To BE SEEN, HEARD, and LOVED.

  • To Be Seen, Heard, and Loved
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  • There is a cartoon which depicts a small child standing in front of their mother and the only words we hear from the little one are ,” Mom, mom, mom, MMMMom, MOMMMY, MOM!!!!” As soon as she looks down, a bit exasperated, we see the child flash a wide toothy grin and reply, “HI!” as they run off to play.
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  • I giggle to myself as I replay this scenario, imagining my 2 boys doing the same. They do, in fact, stand there and wait for me to look at them and laugh heartily when I do and all they say is “Hi!” and then take off running. I think of that often as as message plays in the back of my mind. It is a message that came to me a little over a year ago as I worked at a behavioral hospital as a chaplain. It did not matter the age of the person sharing, or the story of pain and regret they were sharing, one message was clear, “People want to be seen, heard, and loved.” This message presents itself as I think about the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
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  • Many of us have heard and read this account, and we have our own opinions about her and Jesus reaction and treatment of her. I invite us to listen and read with a different perspective, I invite us to listen as though we are interacting with a young child.
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  • From the Gospel of John in the Message, “
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  • John 4:5-42
  • The Message (MSG)
  •  4-6To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
  •  7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
  •  9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
  •  10Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
  •  11-12The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
  •  13-14Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
  •  15The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
  •  16He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
  •  17-18″I have no husband,” she said.
  •    “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
  •  19-20″Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
  •  21-23″Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
  •  23-24″It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
  •  25The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
  •  26″I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
  •  27Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
  •  28-30The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
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  • I have always loved this interaction with Jesus and the woman. In the hottest and most wretched part of the day comes this woman to draw water—sustenance for all life. Everyone else had gathered before now, had been privy to the latest news and gossip, drawn for themselves what they needed for their families, so what remains has been dipped into and drawn from many times before this woman comes. I envision Jesus watching her, having observed the group and knowing the treatment she would receive. I imagine Jesus waiting to have a minute alone with her so he can speak to her, an image of Jesus aimlessly drawing in the sand with a stick comes to mind. When she steps forward to draw the water, he asks her for a drink. Big Idea number 1, Jesus saw her!
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  • We may refer to this person as Woman ( she never appears again), but she may be any nationality, race, gender, educationally trained, young or elder. She may be wise or book smart, may be dirt poor in possessions or the richest person in wealth. It does not matter. In this moment, as a Samaritan woman, plagued with guilt and sin, she is unwelcome to speak to this Jew, this teacher, This MAN! He speaks firsts and asks her assistance, knowing full well who she is and what she represents.

     

     

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  • The woman isn’t searching for anyone. All she wants is water. Jesus is seeking her. One must go to Samaria if you want to reach Samaritans. He doesn’t avoid Samaria; he doesn’t hurry through it. Though she does not know it, this woman has a “divine appointment” with the Son of God.
  • The conversation begins with a simple question from Jesus: “Will you give me a drink?” He is tired and thirsty and she has the water he needs. He was thirsty and knew it. She was thirsty and didn’t know it. The woman did not come to the well seeking Christ, but he came to the well seeking her. In his approach we see the reat heart of our Lord Jesus is without prejudice. It matters not to him that others would not go to Samaria and others would not speak to this woman. He welcomes all and shuns none.
  • As Jesus converses with her, we begin to see the story continue to take shape.He draws her into conversation, asks her questions and WAITS for the answer. He knows the answer, but wants to hear from her experience, her voice what she has come searching to find. BIG IDEA # 2 He HEARS her.
  • How many times have we thought how wonderful it would be if someone actually heard what we had to say? Lately my oldest son has taken to watching Airplane Dogfights and WW2 battles on Netflix. I have no interest in these historical accounts whatsoever. Days after he has seen an episode, he will recount the entire 45 minute program complete with his own embelishments, 10 minutes into the account, I am thinking, “I hope he does not ask me a question about this, because I have not hear a thing he has said.” Shame on me. Shame on my lack of attention and the lack of listening and really hearing my son. Clear out the clutter of his story and what is he telling me? “Mom, this is really important and I have not seen you all afternoon and I am really interested in this and I want to share it with you. Please hear me, please hear what I am not saying.” Aren’t we all crying that someone would look past all that we think we hear to ask the real questions.

