Whatever we envision, reality isn’t that.

Homily 458 – 5th Pascha
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 30, 2021
Epistle: (28) – Acts 11:19-26, 29-30
Gospel: (12) – John 4:5-42

Christ is Risen!

In hearing of St. Photini, the Samaritan woman at the well, it is very common I think to focus on the five husbands.

Photini’s story is certainly inspiring, and a bit alarming. She obviously isn’t proud of her past. Are any of us proud of our past? Should we be proud of our past?

Like Photini, all of us were at some point unfaithful to our God. The common thread throughout human history is our unfaithfulness to God, from the beginning to today.

Photini had five husbands and the current man she lived with was not her husband. But don’t be distracted, beloved! This is not a story about Photini’s morality or lack thereof. It isn’t a morality play, and that isn’t at all the point.

As always, the point is significantly more nuanced than that. There is an element of infidelity to God, as mentioned. There are elements of shame and neglect. That’s just on the surface level, though.

Jesus tosses that aside, digs through those surface layers to get to something much more critical.

See, Jesus knows those things, and tells Photini, tells us in fact, that the shame and neglect and confusion we experience is not stronger than his love for her, and his love for us.

Even though Jesus knows our infidelity, our confusion about what needs to be done to be with him, he pushes that to the side.

The new reality that Jesus institutes into the world favors neither the Jews nor the Samaritans. The Jews worship on the mountain in Jerusalem, Mount Zion. The Samaritans worship on Mount Gerizim.

The answer Jesus offers favors neither – Jesus institutes a new reality, that God is worshipped inside each of us – the altar of our heart, on the mountaintop of our being.

It isn’t about winner and loser, it isn’t about right or wrong. Instead, it is about a new reality, unrecognized by either group – any group.

That is what Jesus begins to institute with his revelation to the Samaritan woman. We have to set aside old paradigms and prepare ourselves to accept the new revelation of what reality truly is. What reality has been since the beginning.

And, even in spite of our own infidelity, our own confusion, the entrenchment into ourselves, Jesus loves us and reveals this reality – reveals himself – to us. God is the Lord and has revealed himself to us – blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.

The Lord didn’t say to Photini “Get away from me, for you are unclean, you and your Samaritan background and your five husbands.”

Not at all. He said to her, “Come here. Set everything else aside – as I will – and let me reveal to you the truth.”

There is a whole second part to this Gospel periscope. Jesus tells his disciples something critical to the message God has for the world. He tells them, and us, that we too have to cast aside our preconceived ideas and fantasies about what reality is because whatever we envision, reality isn’t that.

Let me say that again – whatever we envision it to be, reality isn’t that.

Instead of trying to figure out everything, we can respond to our Lord, and become united with him in love and spirit, and see the reality for ourselves, as He reveals it to us.

Then, we have to look out over the rest of the world, not to condemn the world, not to argue with the world. To look out over the world, and see what He sees, and to love what He loves.

The disciples loved to argue about who was to do what and which roles were more important than others. Christ disrupted all that. None of that mattered then, and none of it matters now.

When Christ says the fields are white for the harvest, He means that the disciples, and those of us today, are responsible to gather those who will come into the love of God and showing them how to follow Christ.

The law and the prophets sowed the seeds, and we harvest. So that we can all rejoice in the Kingdom of heaven.

But we have to unburden ourselves of the need to be judgemental of the morality of others. Just as Christ didn’t involve himself in the morality of Photini’s life, we also have to not just dismiss, but completely ignore the morality we see in others and allow God to create the relationship that will transform others, the same way that relationship transformed us.

That is a difficult thing for some to accept in our current society, so polarized by the moral viewpoints of others.

Christ is quite forthcoming – such moral viewpoints, such strongly-worded statements, are the equivalent of worshiping on Mt. Zion or Mt. Gerizim. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Such evaluation and influence on the lives of others is not our responsibility. The only responsibility we have, our sole job in the Kingdom, is the proclamation of what we have seen and experienced.

That Christ died, and Christ rose from the dead, and Christ reveals true reality to us. The reality that is permeated completely with his love.

Christ is Risen!