Ad Infra 1,2 (do follow the footnotes, please)
A biblical conversation kind of story3 retold in Seven4 cycles.
Cycle one 5
“What have you done with your life?” 6
“Does anyone actually have the right to ask that of anyone else? I might be out of place, but you are out of line asking.” 7
Cycle two 8
“Does not God have the right to ask what you have done with the gift of life given to you?”9
“God? Don’t even go there. Show me how “God” has made anything easier— ever. Life is one thing after another — and it is complicated too — and I am doing fine”10
“So, you have been trying the same thing over and over again and it hasn't worked, then you tried nothing and it didn't work either, then you dabbled loosely in everything and it hasn't mattered. You tried all those. So, tell me, how would you see or possibly recognize God if ever you met up? How do you know whether God and life don’t meet?”12
“Show me a religion that works. Please, do. I dare you.”13
Cycle Four 14
“Do you pray?”15
“I am spiritual but not religious, but I am really interested in Jainism right now.”16
“Tell me: How many religions you, as a “non religious” one, have toyed with so far? It was 5, right? And you have taken none of them serious. When true commitment was demanded, you started looking for something else that suited you.”19
“You know a lot about me. This is supernatural. Are you a swami or a prophet?20 I always thought that religions were basically bunk and that we needed to get in touch, so to speak, with the divine nature. All religions have a chunk of truth in it — they are all like the so called “wise” blind men trying to figure out the elephant. We just have to agree to disagree here.”21
“What if you made up your own religion or piece one together out of the many? Would you not be the so-called wise man behind the elephant thinking the elephant was soft, warm, and mushy? And if you run around wildly, will you ever really touch your elephant long enough to understand any of it?23 Would it surprise you then that there is only one God and that one of the —what you like to call —“religions”24 is actually right? You are living a life of excuses to not do anything and you are likely to die that way. You will and must now meet God and it is the God of Abraham.”25
“It will all become obvious in the end. God will come down here one day and clean up.”26
Cycle Seven 27
“That time is now and it starts right here!”28
She rushes back to the town square.29 “Don’t ask me why, but I have just had a mystical experience. You got to come and listen to this guy. I know, I know, I followed nothing seriously ever, but you need to meet him. Could he be the Messiah?” 30
1 Latin for: “to what is below.” It is also the title of a book that uses this strategy to say anything important in footnotes. Annoying but useful. I forgot the author’s name, by the way.
2 Be prepared to be annoyed
3 John 4:5-42
4 Seven cycles because that is what the original has.
5 "Give me a drink."
"How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?"
6 Give me a drink might just be John’s way of Jesus asking what fruit she and her faith has born.
7 She is out of place at noon at the well or maybe at the well at the inappropriate time, but he, being there at the right time, ought not be talking to her as he ought to assume that she is wife or daughter of another man and he has no permission to speak to her.
8 "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."
"Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
9 A fairly blunt hint: You are speaking to God. She will take it as a pickup line.
10 Wells are work, work, work. They might give you water to drink — after you clean it — but they are work. You either go there to get enough water to run the house, and you have to go evening and morning, or you go there to draw water for the folks — which is why the time for the men at the well is mid day. So, Jacob gave them a well. Big deal. It is all work. So Jacob is also father in faith — not Abraham, really? — What has he really done for us lately? All we have is this dumb old well.
11 "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
"Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
12 When religion is one thing after another and just seems everyday it is natural to go “seeking.” She was probably not doing that in John, but then she is a Samaritan, a religion known to include “Judaism and . . .” Let us not forget that the kings of Israel like Herod were happy to be seen as Jew, but liked Roman religion for political purposes as well. “There is nothing new . . . “ Quo’eleth.
13 It is hard to tell if she is really ready for something substantial or just sarcastic. Maybe it is a bit of both.
14 "Go, call your husband, and come back."
"I have no husband.”
15 This is not about marriage. It is about faithfulness and Faith itself.
16 She is right. She has no faith to speak of, none that has a claim on her at least. She dabbles in it
17 and Jesus calls her on it.
18 "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!"
"Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."
19 In her time and place religion was more about being there and doing what is expected of you. Unless one converted to Christianity. Then all heaven broke loose. The question of true commitment is valid for her and our time, tough, and Jesus seems to be asking it here in John.
20 She is getting the hint that she is sitting in front of someone who “knows.” It is not clear that she has come to the point of acknowledging that she is speaking to God
21 though she senses the possibility and it frankly scares her. She sees the need to fog the conversation a bit by getting in esoteric arguments about religion.
22 "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But 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. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
"I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us."
23 OK: The elephant needs some explaining. It is a rather arrogant Indian tale about a shah who blinded three wise men he had taken hostage in a foreign land. Then he set them loose to discover an elephant. The first touched the trunk and thought the elephant to be like a large snake, the second touched the leg and found it to be like a tree, the third was about 20 feet behind the elephant, on the ground, and proclaimed: “An elephant is soft, warm and mushy!” It is an arrogant tale because it supposes that the observer, the shah, knows what the wise men are contemplating. It is conveniently used to say: “What use do I have of wisdom?”
24 Scary Quotes
25 In other words: If you are looking for light, child of this dark world, commit to and believe in God and to Jesus Christ (Jn 14:1)
26 To find something, you must be in the right place and you must be at the right place at the right time. Looking for your glasses under the passenger seat of the car only makes sense if you have lost your glasses. They may be there once you loose them there but they won’t be there right now if you won’t lose them until next Sunday right before church. It’s simple Einstein. It is a time issue, just as their meeting is. She is not supposed to be there in time. It is noon. He is not supposed to be there in time either, according to her. It is not the end and she would like to stall coming face to face with Messiah or God until further notice. She is not looking for Messiah right now. He can be here, at another time, as far as she is concerned. But both, and this she still denies, have a right to the “there:” She as a human being and Jesus as Son of God and Messiah. I guess it would be more comfortable to have God at a distance, both in time and space?
27 “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
28 What explanation is yet needed? He reveals himself as the Messiah she says she is waiting for. She is now faced with God the Son at the well. Time and space have collapsed on her. She isn’t supposed to be there in the eyes of the world but she is. He is not supposed to be there in the eyes of the world, or at least not yet, but he is. He, as a faithful man, ought not talk to her but he does. He ought not talk to her, as the God of Abraham, as she is neither prophet nor patriarch. She ought not talk to him as a human but does. She is not a priest, yet she talked with the almighty and lived. In John, it seems that meetings with Jesus are transformational. Before the cross they evoke faith or rejection. After the resurrection they evoke conversion.(Jn 20:24-29 but also Acts 9:1-18)
29 I was going to have her rush into the men’s locker room at the local college faculty health club at first but that makes no present day sense. In her time the market square, around noon, was men’s territory only
30 and arguing about the Messiah or religion was men’s prerogative only. But time and place have somehow been transcended. The Messiah is present and after the resurrection must be assumed to be so always. Her invitation, imperfect and out of place — the market square — and out of time — she should not to be there right then — and out of character — she was neither priest nor prophet — it might have been, it caused a meeting of many with Jesus and as a result transformation of many.