(March 1, 2015) “I feel bare. I didn't realize I wore my secrets as armor until they were gone and now everyone sees me as I really am.”― Veronica Roth, Insurgent
As I sit here by my study window, I’m still waiting. Waiting and looking down at the holly bush outside the door. I’m waiting for the first robin that I haven’t seen as yet, because he or she will no doubt stop by the holly bush in search of berries to sustain her until enough earth and grass give access to earthworms lurking underneath. Waiting… for something unusual in comparison to the monotony of ice and snow.
This Sunday we take a break from reading Mark and take a journey over to the Gospel of John, to one of my all-time favorite stories – when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. Now, Mark is known for its air of secrecy in many of the miracle stories, where people who have been healed by Jesus are told to “tell no one” who he really is. Culturally speaking, this makes sense. The Gospel of Mark was taken from oral stories and committed to writing somewhere just after Jesus arose and then left us here to be disciples. At that time, secret societies were very popular among the people, somewhat akin to a club where there was a secret handshake and initiation for people who “belonged.” But what’s unusual is for us to jump over into John and see Jesus declaring clearly who he REALLY is: the One who offers Living Water to this woman filling jugs at the well. He tells her he thirsts. What Jesus really thirsts for is the Truth from her.
If we don’t know our Bible, it will be lost on us just how unusual this whole scene is. In the first century, no self-respecting woman would be found in the middle of the day venturing out to the town well. It was too dangerous, not within a woman’s accepted place to be. Then again, this woman is a Samaritan – someone with whom no self-respecting Jewish man would ever strike up a conversation. It was strictly forbidden, as well for any Jewish man to speak with a woman not of his family. But clearly, Jesus is on a mission. His quarry is this Gentile – this woman breaking all the rules.
Oddly enough, the REAL woman of secrets is not in some miracle story from Mark, but here, in John. She has a lot to hide. When Jesus offers her Living Water, She responds, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." And then, Jesus laid the truth of her hidden life out in the noonday light. "You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." She was laid bare, stripped of all the secrets and lies she had been wrapping herself in. The one that she most had hidden the truth from was herself. And now she was free, to be washed clean of shame and doubt. The Samaritan woman became one of his first disciples, leaving him at the well to go out and proclaim: So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?"
Secrets are things we all have, hidden somewhere in the folds of our innermost thoughts. They are things that emerge from the darkness in the middle of the light, like bloodthirsty bugs eager to disturb our sleep, and feast on our sanity. For some they are points of shame. For others, things we have done, or not done. They may be harsh words said to others, or feelings we hate to admit we have. They are doubts. They are un-uttered fears. But whatever form they take for you and me, we will never be free and true to ourselves until we expose them to God’s light. This week, in this Lenten season when we seek to reconcile ourselves to God before Jesus’ long walk to the cross, I want us all to sit for a moment, and contemplate what we’re hiding. Because what we’re hiding has more to do with accepting ourselves for who we truly are than anything else on a daily basis. If you want to offer up something for Lent, then consider, more than chocolate or Starbuck’s, surrendering your secrets into God’s light. Declare them to Jesus, in prayer. This burdensome gift will allow you to travel in the light and unencumbered, to Easter morning. God will meet you at the well with Living Water. --Pastor Pat Kriss