John 4:5-42 (MSG) - The Woman At The Well
To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.” “I have no husband,” she said. “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.” “Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.” “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.” Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
One of the first things that really helped me (for want of a better phrase) make my faith more relevant and relatable was that Jesus was worn out and, in other translations, tired. I remember breathing a sigh of relief. We seem to skim past this when reading this story but its crucial we stop and really see and hear the words. For some of us we assume that we have to always be doing something, that there is no time to sit down, that ministry is literally the long haul. It changed how I do ministry. I’ve learned and am still learning that it’s ok to stop, that it’s ok to be tired and take a break. Not get to a point of burnout and then take months to recover. It’s ok to be a ‘normal’ tired and not always run on an empty tank.
But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth."
This is where it lands for me and something that I have been learning over the past few years. I have been on this weird timeline (see how I’m trying not to say journey!) with how I do church, by which I mean the collective-coming-together-of-church, the type of church we fixate on when we forget that church is our everyday. One of the aspects that I have struggled with for so long has been 'sung worship'. I have huge respect for it and I am not knocking it at all … but what about those who find it difficult to enter into that space; who aren’t wired that way?
God created us so uniquely. Why then do we have to do everything in a certain way.
For so long I would stand and sing the songs but ask myself if I actually believed what I was singing. I would wonder if this was my best because He deserves our best and if I’m not giving it my best well then what am I doing? I felt like a fraud. I grew apathetic about going to church. I wasn’t apathetic overall, I was always praying and speaking to God. It dawned on me that worship is not just about singing. It is a holistic word. It incorporates everything in our lives.
I read a blog by Donald Miller called ‘I don’t worship God through singing, I connect with him elsewhere.’ This began a journey that I should have known I was already on but, as we all know, hindsight can be a wonderful thing. Although I was on this journey I had to change my attitude. I could no longer pity myself for being different. After all, in every other area of my life, I embraced my being unique and quirky. I was not being transparent and that bothered me. A lot. I had tried to live my life over the last few years through those three words I have mentioned before in other blog posts and talks. Identity, Integrity and Influence.
To live cyclically in these words was simpler in some areas of my life but I had obviously forgotten or hardened myself to the area of ‘church'. I guess I had felt excluded, that something was wrong with me, that I was the worst Christian. I had become apathetic and bitter.
I have gone from being resentful of people who didn’t deserve it (because I never talked about how I was doing) to being fully embraced for me and all that that is. I have gone from feeling excluded and sitting on the boundary to realising that I am included and that it’s up to me to embrace that. I have never been excluded in my community and it was selfish of me to think like that. I think when we begin to fully live out of who God has created us to be we are also open to Him convicting us of our weaknesses and I believe when we are vulnerable (and that takes place in any way we worship) we know Grace. Conviction is there to help us move forward; to hear that although we are doing our best, we can do better because we can be better and we have God to help journey with us in that.
"That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself — Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
Simply and honestly this is how I worship. It is an everyday act, not something that confines itself to a Sunday morning or just singing. Worship for me speaks through my words, actions and thoughts. Worship for me lets me see the world the way God wanted ME to see it: through spectrums of colour, tones, hues and shapes. He allows nature, art, architecture and literature overload my senses to a point where I thank God for creating it all and I can find space to interpret certain things. It is something deep within us that needs to be released. It can combine more than one emotion at the same time and we can switch between a spectrum of feelings in seconds. Worship causes me to open my eyes and see things differently and I think that is how worship works for everybody.
However we worship, we see things differently than we did before. I am not excluded from the body of believers because I don’t sing, raise my hands or even stand up; rather I am part of the body because worship is a broad spectrum, done in various ways and all has its place and the full glory of that is when we ask ourselves, ‘Am I being the best possible version of myself right now? Am I willing to be vulnerable? Am I worshipping God simply and honestly as myself?' Above all else worship is important in my life. One of my biggest regrets is that I never asked these questions earlier, that I didn’t take courage and step out, that I didn’t show integrity to myself. I was the one who did that and I can wallow in that (and I did for a time) but I no longer need to do that. I now understand more about me and how God created me and that can only be a good thing.
Susie Keegan is a creative, a font nerd, a graphic designer and the Church of Ireland Chaplain to Dublin Institute of Technology with 11 years experience in youth work. Use ‘Comic Sans’ in the wrong context and you’ll feel her wrath! Being an author on this blog has really pushed her comfort zone and she is very happy to be part of this community.