TITLE: “He said, She said” TEXTS: John 4:5-30, Ephesians 5:8-14
26 March 2017 at Tainan International Community Church
Twelve years ago, two women from India spent a year as international students in Tainan. As soon as they arrived, they began discovering differences between “home” and “here”. They did not like some of the differences, but eventually they found something that made everything they DIDN’T like fade away. They once remarked on how safe they felt in Tainan, out on the streets, in public, even when they were otherwise alone.
Like every place else in the world, there’s sexual harassment of women in Taiwan. The difference these women experienced was that here, it’s not out in the street. In India, sexual harassment has a “cute” name. It’s called, “Eve Teasing”, and it happens everywhere, especially on busses or trains. Women outside of their homes and not protected by a man have to endure strangers touching their breasts and buttocks. That’s the Indian “penalty” for going out without a man’s protection.
In Jakarta a woman out alone might be approached by a man, or by many men, with the simple request, “give me your phone number.” In Egypt women outside of the house, even in groups, will suffer touching from boys as young as 13 or 14 who will reach through a group of other women to touch or fondle someone. In New York City there’s something called, “Street Harassment”. It happens on the street or in the city’s train system. Men will approach women of color and say something as innocent as “Hey Mama, How you doin’?”. They expect a response and a conversation for no reason other than that they have been “friendly and nice.”
Every person comes into every encounter with a history and background. Today we’re going to consider a story from the fourth gospel, often called “Jesus and the Woman at the Well.” We’re going to try to look at it through the eyes of the main character…. The woman. She enters the conversation from a background of having been “Eve Teased”, or “Street Harassed”, or otherwise sexually mistreated by the men whom she has known up to the moment she meets Jesus. That’s when she heard the voice saying, “Wake up sleeper, and rise from the death…”
Be aware, Jesus is NOT engaging in Eve teasing or sexual harassment. To the woman, though, it doesn’t matter. HER responses come from the place where women around the world have, for all too long, been forced to live. With regard to these negative things that go on in the lives of our sisters all around us, it’s time for all the brothers here to wake up! Let Christ be OUR light, too.
Her Internal Dialog
I’m out here alone on a legitimate errand. But I’m not safe, there’s a guy sitting there He’s alone, too.. I’m glad that along with this water jar, I’m carrying a knife.
“Give me a drink of water.”
“You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan -so how can you ask me for a drink?”
Women are often harassed by men who approach them with “innocent” comments and requests to start the dialog that leads to abuse.
Wake up, brothers. When you are the only man in a room, or when you’re in a room with many men, and a woman comes in alone, she has reason to be afraid. It’s time for you to “wake up and rise from death, let Christ shine on you.
Her Internal Dialog
This guy won’t take a hint. I shouldn’t have responded to him at all, but I was taught from the time that I was little to be nice and to consider others’ feelings. Being “nice” has gotten me into some bad situations before, when will I learn. I’m glad that I’m carrying a knife. I think I’ll put my hand on it.
“If only you knew what God gives and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you life-giving water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you haven’t got a bucket, and the well is deep. Where would you get that life-giving water? It was our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well; he and his sons and his flocks all drank from it. You don’t claim to be greater than Jacob, do you?”
Sexual abusers disguise their intent, even from themselves, behind manyhigh-toned words. They imagine that the women they use really “want” what they’reoffering and like to be treated roughly and as objects. Sexual harassers and abusers imagine themselves to be GIVERS of life and pleasure, when all they are is TAKERS. They do not listen when told to go away. They consider themselves to be irresistible, so any woman’s resistance is considered fake. She really means, “I want you.”
Brothers, it’s time to “get woke”. It’s time to rise from our sleep. We are not irresistible, we are VERY resistible. If we’re going to be attractive and magnetic, it will have to be because the light of Christ shines in and through us.
Her Internal Dialog
Challenging him about the bucket and about his respect for the ancestors should stop him. But, maybe it’ll make him mad and he’ll try to grab me. If he makes a move, I’ll stab him.
“Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring which will provide him with life-giving water and give him eternal life.”
Sir,” the woman said, “give me that water! Then I will never be thirsty again, nor will I have to come here to draw water.”
Basically, she told him to “Put up or shut up”. If he had something to offer her that was real, he should be able to show it, otherwise shut his mouth. Maybe that wasn’t a very nice way for a “lady” to act. Maybe she didn’t feel she was being treated as a “lady”.
Our words mean something. Have you ever met someone who makes an offensive or Rude comment, and when challenged, says, “I was only joking.” ? Having been drawn in to the conversation, because Jesus was promising something she thought she might want, this woman woke up from her sleep and challenged HIM. It’s kind of like someone saying, “show me the money.”
