The Samaritan Woman
She is used to hiding, she is accustomed to cowering, she knows what it is to feel and be invisible. It was not her fault, actually none of it was her fault. Aisha had gone to school one morning in the sunshine, expecting trigonometry, tests in English, time with her friends, but she got guns, grim faced men and kidnapped. She was carried away into the remote Nigerian jungle along with 275 others then separated from them. The so called choice she was offered was to marry a “fighter” or to become a slave; either way for a seventeen year old girl the result was the same - violation, degradation and brutality. Eighteen months later she was freed by a military operation and she was elated and wanted to go home to Chibok. But Chibok is a very conservative community. They don’t want any “Boko Haram wives” there and Aisha learnt what it was to be stigmatised, ostracised bullied, hated and harassed. She taught herself to be invisible and to keep out of the way.
So she comes to draw water in the heat of the day, at noon when the sun is at its highest, when she knows nobody will be around. She comes to the well but there IS somebody there. Why we wonder does the Samaritan woman who feels just like Aisha, why does she come out of the penumbra when there is a man there, a stranger, most obviously a Jew? Why does she come still to the well?
Firstly of course, she needed water, she was thirsty both physically and spiritually and secondly Jesus must have seemed welcoming, non threatening, nor should we be surprised, if just Jesus’ presence sitting by, was attractive. She felt she could safely approach.
There are always Aisha’s around us and among us. Not released brutalised hostages perhaps, but men and women who feel marginalised, who may be saying “nobody notices me”, or “I am invisible.” (Usually) it is not their fault, actually none of it is their fault. They are people who are thirsty, perhaps just for companionship, for someone to listen to them or thirsty for the God they feel has abandoned them.
The good news is that we at least in St. Margaret’s are here. We have come to what we hope and pray is a well - somewhere in our variety of services or our clubs and activities we find spiritual nourishment, support and fellowship.
The bad news is that if St. Margaret’s is a well, then we are its temporal guardians. It is we who are sitting by, we who have to model Jesus’ example. We who have to appear welcoming, non threatening and attractive. Sitting by the well we have to be attentive, ready to discern who is coming in and how we shall receive them. This is not about those on the door, giving out the books even though our sides people are appreciated and important, but it is about how each of us responds. Our church needs to be like Jesus particularly for welcoming the other:
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me a woman of Samaria?”
Oh, it is easy to welcome those who look like us, who dress like us, who behave like us but that is not Jesus’ way:
“The disciples were astonished that he was speaking to a woman” but they were not engaged enough to ask why he was talking to her, what had taken place, what had they said to one another? And look at what they missed. The Samaritan woman went home and said “What a great well this is - come and meet who I met there.”
Will our next unexpected, unknown visitor who has come because they are thirsty go home and say the same?