God is in the Margins – John 4:5-42

 

Fr. Shay is away on a writer’s retreat so we’re taking another listen to one of our all-time most popular episodes. Everything we talk about is critical to understanding the Bible and that makes it particularly timely as we are getting ready to open up registration for an online course + group discussion on how to read the Bible. You can hop on the waitlist for that here (we’ll give you first dibs at joining since we’ve sold out these types of courses in the past AND you’ll get a special discount)

iconEpisode Transcript

Brian: Welcome to the Queer Theology podcast!


Fr. Shay: Where each episode, we take a queer look at the week’s lectionary readings. We’re the co-founders of QueerTheology.com and the hosts for this podcast. I’m Father Shay Kearns 


B: And I’m Brian G. Murphy.


B: Hello, hello, hello. Today is Sunday, August 11th and we are doing something a little different and a little special. If you haven’t already picked up on it, it’s just me right now. Shay is on a queer writer’s retreat and we got our dates mixed up and realized that we don’t have a podcast episode planned out for today. So I dug into our archives and found one of our most popular episodes of all time. It’s from a few years ago so you may not have heard it yet, so I’m excited to share that with you today. In this episode, we really get into it. We take a look at how there’s more to the story than meets the eye sometimes. We get into gender and sexual scandal, and how God is found in the margins. All of that is critical to understanding the Bible. So I’m excited to dig into this episode with you again today. 


I also have a special announcement, you’re one of the firsts to hear if you’re listening to this podcast. We are very, very soon – within the next week or two, we are going to be opening up registration for an online group course and discussion on how to read the Bible. If you’re inspired by this episode and you want to learn how to do that even better, you can go to  queertheology.com/biblewaitlist. To learn more, get on the waitlist. You’ll be the first to hear about it. We’ve sold out these types of things in the past, and you’ll also be able to grab a discount for registering early. I think like as folks, that some of us have grown up as Christians our whole lives and are familiar reading the Bible. And for those of us queer, have been attack by the Bible it can feel like we’ve gotten a master class in reading the Bible. And while that’s partly true, there’s also so much more that goes into how the Bible is created, how the Bible was intended, how the Bible has been used over time, and how much more you can get out of the BIble if you have just a little bit more knowledge and background, and sort of more formalized training. So we are excited to really share this with you. Again, you can hop on the waitlist at  queertheology.com/biblewaitlist you’ll be the first to find out. And without further ado, let’s jump into this week’s episode.


It’s the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman by the well. If you’re not familiar with that story, head on over to QueerTheology.com/171 to read it, and then come back. 


“He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was
near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his
journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water.
Jesus said to her, ‘Give me some water to drink.’ His
disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.


“The Samaritan woman asked, ‘Why do you, a Jewish
man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan
woman?’ (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with
each other.)


“Jesus responded, ‘If you recognized God’s gift and who
is saying to you, “Give me some water to drink,” you
would be asking him and he would give you living
water.’


“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you don’t have a bucket
and the well is deep. Where would you get this living
water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are
you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it 
himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’


“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will
be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I
will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give
will become in those who drink it a spring of water that
bubbles up into eternal life.’


“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that
I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here
to draw water!’ Jesus said to her, ‘Go, get your
husband, and come back here.’


“The woman replied, ‘I don’t have a husband.’


“‘You are right to say, “I don’t have a husband,”’ Jesus
answered. ‘You’ve had five husbands, and the man you
are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the
truth.’


“The woman said, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our
ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and
your people say that it is necessary to worship in
Jerusalem.’


“Jesus said to her, ‘Believe me, woman, the time is
coming when you and your people will worship the
Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You
and your people worship what you don’t know; we
worship what we know because salvation is from the
Jews. But the time is coming—and is here!—when true
worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father
looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit,
and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.’


“The woman said, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming,
the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he
will teach everything to us.’


“Jesus said to her, ‘I Am—the one who speaks with
you.’ Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were 
shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one
asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with
her?’ The woman put down her water jar and went into
the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man
who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man
be the Christ?’ They left the city and were on their way
to see Jesus.


“In the meantime the disciples spoke to Jesus, saying,
‘Rabbi, eat.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I have food to eat that
you don’t know about.’


“The disciples asked each other, ‘Has someone brought
him food?’


“Jesus said to them, ‘I am fed by doing the will of the
one who sent me and by completing his work. Don’t you
have a saying, “Four more months and then it’s time for
harvest”? Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice
that the fields are already ripe for the harvest. Those
who harvest are receiving their pay and gathering fruit
for eternal life so that those who sow and those who
harvest can celebrate together. This is a true saying,
that one sows and another harvests. I have sent you to
harvest what you didn’t work hard for; others worked
hard, and you will share in their hard work.’


“Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because
of the woman’s word when she testified, ‘He told me
everything I’ve ever done.’ So when the Samaritans
came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and
he stayed there two days. Many more believed because
of his word, and they said to the woman, ‘We no longer
believe because of what you said, for we have heard for
ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of
the world.’”


So Shay, what are your thoughts on this passage?