Her Internal Dialog
Like so many of the men who come through my life, from the time I was just a little girl, he’s probably all talk and no walk.
“Go and call your husband,” Jesus told her, “and come back”
“I haven’t got a husband,”
Why should an adult woman need male sponsorship or approval for anything? We’re not talking about a child here, still under the authority of her parents.
We cannot hide behind our “culture”, because cultures in places like Jakarta, New York City, Cairo, Delhi, and Rome ALLOW the physical, verbal and emotional harassment of women. Sometimes “culture” is what has to change. And it does, when even a “culture” wakes from it’s sleep and death, and is exposed to the light of Christ.
Her Internal Dialog
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Now he’ll attack me for sure because he’ll assume that a single woman has no man to claim that his “rights” to me have been violated. Around here, often a single woman is considered to be available to any man, but to assault a “connected” woman is punishable because it offends the man who owns her.
“You are right when you say you haven’t got a husband. You have been married to five men, and the man you live with now is not yearly your husband. You have told me the truth.”
“I see you are a prophet, sir,” the woman said. “My Samaritan ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where we should worship God.”
Having been abused and trafficked from one man to another, sometimes under the sometimes false legality of marriage contracts which were not contracts, and other times without, she was not about to fall into the trap of discussing her morality. She changed the subject to talk about religious traditions and how Jesus, being from a different tradition, had no right to tell her anything.
The terrible revelations of sexual abuse of aboriginal children in church-run homes in Canada, Australia and other places show that religion can be used to mask all kinds of evil. This woman turns the tables on that technique, and uses “religion” to protect herself from having to talk to someone she believes in about to abuse her.
Her Internal Dialog
If he pegs me as a sinner, not as the sinned-against and abused woman that I am, the attack is just around the corner. I think I’ll bring the knife out to where he can see it.
Believe me, woman, the time will come when people will not worship the father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans do not really know whom you worship, but we Jews know whom we worship, because it is from the Jews that salvation comes. But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.”
“I know that the Messiah will come, and when he comes he will tell us everything.”
So, Jesus picks up on her talk about mountains and traditions, and switches it to talking about God and the superiority of HIS people’s traditions and religion. She ignores all of that, picks up on one word that he has used, “time”, and says, “now that we’re talking about time, LATER.” There are bigger people than you, we can agree on that.
In cases when women are abused, police investigation, court cases, verdicts and punishment can often be very slow to come. In the year 2000 in America, it took 219 days between the time a person was arrested for rape and a conviction was done in a court. For a woman to respond to an offer by saying, “Later, Maybe” is no surprise when, should abuse happen, resolution is often far, far away, and many times never comes.
Her Internal Dialog
Appealing to Jacob didn’t get this guy to stop when we were talking about water. Now that we’re talking about religion, I need something bigger than Jacob. That “messiah” comment should have done the trick.
“I am he, I who am talking with you.
Nothing, And for good reason. A big group of men showed up, and One knife wasn’t going to be enough to keep her from being gang-raped. It didn’t take all that many men to rape and kill a 23 year old medical student on a bus in South Delhi in India in 2012. It only took two men to rape a 28 year old mother on a bus in Uttar Pradesh last year while her 3-year-old daughter hid in a corner
Fleeing a group of potential abusers, likely regarding them as scary, This group of strangers from out of town scare me. I’m leaving the jar, taking my knife and runningfor my life. My people, back in town, will protect me. Testifying to her own community, she says, “come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done. Could he be the Messiah?” So they left the town and went to Jesus.
Her community MAY have included both men and women, but it’s my guess that she probably felt safest in the company of other women. These responded to her story because they accepted her as one of their own. In responding to her, they went to Jesus, and woke from their sleep. Christ came to shine on them. People respond to her story, because they accept her as one of their own.
We don’t get out of this story easily, especially the brothers among us. We can make Jesus as sweet and wonderful as he was, as he is, but that doesn’t change the implied threat that he WAS just by being male. That doesn’t change the “felt danger” that increased when his disciples showed up.
What’s wonderful about this story, which goes on through verse 42, is that a community of people come to faith in Christ. Stuck right in the middle of the story there’s a lot of early church teaching about the need to go out and spread the word of God. That’s good stuff, too. But we can’t let ourselves off so easily, brothers. Though we may not regard ourselves as threatening to our sisters here and in society in general, the experiences they and other women have endured may make them suspicious of us. As we are instructed in one of the verses we read from Ephesians today, we should have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. We should bring them out into the light. Do this, and Christ will shine on you!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN