The Jar

John 4:5-42  – The 3rd Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, March 23, 2014

“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city…” (John 4:28)

6-SamaritanWomanAtTheWellShe usually waited at the well to meet them. It was easier, and safer.

Though none stayed long, she didn’t mind. None of the men, and it was usually men, wanted to spend much time with her. They only sought a quick version of her story, and a guess at where Jesus might be now. A few lingered to debate her, to prove she knew less than she did. She didn’t mind. Let the fools argue her credibility or memory or honesty. If they wanted to waste time and breath on her, rather than seeking the Nazarene, that wasn’t her problem.

From the coast, they came. From Jerusalem, they came. From faraway cities she’d only imagined like Damascus and nearby villages (though she’d never been to them) like Tirathana and Neapolis.

By now she could describe meeting Jesus in a handful of sentences.

Which wasn’t too different than telling about her last “husband,” except everything about Jesus was good. Not long after her last husband disappeared, instead of talking about how he stole her money, how he demanded she position meat on one side of the plate and vegetables on the other, or how he stunk like swine no matter how often he bathed, or the bruises after a beating that were hidden by her clothes, she could sum him up in one spare sentence: he slunk out one day to tend sheep, fell off a cliff and died . . .

(Which wasn’t true. But he’d screwed her and left her, like every man who only wanted to take and take and take. End of story.)

When sharing about Jesus, her first accounts weren’t brief. The villagers—even the old rabbi at the synagogue who’d spit on her more than once—had wanted the long version. They milked her for every detail, word, pause and gesture that she’d witnessed at the well with the Nazarene. What did he say? How did he say it? Did he talk about the miracle at Cana? Did he know your name before you told him? Continue reading →

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On The Uneven Steps

John 3:1-17  – The 2nd Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, March 16, 2014

“He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God . . .’” (John 3:2)

I scurried from Jesus’ hovel, grateful for the night . . .
I scurried from Jesus’ hovel, grateful for the night . . .

I scurried from Jesus’ hovel, grateful for the night that still hid my actions. Call me a coward, if you will. Yes, I had avoided the indoor lamps casting slivers of light across the dusty avenues on the way over. Yes, I had ducked into a few corners—like the one near the bakery—as I searched for the address. The only prayers I prayed before meeting him were about . . . not being seen. Deliver me from spying eyes! With Passover in Jerusalem, everyone went to bed late and woke early. Everyone wanted to earn an extra denarius. Thousands begged. Thousands more pretended how pious they were. Deliver me from Jerusalem at its commercial, crass worst.

I slowed by the bakery, far enough away from Jesus’ doorstep. Now no one could link me to the Nazarene. Instead of continuing, I slumped on the apothecary shop’s steps beside the bakery. A brew of yesterday’s perfumes and herbs irritated my nose. I was exhausted, but not from the walk. I could stride the breadth of Jerusalem and outpace men half my age.

It wasn’t the walk to Jesus, but the talk with him. Continue reading →

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Matthew 4:1-11  – First Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, March 9, 2014

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil . . .” (Matthew 4:1)

My grandparents at their Merced, California farm . . . with a "little" bull.
My grandparents at their Merced, California farm . . . with a “little” bull.

Once, when about ten years old and visiting our grandparent’s farm, Grandma protected my tender ears by spelling out—not speaking—a terrible word. We were in the living room, its immense picture window revealing the circular front lawn with the huge pine tree anchoring the far curve, like a massive stem on a green apple.

Grandma, voice raised to get Mom’s attention, said something like, “And I’ll tell you this, that man has got the . . .”

She hesitated, glanced my way. Ah, a grandchild in the room.

Grandma, softer, continued, “He’s got the D-E-V-E-L in him.”

The farm was a paradise for children, with its expansive fields and orchards. Bear Creek meandered beside a pasture. There were placid cows and feral cats, swooping hawks and sneaky rabbits. Grandma desired the farm, and her words, to be safe for her brood of forever visiting grandchildren. Continue reading →

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