Holy Manna: March 18, 2023

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

Read: John 4:5-42

“… how can you (Jesus) ask me for a drink?”

Our focus this year is on community.

I don’t like arrogant people. I don’t like people whose noses are stuck so high in the air they risk drowning when it rains. I don’t like people who think they’re better than others because of the color of their skin, the size of their bank accounts (cars, or homes), or the purity of their pedigrees.

I don’t like arrogant people, but I can’t throw stones for I are one [sic], too. We humans can’t help it. Our survival depended, historically (and prehistorically, too) on deciding who was in and who was out, who got to share in the tribe’s provisions and who didn’t. Many of our likes, dislikes, and decisions arise from deep beneath the surface of our lives. They are so ingrained in us that we are often unaware of them. Jesus knows. Jesus gets us. He could condemn us for our bigotry; he could join us in our fear-and-loathing of one another. But instead, he enters into dialogue with those who gather at the well.

The woman’s shame is revealed by the light of the midday sun, when the righteous have come and gone, and only now is it safe for sinners to show themselves. “I’m thirsty,” says Jesus. “I’m not afraid of catching cooties from you, no matter who you are.” Shame walls the woman off from Jesus, but Jesus dismantles the wall, ever the consummate carpenter. He knows a thing or two about walls. Perhaps he knows a thing or two about shame because he was, himself (possibly) an object of shame in his own family, his own community. Shame is toxic. What Jesus seeks, what he wants, is water. “Blessed are those who hunger … who thirst … they shall be satisfied.”

Shame taints. I’m pleased as punch to be part of a community that seeks to understand, that seeks to serve, that seeks to be a bucket of water in a dry and barren land.

Let us pray. Lord, help me to draw water for those who thirst, as if for you, yourself. Do not let me build a wall around this well, but bring a rope and bucket that others may drink from One who so freely shares this water of life with us and them, sinners though we are. Amen.
–Fr. Keith Axberg