The power of conversation is a strong one, one that can alter our lives forever, because of what we find within ourselves through it. Think about it for a moment, all those times we have had conversations that have opened our minds to a new direction, a new possibility, a new life, to the truth. We have them everyday, in fact, at work or with friends and loved ones. We are built for communication, you and I, so it makes sense that before the bible was written down we had an oral tradition, a way of communicating the truth. But since that time our oral tradition has become codified, sometimes feeling like it's written on stone rather than being this living experience of faith. It is this living faith which Jesus, who is our truth, calls us to again this morning, one which is experienced through conversations, conversations that talk about what really matters, which is the truth.
John's Gospel for us is all about relationship, our relationship with Jesus and this world which is one of the deeper reasons as to why it sounds so different from the other Gospels. Remember just last week we heard the age old John 3:16, God so loved the world that he gave his only son . . . and the prologue of John, in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. John sets up for us these textures of relationship both in how we understand God - that God is a relational person, and what our relationship with God and ourselves is - that we are loved beyond imagination because of the incarnation which is the word made flesh in Jesus. This relationship of course takes us into the cross, which is a moment that we will soon experience and in some ways we already are experiencing the pain of the cross with Covid-19 in all our unknown and fear. Today, however, we have the opposite experience from the darkness of Nicodemus, we have the Samaritan woman’s light of truth.
Nicodemus last week came to Jesus in the darkness of the night and of his life to try and catch him up, to somehow prove that Jesus was the fraud people assumed he was, just like all the other failed saviours from before. He tried to place his own truth on Jesus, his truth of fear and challenge, but Christ would not accept his fear or his truth, so he invited him to follow him. This morning, then, we have the Samaritan woman, an outcast of society risking everything in broad daylight, in her vulnerability, to talk with Christ about what she sees him doing in her life. Unlike Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman goes deeper at the offer of Christ’s invitation to a transformational life of following him and asks more questions, not to catch the lie, but in order to share with others what really matters, which is the truth Christ represents. You see, in the midst of this conversation, this woman went from being shunned and the outsider, to a person of great value in the eyes of Christ, and in this transformation became a disciple to others as she witnessed to what she knew and had heard Jesus say to her. I wonder where we feel our lives and voices most isolated in our world? Maybe it's at work, or at home. Maybe it's with friends, or maybe it's that nagging voice inside us that tells us our voice is not important enough. Maybe it's in the face of this Covid-19 challenge. Well today, we see just how important our voices are in talking to others about what really matters, which is talking about the truth.
In the midst of life today, it's becoming easier for my own voice to feel less important in our wider society because of the hysteria we are living in. Covid-19 is taking over our lives and is in some places scaring us into isolation because of the fear the unknown is launching within us. It's hard to know where to start sometimes, or how to respond to the unknown when we experience our own questions or we see news reports that indicate a persistent state of social anxiety. I think this challenge, as I have said in my pastoral letters to our community, gives us the possibility to experience and practice the holy conversations Jesus models for us in the Gospel this morning. But how? Well, by listening to the truth.
One of the things that strikes me the most about this Gospel is the way in which Jesus and the Samaritan listen to each other and gain valuable information about who this woman is and who Jesus is, something she goes out to share with others, something we can do as well. So for us, in the midst of his pandemic, I believe we are called to listen and have holy conversations which seek the truth with people about what is real and what is not. What I mean by that is this:
- Despite the anxiety in our world, there are currently no food shortages so stop hoarding food and lifesaving materials like surgical masks, toilet paper, and cleaning products. It is unhelpful and further marginalizes those who really need access to those items more than us. There is no need for us to act like this is the end of the world, it is not.
- Despite the fear in our world, dig deeper for information about Covid-19 from trusted and scientific sources like the BC Centre for Disease Control or the provincial or federal government. Stop trusting the stories you read on Twitter, or Youtube, or that your friend at work tells you, or that old family secret of more vitamins to improve your immune system. Trust and spread only legitimate scientifically proven facts. This will increase our defense of this virus by reducing the fear. Fear, at the moment, is what will kill us faster than the virus will, because it's bringing out the worst in us.
- Despite the unknown, follow the health protocols set out by our health authority, not the ones you hear on TV commercials from non governmental sources. Wash your hands frequently, using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds before rinsing them. Cough into your sleeve, never your hand, and do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth. Wash your hands before and after eating, using the washroom, or your home/desk at work.
- Despite our desire to keep going, if you feel unwell, for any reason, stay home. If you are in a vulnerable sector, understood to be those with a compromised immune system, reconsider the need for you to be in large gatherings.
But what do we do with the fear? I think we follow Christ’s example and we listen. Listen with the ear of our heart and the compassion of Christ to our own fear and the fear of others offering the reassurance of the above information when appropriate, and the deeper answer to fear which is prayer. I am not saying prayer will cure this virus, but it can't hurt. What I am saying is that in bringing our fear to prayer we start to see again the movement of God in our life which is a reassurance in the midst of this time. God is with us, but we need to be wise and use the fullness of our God given intelligence to make decisions for ourselves in this time from a place of wisdom, not fear.
Talking about what really matters, for us as followers of Christ, starts with listening. Listening to our own fear, listening to God, and listening to trusted medical professionals, as we start to regain our voices in a world which is desperately needing the reassurance that the transformation of life the Samaritan woman at the well experienced is possible for them, in the midst of this virus. Pray with me for this virus, and talk to everyone you meet about what really matters both about Jesus and from a health perspective. The world needs to hear your voice this week Church, how will you respond?