FS:
This is one of those really famous and great passages. One of the things I think is important: any time women show up in the Bible, we should pay attention, because it doesn’t happen very often. Again, we have a woman who is not named, which is super disappointing, but serves as a really interesting character within Jesus’s narrative and within the narrative of the gospel. This woman who, again, has some scandal in her life, as a lot of the women mentioned in the Bible seem to. Jesus treats her with compassion and love, which I think is beautiful and awesome. It’s interesting, too, that at the end of this passage, this woman becomes a missionary and an apostle for Jesus. She ends up being the one to convert her entire town. We see, again, an example throughout the gospels of women stepping up into this role when the men around them are kind of feckless and [laughs] not doing anything helpful. Which is a pretty awesome thing to see, especially because in this time women were not trusted. Their word wasn’t valid. Their word didn’t count in court, they weren’t trusted witnesses. So the fact that she then becomes the one to tell her town about Jesus and they believe her, is saying something really incredible. What about you? 


B: Yeah, you know I’m struck by this passage where she says “I have no husband,” and Jesus says “You’re right when you say you have no husband; the fact is you have had five husband and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” You know, that is something that, if that happened today, religious leaders would have all sorts of snide, judgy things to say about it. That’s not what happens here. She goes on to be sort of a missionary. We say this over and over again: queer people have more to offer than what we’re not, God is in the margins. We say that God is embodied in Jesus, and he’s hanging out with this woman and befriending her and inviting her into ministry with him – and not judging her. It’s not just that it’s okay to be gay, it’s not just that you can be LGBTQ and Christian, it’s that we’re central to this story. Queer people and women and immigrants and people who are HIV positive and folks living with disabilities, we’re central to this story of God that we see throughout the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures. That’s just a cool reminder that that’s where God is.


[outro music plays]


B: So that was our episode. Thank you for joining us for another week of the QueerTheology Lectionary Bible Podcast. We would love to hear what you think. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Let us know what you thought about the episode. Also, before you go, a quick reminder: remember to signup on the waitlist for this How to Read the Bible course that is coming up. You can get on that at queertheology.com/biblewaitlist, you’ll be the first to know. Make sure you get a spot before it sells out, get a discount, and all that good stuff. 


Shay is going to be with me in Los Angeles next week. We are going to be hanging out, planning, working, recording podcast episodes. So two things: 1. If you are in the Los Angeles area and you would like to meet up with us, we are going to be hosting an LA area meetup, email us at connect@queertheology.com. To let us know you wanna meet up and we’ll give you the details. Or you can find us on social media and let us know. And if you have a question you would like answer on the podcast, you can email us again that’s connect@queertheology.com. You can ask any question that you would like answered or suggest a particular passage that you’d like us to take a look at and we will get to that. That is all for now, and we will see you next week.

Download the transcript (PDF)

Today’s episode we talk about:

  • The importance of women in the Bible
  • The way Jesus handles sexual scandal
  • How and why queer people can see themselves in this passage
  • How God can be seen as part of the margins

John 4:5-42

“He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was
near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his
journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water.
Jesus said to her, ‘Give me some water to drink.’ His
disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.

“The Samaritan woman asked, ‘Why do you, a Jewish
man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan
woman?’ (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with
each other.)

“Jesus responded, ‘If you recognized God’s gift and who
is saying to you, “Give me some water to drink,” you
would be asking him and he would give you living
water.’

“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you don’t have a bucket
and the well is deep. Where would you get this living
water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are
you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it 
himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will
be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I
will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give
will become in those who drink it a spring of water that
bubbles up into eternal life.’

“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that
I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here
to draw water!’ Jesus said to her, ‘Go, get your
husband, and come back here.’

“The woman replied, ‘I don’t have a husband.’

“‘You are right to say, “I don’t have a husband,”’ Jesus
answered. ‘You’ve had five husbands, and the man you
are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the
truth.’

“The woman said, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our
ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and
your people say that it is necessary to worship in
Jerusalem.’

“Jesus said to her, ‘Believe me, woman, the time is
coming when you and your people will worship the
Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You
and your people worship what you don’t know; we
worship what we know because salvation is from the
Jews. But the time is coming—and is here!—when true
worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father
looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit,
and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.’

“The woman said, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming,
the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he
will teach everything to us.’

“Jesus said to her, ‘I Am—the one who speaks with
you.’ Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were 
shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one
asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with
her?’ The woman put down her water jar and went into
the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man
who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man
be the Christ?’ They left the city and were on their way
to see Jesus.

“In the meantime the disciples spoke to Jesus, saying,
‘Rabbi, eat.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I have food to eat that
you don’t know about.’

“The disciples asked each other, ‘Has someone brought
him food?’

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am fed by doing the will of the
one who sent me and by completing his work. Don’t you
have a saying, “Four more months and then it’s time for
harvest”? Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice
that the fields are already ripe for the harvest. Those
who harvest are receiving their pay and gathering fruit
for eternal life so that those who sow and those who
harvest can celebrate together. This is a true saying,
that one sows and another harvests. I have sent you to
harvest what you didn’t work hard for; others worked
hard, and you will share in their hard work.’

“Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because
of the woman’s word when she testified, ‘He told me
everything I’ve ever done.’ So when the Samaritans
came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and
he stayed there two days. Many more believed because
of his word, and they said to the woman, ‘We no longer
believe because of what you said, for we have heard for
ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of
the world.’”

Photo by Sabine van Straaten

This article was published by Brian & Shay, Queer Theology