I’ve been reflecting on our Gospel reading from this past Sunday. It’s the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well. He was simply thirsty. This was, after all, mid-day in the middle east. It had to be warm.
So he approaches the well, where the woman was drawing water. All of the normal social constraints of the time would indicate that either the woman should have stepped aside to finish her work until Jesus was done drinking water, or that Jesus would wait for her to finish.
They should not have talked.
The social rules of the time would have meant keeping their distance. She was a Samaritan…she was a woman…she was by herself…And yet Jesus approaches her and asks for water. This was shocking enough. Even more shocking? Jesus engages her in conversation. Even though she hesitates, they start talking.
I’ve heard it said that conversation is a “lost art.” I think there is some truth in this.
Look at how conversation, especially around issues of life and faith happens today. It tends to be: “I’m right…you’re wrong. So there.” Dr. Karoline Lewis, of Luther Seminary, writes that: “We are living in a time when conversation needs to be cultivated and valued. Practiced and pursued. Longed for and lived. Without real conversation, we lack intimacy and understanding; connection and empathy. Without real conversation, we risk detachment and distance.”
I believe we live in a world that desperately needs, but has forgotten, how to have conversation. We allow our differences to define us and to set the parameters for our relationships. And in the midst of those differences, the need for us to have good conversation grows, even while our ability and willingness to have them diminishes.
Conversation matters for our faith. It is how we grow. In fact, during Jesus’ time, “believing” and “relationship” were nearly synonymous. After all, you can’t believe in something where you don’t have a relationship.
What makes for a good faith-conversation?
- When Jesus talked with the woman at the well, Jesus asked the woman to be vulnerable with him.
- Jesus asked questions.
- Jesus showed genuine interest in her life.
- Jesus revealed something to the woman that surprised her.
When we enter into good, robust and deep faith conversation, there is vulnerability that naturally happens. We engage in asking each other questions. Our relationships grow as we show interest in each other, and we are often surprised by what we discover.
There are many difficult and complicated issues that our world faces right now. And I believe that our faith has much to say about them. But I also believe that we do that not by “declaring” things we believe to be true (and causing people to become defensive and anxious), but rather by entering into conversations based on trust.
We can disagree, and still build trust!
This next year, I’m thinking about ways that Trinity is going to enter in to difficult and complicated conversations. We have our faith, and I believe we have a community with a high level of trust. I think that our congregation can be a place where these conversations happen. And I believe that through the power of conversation, we can be both surprised, and changed. And through that, we can be a part of changing the world to more closely align with God’s vision for how we live and the relationships we share in.
Look for more information coming soon!