Into the clutter of this woman’s life. Jesus chooses to enter and to ask about her life. From that point on she decides to test the waters by grilling his knowledge of Jewish Law and tradition and Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue instead of becoming sidetracked in theology and history. He knows they are both aware, but he want to know more. He wants to know more about her. This Jesus reminds me of the same Jesus we encounter in the 1 chapter of John. We learn that in the beginning the word became Flesh and walked among us

14The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

 

There is something so comforting about this Man, Teacher, Rabbi, Prophet, and Messiah to be flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood. Places were people reek and their clothes are tattered and torn, areas where drug deals happen across the street from a 13 year old girl selling herself so she can buy food to put on the table for her 3 other siblings who wait at home. This same teacher watches and listens as fights break out over who travels on what side of what track or road. He shakes his head, knowing that if either side could understand the need to be heard and seen by the other, many of the conflict would dissolve.

HE does the same thing with our Samaritan woman. He calls out her sin, but in a more non chalant way he asks her to go and get her husband, he knows she cannot produce one. HE continues to push in her direction where she gives him half the story.

Does Jesus love this woman? Yes.  He knows the truth and still offers her eternal life. Here is the wonder of God’s grace. Only someone who loves you can look at your past without blinking. Real love means knowing the truth about someone else and reaching out to them anyway. He’s not ashamed of her past but he cannot help her until she gets beyond the shame and admits the truth.

 

This same Jesus chose to eat with sinners, convict royalty, bless the children, and speak truth and grace to all he met. It did not matter how filthy the person speaking looked, how badly they reeked, whether they had shoes on their feet or a place to call home that night. It did not matter if the sin consisted of a lifetime of drugs and addiction, or abandoning children, or murder, the same Christ enters into real and engaged conversation to learn the story and reflect on last BIG IDEA #3 He LOVES her.

 

No matter what position she may or may not have in the commuinity, in this moment and in this place. She is loved and honored in that. There existed berween them 4 different walls that Jesus needed to overcome in order to reach the soul of who she was. There was a spiritual wall===what does she know in her head and what is she willing to embrace through heart and spirit? There is a racial wall, Jesus is a Jew, educated and able to move in other social circles, she is a Samaritan woman and with quite a checkered past. If not completely shunned, she would at least be fearful for her safety. Gender and morality represents the last 2 walls. She is a female, the lowest common denominator is a woman of ill repute. She does not deserve to have this conversation, does not deserve nor would be welcome to gether at the earlier time to gather water. This community is not her friend, they judge and find themselves lucky that they are not her. Yet, instead of condemning her for her life, he moves on to discuss a way to freedom.

 

Part of that truth is accepting grace where it simply is. This Jesus is the same one that rolls up his sleeves and walks right into the neighborhood and interacts with whatever they are grappling with at the time. Some of it is wonderful and celebratory, and other times it is steeped in questions without answers, and anger and betrayal. Jesus promises to walk in the muck and gunk with us and appears to be unafraid and unapologetic about it.

 

BIG IDEA reminder…He WANTS to SEE us, He DESIRES to HEAR from us and ABOUT us, and HE YEARNS to LOVE us==no matter how badly we reek, how tattered our clothes appear, how many times we have made it to worship in a year. He wants us as we are, not all cleaned up and looking pretty.

The story of the Woman at the Well becomes even more remarkable when we see what happens with love empowers another. She becomes a disciple, telling everyone she can about the Messiah and Teacher that she had met. She spoke of the transformation that she felt knowing that this Man held her story and did not condemn her. I imagine Jesus again playing in the dirt as she describes her indiscretions and he seems unaffected when he tells her that he is not going to judge her and to go about her life in a different manner. HE has heard and he has seen who she is and what she can become with the influence of grace, compassion, and love. She responds to that and takes it back to her community and shares what she has learned. She shares who she has become and who she will continue to become because she is willing to share her story, admit it, and live into what it means for her life. Notice that the story does not become her life, it is part of her life, but the central focus of what she understands is Christ saw her, heard her, and loves her.

