Blogging Towards Sunday, March 27, 2010
How do we understand God's presence as Jesus and in Jesus in the world? Is he still in the world? Or is that presence over? John begins his gospel with a remarkable introduction laced with irony: Jesus is the word and yet the world did not know him or recognize him? [John 1, v. 10 and 14]. Is this because Jesus isn't really who is said he was? Or who his first followers claimed he was? Or who we struggle to experience him as today in the midst of modern technologically filled and quantified life, in the shadow of the revolutions across the Middle East, the natural and man-created disasters in Japan and our continuing economic pain? Is Jesus really with us? And if so, what the deal?
This week's passage is a remarkable contrast to last week's text [John 3:1-21]. An uneducated, publicly shamed, woman with no name who only ventures out in the heat of noonday, encounters a thirsty Jew who she gradually existentially encounters and recognizes as Messiah because of his words, presence and relationship. She's contrasted with Nicodemus, a respected teacher among the educated upper echelons, who only ventures to ask Jesus a question in the camouflaging darkness of midnight.
It's the no name woman - at the bottom of the social hierarchy, a political, social and religious outcast because of her gender, her ethnicity, her deemed heretical religious practice and her polyamorous love life. And yet she is the one who recognizes Jesus as more than a thirsty man, more than a prophet and teacher, as the Messiah - as God in the world - the Word made flesh. She doesn't have any of the qualities, gifts, knowledge and pedigree that would make her out as one who would recognize God, and yet she is the only one to do so. Why is that?
Jesus is tender and loving with her, and yet it's only when he forces her to confront her past, her needs and failings that she is able to move forward, to come to faith and to glimpse the future. She responds not with surprise, or on-your-knees-worship - but rather runs off to her village - the one that rejects her as a harlot - and tells them that she has surely met the Messiah (leaving out the part that he accepts and loves even her!) It's this uneducated, good-for-nothing no name that is the first missionary, who points others to faith, to encounter Jesus, to experience and embrace a liberated life of love, inclusion, empowerment and fulfillment.
I wonder if I've encountered that same Jesus who changes things and makes all things new?
Who are the nobodies and no names that I don't recognize?
What are the needs and failings in my life, my history, the groups I call community, that need to be exposed in order for liberating freedom and love to come in?
How do I walk past God's Living Word present in our world in my daily life?