Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Musing Reason

My Musing Reason

At seventy-three I find
My thoughts and writings emerge
From my mind
With hardly a surge.

Then there are times
When an unknown Source
Creates lyrics of rhyme
Like water flowing its course.

That Spirit might hover
For hours, days, or weeks at a time.
Any writer covets this Lover
With powers so sublime.

In the low country of the tall palmetto
With that Source an artist wrote
A prose, a fluid libretto
Painting life from within an encircling moat.

But at the yellowing of his physical frame,
Came a visit from his Guide.
At first acknowledging his prosaic flame
 He then said, “Come home to Me, abide.”

There is a time for everything under heaven,
For everything there is a reason.
His artistic life was literary leaven,
Never a losing season.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Jesus and the Woman at the Well

Jesus and the Woman at the Well
John 4:5-26, (29-38), 39-42
 March 19, 2017

Today is the Third Sunday in Lent and for those of us in the Anglican tradition we are in Year A of the three-year liturgical cycle in the Lectionary.

This is the Sunday when we read about what many call “The Woman at the Well.” I prefer “Jesus and the Woman at the Well.” It is a very interesting story, a story that can be taught or preached from many points of view. Indeed, today I preached from an historical perspective, and in another church this morning my youngest son preached from a person-to-person perspective. 

Preachers use many resources in preparation for a homily of ten to fifteen minutes or sermons from twenty to forty minutes. Yes, even in some Anglican parishes we have clergy who preach for forty, even fifty minutes. But with a story like “Jesus and the Woman and the Well” it simply must be preached regardless of sermon length. The story is about an encounter. 

Today I preached for 21 minutes, my son for nine. Hear the Nine Minute Sermon, an eloquent presentation.

Both sermons provide a touch of biblical history, something necessary to place the gospel reading into perspective. The longer sermon’s perspective was one of "God seeking us." The shorter homily’s perspective examined personal prejudices that we all hold, prejudices similar to those held by the Woman at the Well and even Jesus’ own disciples.

We read of Creation in Genesis 1 and in John 1. And God made man(kind) in His image. So from the beginning of time God is seeking humankind, seeking us to live in Him and to follow Him. Later God created the Israelites and brought them out of slavery so that they would be His earthly vessel carrying and proclaiming His Word to the rest of the world. The Israelites were “chosen” for this purpose. But over the centuries this broke and Israel split into two kingdoms. By the time of Jesus the "northern" kingdom consisted mostly of Samaritans. The "southern" kingdom was Judah. They were distant cousins who deeply disliked each other.

“Give me drink,” Jesus said to the Samaritan woman. Shock. Given the vitriolic history between the Jews and the Samaritans, why would the Jew Jesus even talk to her. More shocking, Jesus was talking to a woman. The disciples upon their return to Jesus with food after leaving him alone at the well wondered why he was talking to a woman, but they would not ask. They remained silent on the obvious breach.

The Samaritan woman came to draw water at the noon hour. That was an unusual time of day to draw water. It was hot at noon. After all, they were in the desert. She was alone, too. Drawing water was usually a community affair in the cooler mornings or evenings. Community women would come as a group. Several different conclusions could be drawn from these circumstances.

One interpretation concludes that the woman was a public sinner. How so? Jesus was offering her "living water" and she became interested. Jesus then invited her to bring her husband. She told Jesus that she had no husband. Jesus then told the woman that she was right because she has had five husbands and the man she lives with now was not her husband. That insight of Jesus was enough for the woman to take pause and notice of who Jesus might be. He knew too much about her. Now the dialogue was beginning to get sensitive or touchy. That is one interpretation.

Another interpretation of this Bible passage examines what is not known or what the passage actually does not report. The nine-minute sermon mentioned above poses questions about other possible reasons for the woman’s multiple marriages. Was she widowed (even more than one time); did her husband(s) leave her; was she deliberately made destitute? This homily focuses on the person, a perspective which drives home a question about making assumptions about the woman or any other person’s situation in life.

How do we treat one another? Are our actions or attitudes about other people based on faulty information? Are our actions toward others based upon assumptions or about what we might have overheard? 

Jesus, in this reading, does not dwell on the Samaritan woman’s circumstances. Jesus is SEEKING her. Her life can be transformed regardless of circumstances. His is the eternal “living water” and not the finite water in the well. 

Though the language in this passage seems cryptic, it expresses the eternal love of God through His Son Jesus to the Samaritan Woman and to us. The Samaritan woman and we must respond to Jesus' calling appropriately by surrendering our old lives and taking on the new. We drink forever the "living water" of the New Reality.

The timing of the story about Jesus and the Woman at the Well occurs only days prior to the cosmic redefinition of reality. In other words, Jesus’ death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday fundamentally changed reality - the core of the Gospel. Jesus became the fulfillment of Israel – Jesus indeed became/was/is Israel. At the encounter by the Well this was not yet known. But a glimpse of the new reality emerged.

God the Holy Trinity is THE seeker of human hearts. Nothing short of a transformation of each individual human heart will bring us to Him when He seeks us. Our transformation is a turning around – a metanoia – of our lives into living within the heart and light of God.

Chuck Berry 1983

Chuck Berry 1983

The year 1983 was a year of transition for me and several of my distant co-workers. For years we worked for The Singer Company – the venerable sewing machine manufacturer. The transition was not personal, it was business.

The president of the air conditioning division of The Singer Company acquired the assets of the division and formed his own company. Singer gave this new company one year to transfer its business records from the mother company’s data processing system to its own. My data processing friends from Auburn, New York; Carteret, New Jersey; Red Bud, Illinois; and Wilmington, North Carolina, worked diligently for eleven months to make a successful and seamless transfer of data from the BIG system to our new little system.

It took us one month to complete the transfer with one day to spare. We took the evening of the “spare” day to celebrate our efforts at the home of the data processing manager who lived in Red Bud. Our new headquarters would at first be in Red Bud before moving to Dallas. Well, to say the least, we partied all night. Our host had only Chuck Berry records. It was an all-night Chuck Berry festival with only eight of us. We imbibed too much, but we didn’t care, even though seven of us had planes to catch the next morning at the St. Louis-Lindbergh Airport. Red Bud is only about 30 miles east of St. Louis.

Tired, sleepy, dragging, and slow moving, the seven of us departed from the same gate, but at different times. We just sat there. After about 30 minutes I stood in order to stretch. As I looked up and down the concourse I thought I saw Chuck Berry. But, no, I thought. I’m just Chuck Berried to death after last night. As the figure came closer I blurted “Chuck Berry!”

Chuck Berry stopped, turned toward us, and walked over. My six companions and I could hardly believe who we were seeing and were now talking with. For about two minutes we were in “Chuck Berry Heaven.” We tried to tell him that we listened to ALL of his music the night before. He sensed that we might still be subject to the effects of intoxicants, but he was gracious and personable. He signed autographs – and then he disappeared into the crowd.

I learned this morning that Mr. Chuck Berry passed away yesterday, March 18, 2017 at the age of 90.

Rest in Peace.