The Church as ‘The Woman at the Well’

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 3 Lent 27 March 2011

The Church as ‘The Woman at the Well’

Dr Tim Clinton, a marriage and family counselor, has laid out a model for disaffection and the cycle of how marriages “fall on the rocks.”  The cycle of disaffection starts with a secret.  It can be as subtle as “I’m not happy in this marriage.”  Keeping the sentiment unspoken and buried sets an attitude in motion that is like quicksand.  The Church has gone through the same marital cycle of disaffection with God:

Everyday pressures tear at the relationship:

  1. Stress
  2. Satanic assault
  3. Expectations
  4. Selfishness/ sin
  5. Scripts (baggage and emotions from past experiences)
  6. Speed (lack of quality time with God)

These pressures created a state of the Church’s disaffection with God.  She became:

  1. Exhausted, empty, and expecting
  2. Needs went unmet
  3. She no longer felt safe, secure, and significant like a Bride needs and wants to feel

The Church started “self-medicating” and feeding the intellect to understand God, but cut the head off from the heart.  Then the Church reached outside her marriage with God to get her own needs met.  She felt more unsafe, and as her need for self-preservation increased, so her anxiety also increased.  Her anxiety led her to defaulting to her strengths.  The things she used to love about God and attracted her to Him in the first place, became the things she disliked.  She turned away from Him.  She engaged in a “Pursuer-Distancer” Dance.  Part of that dance is “raising the bar.” She started looking for God to show her in some small way that God still loved her.  She looked for impressions, expressions, and manifestations of God’s love for her.

She felt an experience of failure in the relationship.  Sense of failure created a negative evaluation of God and negative responses to God.  She complained and tested God.  She held on to a Victim/ Villain mentality.

The Church rode in on Gottman’s ‘Four Horses’ (ie of the Apocalypse)[1]

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt (ie inflicting emotional pain)
  3. Defensiveness (challenging every act of kindness or word)
  4. Stonewalling (creating an “island of me”)

The Church then emotionally responded in her despair through anger and hopelessness.  Just as earthly couples in pain are unaware of each other’s emotional or psychological selves, so the Church was unaware of her pain.  Just as with earthly couples, the Church did these things because she was trying to protect herself from pain, not because she was trying to hurt anyone or to get back at God.

When the Woman at the Well met Jesus she was shocked that He would talk to her and asks her for a drink (John 4:9).  Jesus redirected the focus back to God: “If you knew the gift of God…”  The Church DOES know the gift of God.  She DOES know Who is saying to her ‘Give me a drink.’  Is she asking Him, so that He would give her Living Water? (John 4:10)

And the Church responded to Jesus again like the woman did:

“Sir, You have no bucket, and the well is deep, [ie our pain is very deep.]  Where do we get that living water? (Jn 4:11) Are You greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, [this relationship we continually wrestle with like Jacob did (cf Gen 32:23-32), as we search for our authentic identity of who we are in Christ], and [relationship] with Jacob’s sons [churches and religions] and his flocks [denominations and schools of thought] drank from it?” (Jn 4:12)

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.” (Jn 4:13)  Everyone who wrestles with their authentic Self will be up against temptations, ego-wants and desires, sorrows, disappointments, betrayals, emptiness that threatens, and the universal sadness that sometimes overwhelms our relationship of communion and friendship with God.  But those who drink of the Water that Jesus will give them will never be thirsty. The gritty human components of this relationship are the very things that God wants us to bring to Him.  The Water that Jesus will give will become in us a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.  Notice that the spring of Water that gushes up to eternal life becomes in us and it comes through us; Eternal Life gushes up not to a specific location, like some turf by the name of “Heaven,” but is experienced as heaven. (Jn 4:14)

The Church said to Him, “Sir, give us this water, so that we may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here [to the authentic well of Self] to draw water.” (Jn 4:15)

Jesus said to the Church, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” (Jn 4:16)  The institutional Church answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” (Jn 4:17-18) (Cf the five Churches told to repent in Revelation Chapters 2-3).  The Church said to Him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.” (Jn 4:19) 

The Church “heard” with her spiritual ears, but then changed the subject, just like the woman did: “Our ancestors [and forefathers] worshiped on this mountain [of liturgies and protocols], but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem [location].” (Jn 4:20)

Jesus said to her, “Church, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain [of religion] nor in Jerusalem [location]. (Jn 4:21)  As it says in Revelation 21:22

 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (Jn 4:22) We got our understanding and system of religion from Abraham, the Patriarchs, and Peter.  This gives us structure.  This is the “law.” The structure is good and solid, but empty without faith.  Christ came to fulfill the law of religion.  The Church does know this.  We know we are justified by faith and reconciled through the death, resurrection, and life of Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 and 5:10)  And Jesus continued speaking to the Church: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn 4:23-24)  John had said this also in Revelation 21:3-5

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

The Church said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will proclaim all things to us.” (Jn 4:25)  Jesus said to her, “I am He, the One who is speaking to you.” (Jn 4:26) Jesus already said it, and is still saying it.  It’s more Alpha and Omega stuff.

Just then His disciples came. They were astonished that He was speaking with the Church, but no one said, “What do You want?” or, “Why are You speaking with her?” (Jn 4:27)  They thought it, but no one said anything.  (Human nature remains the same…)

Then the Church left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a Man who told me everything I have ever done! (Jn 4:29a)  Revelation 20:12 says the same thing in a different light:

12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

Isn’t that what humans need?  The “books” are like the backstory.  He tells us everything we have ever done.  We need the backstory to get the whole picture.  Then we can fit our purpose in with the vision God has given us.  Then we pray, do what we can, and then step out of the way for the Holy Spirit to bring in New Life, the book of Life.

