Last year, on a Delta airlines flight from Phoenix, a tragedy occurred. During the flight, one of the passengers suffered a heart attack. His wife called out for help. The trained flight crew responded as did a passenger who was a doctor. Another passenger attended to the passenger’s wife. He offered to pray with her, to pray for her husband, and he stayed with her as the tragedy unfolded. He stayed with her as life hung in the balance. He left the plane with her and collected her luggage. He carried their luggage to the car that was waiting for him and took the woman to the hospital. He stayed with her as a doctor broke the news that her husband had died.
“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) It seems to me that the love of God poured out of this man’s heart into the life of a woman who suffered this horrific tragedy. For me it is a story of what we are all called to be – the hands, the voice, and the person of Christ in the world.
Of course, in our day and age, it was all recorded with cell phones and later posted to social media where it was picked up on mainstream media. And then the comments begin. The one who prayed with the women was accused of being a Kardashian, only seeking publicity; a religious nut interfering with modern medicine; and those were the nicer comments. Why the firestorm of comments? The one who prayed and comforted was Tim Tebow. Sometimes haters are just gonna’ hate. It is what they do.
Why are people so hard on Tim Tebow? That’s a question for the sidewalk after church. Perhaps a question for us this morning is why are people so hard on Moses? He has led them from slavery towards freedom. He has given them the Law. He had interceded for them with God to address their needs of food and water. And yet they grumble, they groan, and they are ever complaining about Moses. God has placed the mantle of leadership of Moses’ shoulders. The people have placed upon him all their complaints, grievances, the blame, and all manner of expectations.
Thanks, be to God we don’t place expectations, assumptions, and blame upon those around us. On our family members, friends, co-workers – and that is just the list of people we know. Thanks, be to God, we are not the people who complain at the person on the TV screen who is offering some view, opinion or perspective we reject before the sentence is complete. Thanks, be to God, we are not a people who shun, ignore, and denigrate people who are not us. We’re the good guys, right?
Of course, the very term “good guys” implies there are bad guys. In our gospel story, I wonder what Jesus looked like to the Samaritan woman. There is Jesus at the well, waiting. As she approaches, I imagine she is thinking… “Great. I can’t even get a moment of peace alone at the well. That man is going to tell me what to do, probably even ask that I fetch him water. Isn’t that just like a man.” As she draws closer she takes in more. “Oh, this is just fine…. he’s a Jew. Those people – I swear – they think they are God’s gift to the world. It’s Jerusalem this, Jerusalem that, our Temple is the real one, our Temple is better…. yada, yada… always condemning we Samaritans as heretics.”
“Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’”
The inner dialogue continues. “There it is, no please, ordering me around like I owe him something. The big dope doesn’t even have bucket. What did he think? The water was going to draw itself into his waiting arms. Big dope.” The inner dialogue finally goes public. She says “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” I wonder if she said it with an edge in her voice, years of disappointment, tired of being downtrodden, tired of him, them, and all the rest. I wonder if she remembered Moses’ command to treat well the alien and stranger in your land.
There you are in the coffee room at work, the lunch table at school, at the keyboard ready to add a comment or send something out into the social media sphere. Will you join the ranks of the so-called haters? Will there be an edge in your words? Will you convince yourself you are one of the good guys? Will you tell Jesus to get his own water?
We know how the dialogue continues between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Slowly, the burden of the years melt away in her dialogue with Jesus. She moves past all her expectations, assumptions, and blame. She comes to know and believe that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” She returns to her town to spread the good news and others come to be believe and so be saved.
Like I said, Thanks, be to God we aren’t like the Samaritan woman, burdened with all those expectations, assumptions, and blame for others. Right? Maybe on our best days. And then there are all the other days. Like the days of Lent when we are called to dialogue with Jesus. Called to the inner discernment of our lives – to recognize within ourselves those expectation, burdens and blame that are barriers to our being a source of Hope, being the ones who pour the love of God from our hearts into the world – be it on a flight from Phoenix, at the wells and water holes of our lives, or in our everyday.
Bring yourself as you are to the conversation with Jesus. Be unburdened. Become the hands, the voice, and the person of Christ in the world that all our days are our best days. That is my Lenten Hope for us all.