St Margaret's News September 2018 - Page 4

Diversity most direct route from Judea to Galilee. Jews and Samaritans were bitterly estranged. They shared a common heritage but for centuries had practiced different religions and had become deeply suspicious of each other. Jesus paused at Jacob’s Well and engaged in a theological discussion with one who was triply despised; a woman, a Samaritan and a divorcee living with another man. He asks for water. She is surprised. You can imagine her suspicion. It would be like the young Sudanese man Andy being approached by someone he assumed would be hostile, offering a smile and handshake. The woman goes on to ask Jesus to help her settle a historical question, a sore point Between Samaritans and Jews about the place of true worship of God. Jesus says God cannot be defined to one place or as a material being. They talk and as Jesus speaks the woman moves from a literal understanding to the level of metaphor and meaning. The living water is a symbol of God’s vitality and wisdom. This talk is not about the woman’s private life or morality but the cove- nant life of the community where all are welcome. 4 In a rare involuntary moment, Jesus declares his messiahship. The Samaritan woman finds clarity and goes on to witness to others about what she has seen and heard. It invites fresh hospitality between Jews and Samaritans. What’s so powerful about this passage is we know that women are the quintessential “historical losers” in that they are the doubly oppressed of every oppressed group throughout history. Jesus breaks the rules. He raises women’s visibility. The exchange upsets his disciples who feel custom has been violated. Jesus has won us universal salvation and yet within a single generation of his life on earth, male Christians in the early church begin to enforce restrictive conditions for women’s participation in Christian discipleship. Jesus encourages is an ecology of mutual flourishing. God understands we are herd animals, tribal by nature but knows change and being open to the other, is possible and necessary, in fact it’s good for us. Organisations and individuals find change and diversity hard. They resist it. But when we learn to understand ourselves and the other, the common good is served. Seeing people as equal and valued leads to efforts to improve the lot of others. Communities become more secure, as fear subsides. Diversity is good for us… I want to tell you about my daughter Grace’s experi- ence earlier this year at Lyneham High. Ramadan was on and she knew her friend was fasting. She asked him about it. She was intrigued by his commit- ment to the practice of going without food, as a ritual to allow God to carry the day. Grace even tried fasting. It was hard. She shared her ambivalence about the existence of a creator God. "What do you mean you don’t believe… isn’t it obvious,” he said. What her Muslim friend offered was conviction about a belief St Margaret’s News 4 September 2018