As some of you might have ascertained from the name of this little online project, I have something of an acquaintance with the Rev. Kelly Fryer's book Reclaiming the "L" Word: Renewing the Church From Its Lutheran Core. As I read and live with the Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday, I've found myself thinking about the story in terms of the five "guiding principles" that Fryer and her congregation, Cross of Glory Lutheran Church in Lockport, IL, developed (and copywrited, LutheranChik dutifully notes, for any lawyerly types who may be visiting here) for their faith community as they live into the future. So...let's go to the videotape:
Jesus is Lord. Not "community standards." Not Religious Bigshots Du Jour. Not The Rules. Not "the way we've always done it before." So what do we see Jesus doing in this story? Engaging...including...inviting...all in defiance of the way it 'sposed to be according to the dominant culture.
Everyone is welcome. Including, it would seem, a half-caste, heretical female of questionable virtue who might be described as, in the words of an ex-Texan friend, "rode hard and put up wet."
Love changes people. Shown love and acceptance, treated like a member of Jesus' immediate family instead of something disgusting that's stuck to the bottom of his sandal, this woman -- who probably approached that well in a full-body clench, expecting either a faceful of spit or the ancient Palestinian equivalent of a Barry White come-on ("Hey, baby...is it hot out here, or is that just you?") -- becomes not only a budding theologian, but in the end a very persuasive preacher of the Word. I mean, compared to Nicodemus, the Religious Bigshot we met last Sunday, she kicks fanny. "Who knew?..."
Everybody has something to offer. See above. "Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony..."
The world needs what we have. "They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.'"
This is the way the Church -- which is to say, all of us -- should operate. It's the way our congregations should operate. If they don't, why not?