Homily 499 – 4th Pascha
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 22, 2022
Epistle: (28) – Acts 11:19-26, 29-30
Gospel: (12) – John 4:5-42
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen! Christos Voskrese! Christos Anesthi!
I’ve always been overwhelmed by this Gospel passage.
There are so many things going on. Christ is revealing himself as the Messiah. The Christ. For the first time.
Not to the “officials” in Jerusalem, but in Samaria.
The Samaritans claimed to be the “true” Jewish faith, maintained in the Holy Land, by those who did not go into the Babylonian exile. The holy place of God for them was not Jerusalem, but Mount Gerizim, some 40 miles to the north. The names even sound similar – Jerusalem; Gerizim.
This is where Jesus was – this is where the well of Jacob was. This was the holy place for the Samaritans.
Sort of like being Orthodox and visiting the Vatican instead of Constantinople.
And at this place, a Samaritan. A woman. At noon, when respectable women were caring for the home. Water was drawn at dawn, and at dusk.
What Jesus does is break every social norm and cultural taboo of His society.
This is one constant we see about Jesus. He did not care one bit for what others thought of him.
The disciples return, and they are astonished – speechless – that Christ is speaking with a Samaritan Woman.
The recurring complaint of the Jewish leaders was that Jesus was eating with sinners. Tax collectors and sinners.
Or that He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery. Or that the hero of the parable was not the Levite nor the Jewish priest, but the Samaritan helping the injured Jew.
I’m so thankful that in our community, we don’t reject people. We embrace them. We welcome them. Their background, their history – doesn’t matter.
Yet we still have a long way to go to shed ourselves of society’s demands. We accept all – but not their sin.
And that is anathema to society. Society wants us to accept their sin also. But we cannot.
We simply cannot accept anything less than perfection, as lived by Christ Himself. But rather than rejection – we give a call to change. To repent.
And we continue to love, and enjoy the communion with one another – because we all – each and every one of us – needs to repent. Every moment, of every day.
The Woman at the Well, we know her as Photini or Svetlana, is frequently seen by implication to be a sinner, specifically an adulteress. The hymns of vespers we sang last night mention this in one of the verses.
After all, she has had five husbands, and the man she currently has is not her husband.
But we have to remember that in that day, women could not initiate a divorce. And a man would be very reluctant to marry a woman that another man had divorced.
After all, society would view them as unworthy.
We don’t know for sure – there are several theories, including that her husbands died.
And as to her current man, who is not her husband, we must recall that one had to be of a particular social standing in order to marry in the Roman world.
At one point, freed slaves could not marry. Both parties had to be Roman citizens. This requirement was relaxed right before the birth of Christ, but who knows how long it took to reach the outskirts of the outskirts.
So, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Photini was an adulteress, nor a divorcee. We don’t know enough to make a judgement about Photini. We don’t know enough to make a judgment about anyone – except ourselves.
In any event, we can read into it what we will – Christ never accuses her of sin, or tells her to sin no more, or anything like that. Just like Christ never accuses us of sin. Christ, in his words, accuses no one.
Rather, He does something truly revolutionary. He tells her “I who speak to you am He.” I am the Christ – the Messiah.
And as if that weren’t enough, He offers her the Holy Spirit. The living water. Who had not yet been poured out on humanity.
Are we willing to share the knowledge that we have? That Christ, the Messiah of God, is found in Jesus of Nazareth? Are we willing to share the living water given to us?
We must be willing to share. If not, we are burying our talent in the ground, and it will be taken from us when the Master returns. And not only share, but to hold nothing back for ourselves, because everything is from God.
We worked hard – we planted, we tended, we toiled, and we harvested. But God gave the growth. God gives the increase.
It is not ours – it belongs to all of us. We are stewards. Anything we have beyond our needs we hold in stewardship for those that society rejects. Like the sinners, and the Samaritan woman.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is risen!