God Knows Your story.
We spend a lot of time pretending like we don’t want to re-write our story–like we’ve done it all right and are happy with where we are. Any maybe you are. But many of us aren’t. And those of us who aren’t often feel guilty for not being satisfied with how things are going. Song after song reminds us that we “should” have no regrets. But we do–all of us make wrong turns, end up at dead ends, and wonder how the hell we got there.
And along with those wrong turns and dead ends comes shame. We’re embarassed we missed the mark or screwed up, and we put off re-writing our story beccause we don’t want to admit to those embarassing parts.
But here’s the thing: God already knows your story. Like a parent who’s got all the moritifying photos from your childhood, God’s got the details. And God loves you anyway.
God in Art
Each week, we’ll post an image or artwork for you to reflect on.
Look at this picture. What do you see here? What do you notice?
God in Scripture
We’ll give you a scripture to reflect on. All scriptures are from the Common English Bible unless otherwise noted.
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.
In our tradition (the UCC) we believe that God is still speaking. So while we look to the scriptures for God’s revelation, we also listen for God’s voice elsewhere.
I’ve been rewriting our history
on the ripped pages of my notebook
with the cheap ink in my pen.
I’ve long forgotten
how we ended
I’ve long forgotten
all your goodbyes
or how you stopped saying goodnight
replacing them with farewells
how you barely even whispered
how your hand let go of mine
how your smile disappeared
in the back of my mind
stuck in my memories
imprinted in my brain.
Don’t worry, Love
I’ve long forgotten these things
Don’t worry about my pain
I’ve replaced this event
with the tip of my pen
Don’t worry, Love
I’ve forgotten all the details
and only remember the story I’ve created
I’ve replaced this memory
with such an impossible fantasy
in this story you held on
in this story you kept your smile
in this story you hugged me tight
we had that drumroll before the happy end
Instead of walking away
you ran after me
Instead of goodbye
you said goodnight
goodnight will always be different
God in Music
Each week, we’ll give you a song to listen to while reflecting on that week’s theme.
Listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Almost Home. Which lyrics stand out to you?
Each week, you’ll find some thoughts about that week’s theme. These aren’t meant to be final thoughts or decisive ones. Just a starting place for your own thinking to journey from in the following days.
When most people read the story of the Woman at the Well, they get caught up in the scandal of it all. Like most things, we miss the point because we’re distracted by the sordid details, the juicy plot lines and, well, the sex. Here are two things I know about sex: (1) Sex sells and (2) Sex distracts. Any movie with a femme fatale proves that point. And it’s true in the fourth chapter of John, too.
Jesus has been traveling and meets a woman at Jacob’s Well in Samaria. Jesus–ever the rulebreaker–breaks societal convention by talking to her. He shouldn’t because she’s a she (a woman!) and a Samaritan (the horror!) NOT TO MENTION of apparent questionable morals. But talk to her, Jesus does. And in the course of their conversation, it’s revealed that he’s not just talking to a Samaritan woman of iffy morality, but a woman who’s had five husbands and is now living with a man she’s not married to.
Today, we’d get caught up in figuring out the right word to call her. Slut? Whore? Tramp? Take your pick. But where classic scriptural interpretation gets distracted by identifying her moral shortfalls, Jesus doesn’t seem to comment on it at all. He’s not really concerned with her personal life–who she sleeps with–he’s concerned about who she says he is.
Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah just as his followers arrive wondering why a stand-up guy like Jesus is engaging with the likes of her. The woman leaves and tells people who and what she’s witnessed–and suddenly a new chapter of her life begins.
I think that if we sift through the sordid bits of these verses, we find that this is a story about someone’s story. That is, Jesus uses the woman’s story–the story of her life–to bear witness to his greatness. He wasn’t concerned with the content of that story, at least he doesn’t make a judgment about it here. Instead, he tells her what she’s knows to be true as a sign that he’s God.
We have hard stories. Instagram lies and Facebook distorts. The pictures we post online are hardly ever the whole truth. The stories of our lives are full of mundane and varied, sordid and diverse details. They’re rarely how we want them to look–almost never tidy or complete or finished. And Jesus knows all of that. And still, in the messiness of our lives, in the chaos of that story, Jesus comes to us and tells us all about it. He tells us he knows, and he reminds us that he loves us still.
And then he helps us turn the page and start to write the next chapter.
The Rev. Jonathan Chapman
Pastor and TeacherThe Rev. Jonathan Chapman graduated from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in May 2010. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry with an emphasis in Biblical Witness and Proclamation.
He joined Westfield in October of 2012 and was officially installed as Pastor and Teacher in May of 2013. He was selected to be a part of the Next Generation Leadership Initiative, a program sponsored by the Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ that works with young clergy committed to parish ministry through a decade-long relationship. He has a passion for visual worship (a topic he blogs regularly about at revjonchapman.com) and married his husband, Greg, in December of 2014 at Westfield.