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Something must Give

Gonna be honest, I am wiped tonight.  My week has been chock-full, albeit all manner of good and desirable moments.  I am working full force on a major fundraiser and the connections that have been made in terms of partnerships is astounding.  Who knew when I graduated from Seminary I would put to use my marketing and connections ability…I so thought I would be pastoring a church congregation somewhere.  Amazing how moments change.

I think of last year and where I was this time a year ago.  It is nothing short of breathtaking.  I was in the midst of my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and serving as a Chaplain in a mental behavioral facility.  I learned so much and had such a good time.  I loved the people with whom I spoke and the people with whom I worked.  I even worked with a classmate from high school, granted he has Dr. in front of his name…but the convergence of worlds…wow.

My seminary education had been put to the test during this time and my call and vocation as I knew and understood it was in question.   My son had spent time in the mental facility that I worked and I did not know which way to turn.  I felt alone and desperate.  I did not see answers in my path, I did not see light.  John of the Cross likens these moments to a Dark Night of the Soul.  I understand that.  Those moments when you come to the end of all that you are and all that you know.  Where faith seems paltry and prayers seem to fall on deaf ears.  When energy is gone and you question all that you are doing and its purpose.  I understand that so well.  It is not that I did not believe, it was just that it seemed every door I encountered closed and I did not understand why.  Had I done something wrong, was I trying for the wrong path?  Why, when everyone told me that I was bound for wonderful moments and full of ability did I feel so alone? I felt targeted.

In the midst of what I thought I was doing correctly, I encountered opposition.  No tears would fix the situation.  It hurt.  It still does to reflect back on it.  Having graduated Seminary, I get to party and receive my diploma and hood in may!!!!  May 19 to be exact.   Feel free to come celebrate with me!!!!   That was an extremely dry time for me as a person of faith.  In the middle of that dry and parched land, were moments of extreme growth.  Moments of poetry fell from my pen and an awareness of our connectedness to one another surfaced. 

Although I felt deserted, I was not.  There were people around me in a physical sense and the Great Cloud of Witnesses that I had only conceived of in my mind, existed.  I could feel their presence, cheering me on and standing guard with and for me.  I know that sounds weird, but I could sense that there were others who had felt as I did.  That provided some comfort, if not answers.  There was an odd peace that I had knowing that historically there were others who had fought and fought and remained faithful.  I felt that I had to rise to the occasion to honor their stories and their legend.  I HAD to fight to maintain. 

There are times dear ones, where I am tired of fighting and I would like to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Ah, to hell with it.”  Somehow I can’t.  Somehow I have been charged with the honor and task  to be a voice.  I say honor because I consider it a privilege to hear from others and to share the journey and somehow I can speak to the soul of matters.  To finally feel that I have solidified my call or vocation is such a relief…to step forward is scary as hell.  There are times when my energy has been so depleted that I want to burst into tears and bawl and fall into a deep sleep.  More than anything, I want for the road to be easy.  It’s not meant to be that way. 

No, I am not going to wax poetic and pour out a bunch of platitudes that speak of refined gold and pure wonder.  BAH!!!!  We all know that to get there is some of the roughest junk to wade through.  It’s not fun, it’s not a good time, and it’s not easy.  It does produce wonder and amazement.  There are times when I wonder how I made it through the last couple of years.  Graduation in May will produce tears of joy mixed with relief and the realization that I DID IT!  Through all the odds and the cards stacked, a great cloud surrounded me and I made it!    I will sob and most will never know why I will barely make it across the stage.  Then again, I will square my shoulders, smile and do what is expected.  In the days and weeks that pass before then, I need some pressure to release.  I need to know that light will dawn and all that I have been working towards will prove fruitful.  I need to know that I am not alone.  I want to be someone’s little girl and have them tell me what I have done and will do is right and good and faithful.  I want that person to be proud of me.  I want my children to know they are loved and to feel that each day.  I want them to think I am a good mom…who loves them fiercely–always.

I think I want some people to fight for me as much as I am willing to fight for them and I need to discover the fight in me for me, not everyone else all the time.  I have no clue how to do that.  I know this is more heavy than a Friday night would normally allow.  Humor me. 

I pray the eternal Shalom that envelops you to your souls

cahl

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