Holy Manna: March 15, 2023

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 4:5-42

Judgment is so easy and makes us feel superior. “I may have my faults, but at least I don’t… I never …” We think it makes us feel better, while it is poisoning our spirits. Of course, we don’t like it when we are the ones being judged. We feel ashamed, and shame hurts. It takes away our humanity and makes us feel less than, apart from others.

Some behaviors must be corrected for society to function. But there is a kind of shaming that goes deeper than that, which destroys the soul, leaving little hope for rehabilitation. This shame denies the image of God present in every person. As Episcopalians, when we shame others we betray our Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of every human being. The one who is shamed is separated from the larger community, and both suffer because of this. The individual loses the support system of community, the community loses the gifts of the individual.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, he initiated the process of reconciliation. He knew she needed a drink of life-giving water more than he did. Simply by acknowledging her, he restored her humanity. By telling her about her past, he demonstrated he truly knew her, although they had never met. He then shared with her what he hadn’t told anyone else, that he is the Messiah. It’s really not surprising that he would share this with an outcast because Jesus worked on the margins of society, where the need for hope and redemption was greatest.

Once the woman was restored, she rushed back to the very city that shunned her, forgetting her former shame and proclaiming the Messiah. The people, seeing a person refreshed and renewed, immediately left to see the Messiah for themselves. The outcast was restored to her place, the community was made whole, and the good news was heard.

Gracious God, help me to follow the example of Jesus, and see your image in every person I meet. Help me to remember that I, too, carry your image and to care for it as the precious gift it is. Amen.
-Carol Treston