Saturday, January 23, 2016

Astonished Disiples

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or "Why are you speaking with her?" Then the woman 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! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" They left the city and were on their way to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 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. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. 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." John 4:27-42 
From the beginning of my ministry I have encountered those, who, intentionally or unintentionally, question the ministry of women, especially those of us who were mothers of small children. We have been ordaining women in the Episcopal Church since the late 1970's, beginning with the "irregular" ordinations in Philadelphia. I had the great privilege, as a seminarian, to be present and participate in the consecration of Bishop Barbara Harris, our first female bishop. There were threats all around us and many stood to question "what are you doing?" and "why are you talking to her?" Now as one of two active female bishops of color, the questions still appear from time to time. And in the aftermath of the Primates meeting, we are faced with more questions by faithful disciples.
Jesus has been talking intimately with a woman, and a woman who was an outcast by birth, and rejected by her "lifestyle". The disciples are astounded, shocked and probably thought Jesus was going crazy or had crossed a permanent line of orthodoxy. We find out that this woman's testimony transformed her village and Jesus came and dwelt with them. Her evangelism was real, authentic and orthodox. The disciples didn't like it at all. God invites us all, at all times, to question our permanent line of orthodoxy, to step over the line and to go to the edge in love.
Today, I ask God to help me dwell on the edge and beyond. May we all find the deep well and the thin edges where we are called, bringing love and welcome as we go.

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