By Tom Bair
Feast of Pentecost
A Reading from the Gospel of John 4:19-26
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 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.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
The Samaritans offered sacrifice in the temple built on Mount Gerizim, believing that it was there rather than on Mount Zion where God chose to dwell. But sacrifice to Baal was offered on Mount Gerizim during the reign of Ahab, and Samaritans intermarried with Assyrians. Therefore Jews considered Samaritans unclean, and they scrupulously avoided Samaria when traveling, going the long way around.
Remarkably, then, here is Jesus in their midst, and talking to a woman. He is talking with her about very personal matters, and she perceives aright: he is a prophet. But more awaits. He is about to shine light into the darkness of Samaria and of all our hearts.
Her response to him — “Sir, I see you are a prophet” — even with its possible irony, is the open door, and our Lord walks right in with revolutionary news. The order of things, the paradigm, “the way things are,” the “establishment,” is now changed. The old categories of temple sacrifice will no longer apply. The Spirit will be the guide to truth and God’s presence. Through the law and the prophets, nature, liturgy and music, prayers and the sacraments, the Spirit will brings us to the truth. The truest dwelling of God on earth will be the human heart.
And the woman she seems to say in her next words, “I am a person of faith, I do believe the time will come. I believe Messiah is coming!” He responds, dumbfoundingly, “I am he.”
This is the Pentecost message. The living flame of the Spirit is here, the living truth is here, in flesh. So, what follows? “Now, by the mercies of God, present yourself as a living sacrifice.” Our charge then is this: become wholly disposed to the service of God. Watch without, look within. Open the temple of your yearning heart with prayer, contemplation, silence, stillness, and meditation. Commit your sacrifice. Welcome the fire.
Tom Bair serves as a lay leader in the Episcopal Church. He teaches stewardship and holds an Education for Ministry (EFM) practicum from the University of the South. He is married to the Rt. Rev. Gerry Wolf.
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Today we pray for:
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Brotherhood of St. Andrew, Louisville, Ky.