-face with the need for water, always, than the loss of a friend or family member to thirst. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a reality. We’re made of water and dust, and mostly water. In a very short time, without the life that water is, we’re back to dust.

God is water, like God is light, bread, and life. The message of Sunday’s gospel is that, to become part of God, to share God’s life, means to be water for all who are thirsty. It means we all have to keep asking ourselves, Who’s not at this well? Who won’t even ask me for what they need, because they feel like a Samaritan at Passover, or an Egyptian at the Easter vigil?

This Sunday is the first scrutiny of the elect. We believe that whatever is in them that keeps them from offering a drink to the stranger who is alien to them, in religion, or skin color, or nationality, for whatever reason, whatever keeps them from offering a drink across Jacob’s well to the goofball without a bucket is satanic. We perform an exorcism so that the living water of Jesus Christ, the living water of vulnerability and need expressed to the enemy that invites a response of grace, may flow freely and make brides and bridegrooms of the plain Janes and sad Brads who meet at this amazing well. According to Genesis 29, it takes (at least) two to tango. I’ll be there, singing something sexy and unforgettable (probably “Fields of Gold” or something hopeless like that) trying to get lucky with that thirsty Jew with the sea of Galilee in his eyes.

More on the Samaritan Woman gospel: The Mystery of Sin (1) - Where's Your Samaria?

Music for this weekend:

Gathering: Lead Us to the Water Kendzia
Psalm 95: If Today Haas
Gospel Refrain: I Long for You, O Lord Balhoff, Daigle, Ducote
Scrutiny: Litany for the Scrutinies Cooney
          refrain of Psalm 116: I Will Walk in the Presence Daigle
Preparation Rite: Wade in the Water  Spiritual
Communion: Come to the Water Foley
Sending Forth: Change Our Hearts Cooney