The Church said, “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (Jn 4:29b) — the Deliverer, Counselor, Befriender, Anointed of the Lord?  They left the city and were on their way to him. (Jn 4:30)

Meanwhile the disciples [the more “awake” Church] were urging Him, “Rabbi, eat something.” (Jn 4:31)  After this intense spiritual discussion with the woman [the Institutional Church], He was thinking more about spiritual food than about temporal food.  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (Jn 4:32)  So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” (Jn 4:33)  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to complete His work. (Jn 4:34) The focus remains on what God wants, building reliance on Him, and completing what God says He desires in this partnership dance of relationship.  Jesus went on to say, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more, [or 2012] then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you [at the frightened and searching people looking for God], and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. (Jn 4:35)  The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice [!] together.” (Jn 4:36) (See, it does not always have to be the focus of the Grim Reaper!  The sower and the reaper get to REJOICE!)  For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ (Jn 4:37) I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (Jn 4:38)  The “awake” Church understands we each have different gifts and ministries to share.  She understands that friendship with God does not make us “an island unto ourselves.”  The “awake” Church understands that the whole Church has been trying to protect herself from pain, and not deliberately trying to hurt anyone or get back at God.  Just as with individuals and with countries, God has given each Church a corporate gift to minister to others.  Some churches have the gift of teaching, others the gift of evangelism, others the gift of hospitality, others the gift of giving, and others the gift of mercy, and so on.  These gifts are free and natural.  The Churches don’t have to “work” at their corporate gifts.  (It takes more “work” to suppress the gifts than to share them.)  The Churches DO know what Jesus meant when He said, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ (Jn 4:37)  We were designed to share God’s love and mercy.  This is far from grim!

When the Holy Spirit “harvests” the Church, her gifts are placed on the altar and purified.  This has been happening.  It has been a painful process.  Jesus has said to the Church: I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (Jn 4:38)  So it was described in a similar way with John in Revelation; (excerpts from my manuscript Anchored in Christ):

Revelation 14:13

 13Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
      “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

(Explanation:) Then a voice from heaven tells John to write “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (v 13)  Jesus told us the same thing when he talked about dying to self: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)  When we die to the ego-self and surrender our willfulness, we become alive in Christ.  When we are alive in Christ, we rest from labor [the laborious, heavy, “hard work” type of faith that forgets love is not earned], and our deeds follow.  We reap what we sow [whether it is love or fear.]  The Spirit blesses the faith-filled faithful.  The encouragement from the Holy Spirit precedes “The Harvest.” 

The Harvest of the Earth

 Revelation 14:14I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.

15Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

There are two types of harvesting here: the harvesting of the earth done by man to man, and the spiritual harvesting done by the angel to the believers and unbelievers.  Rev 14:14 starts with “one like a son of man” [a human being].  He wears a gold crown [dignity] and a sharp sickle in his hand [the Truth].  Then another angel comes out of the temple [Church] and calls in a loud voice to him who is sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe” (v 15). The harvest of the earth is first done by the sharp sickle of Truth: What man does to man.  (Anchored In Christ, pg 98)

This process of “harvesting” has been happening for 3 ½ years, and has been culminating to a world-wide climax in the last few months.  Hence, we fast-forward now from Revelation 14 to Revelation 21:15-17

 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.

(Explanation:) The angel who talks with John has a measuring rod of gold [refined purity] to measure the city [the heart], its gates [access] and its walls [protection] (v 15).  The city [of the heart] is laid out like a square, as long as it is wide.  He measures the city with the rod and finds it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long (v 16).  Back in Revelation 14:20 the spiritual blood of the unbelievers flowed out of the spiritual winepress for a distance of 1,600 stadia.  Now the purified heart has greatly expanded.  Love is no longer lopsided with conditions.  17”He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.”  Twelve times twelve is 144.  Justice is multiplied and cubed.  The wall [protection, but no longer self-protection] is thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using (v 17).  Man now understands what it is like to live in unconditional love.  Love is no longer something heaven and the angels are holding as their measurement and longing for us to see that we don’t have to measure up to it, because it is already present.  (Anchored In Christ, pg 129-130)

We return to Samaria, the villagers and the Woman at the Well in today’s Gospel story.  The Church has now come to the same conclusion as the Samaritans:  Many Samaritans [the Churches] from that city [of the heart] believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” (Jn 4:39)  So when the Samaritans [the Churches] came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. (Jn 4:40)  And many more believed because of his word. (Jn 4:41)  They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” (Jn 4:42)  Belief comes from experiencing it ourselves; experiencing God’s trustworthiness for ourselves.

 

3 Lent                         27 March 2011                                             Gospel: John 4:5-42

Old Testament Lesson: Exodus 17:1-7
17:1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

17:2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”

17:4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

17:5 The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.

17:6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

17:7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Psalm 95
95:1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

95:2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

95:4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.

95:5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

95:7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!

95:8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

95:9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

95:10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.”

95:11 Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

New Testament Lesson: Romans 5:1-11
5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

5:9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.

5:10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

5:11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel Lesson: John 4:5-42
4:5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

4:6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

4:7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

4:8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)

4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

4:11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?

4:12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”

4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,

4:14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”

4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;

4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”

4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.

4:20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.

4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”

4:26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

4:27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”

4:28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,

4:29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

4:30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

4:31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

4:32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

4:33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”

4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.

4:35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.

4:36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

4:37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’

4:38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

4:39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

4:40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.

4:41 And many more believed because of his word.

4:42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

 

 


[1] Gottman, John.  Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…And How You can Make Yours Last.  New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 1994

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