On Beer & Living Water: Lent 3, John 4:1-42

Take Up Beer for Lent, 2011

Our journey in Home Brew and Bible Study continued this week as we bottled our Celtic Red which has been brewing since Week 1.  Thankfully we had time to taste some samples and also pick up the reading from Lent 3 about Jesus’ encounter with aSamarian Woman at the Well from John 4.

Stories from our World:

We started by reading The Aboriginal Woman at the Spring which was my  contemporary re-mix of this passage for Seeds for Lent 2002.  As a piece of writing it is somewhat awkward as I tried to stay as true to the original text of John 4, whilst making parallels to contemporary issues.  Whilst it doesn’t quite work in terms of ‘voice’ and naming contemporary issues as clearly as it might, I think it is still worth reading as a useful way to expose some of the dynamics that aren’t immediately apparent to us about the ancient text.

We discussed that the themes of this piece are made all the more striking by view of the recent Federal Government ‘intervention’ in remote communities and across Australia’s Northern Territory.

Ancient Story:  John 4: 1- 42

Personal Stories:

Most of the discussion centered on whether the primary liberation of ‘Spirit and Truth’ was ‘spiritual/religious’ or ‘political’ in nature… we thought both were pretty important in the end!

For me the traditional emphasis of the woman as a ‘painted woman’ of moral disrepute had been trumped by seeing her five ‘husbands ‘as the traditional colonising tribes of Samaria listed in 2 Kings 17.

(Another example of the rich metaphorical links between marriage, nationalism, wells and ‘living water’ can be found in Jeremiah 2)

In response to Jesus the woman shows no shame about supposed moral indiscretion, she simply recognises Jesus as a ‘prophet’ and continues on with the debate about disputed markers of national and cultural identity.  Wes Howard Brook suggests “The one that you have now is not your own” is a reference to Roman occupation which is supported by the Samaritan’s proclamation at the end of the passage that Jesus is ‘Saviour of the Word’ (a direct title for Caesar).

We also harked back to the previous week and compared the characterisation of  Nicodemus and The Woman at the Well in terms of Gender: Name: Geography/Location: Role: Time of Encounter: Response:

In coming back to the original discussion I was profoundly moved by the Surrender11 Conference.

Like the Samaritan woman there were some powerful indigenous voices present at Surrender11, none less that that of Elverina Johnson.

Elverina is a Kunganji Woman of Yarrabah, a community of 4000 people in north Queensland, and her parents are from the Murgha and Fourmile families. A writer, artist, curator and researcher, Elverina is currently President of the P&C for the Yarrabah School and also volunteers as a Liaison Officer for the Dirringhi Aboriginal Corporation, which she co-founded, and specialises in developing arts and education activities within schools.

With a quiet but steely resolve she spoke powerfully on the Sunday Morning of the conference (Lent 3!) about the fear she experienced when the military trucks rolled in for the ‘intervention’ and of the deep sense of shame she feels each time she is forced to produce her green ‘Basics’ card in order to purchase bread and milk and other essential items from the store.  She also spoke of the difficult economics of travel to approved shops in order to purchase such necessities.

The connections for me with her cry and the questioning voice of the Samaritan Woman at the Well seeking “living water’ were powerfully obvious.

As with the Samaritan women though her ‘testimony’ and leadership did not end there. (In John’s gospel the Samaritan Woman is given the honour of one who ‘testifies’ to Jesus ala John the Baptist, and unlike the disciples!) Elverina led us in binding the crippling spiritual forces in her life and in her community by inviting us to pray.  Whilst we did so she instructed the worship leader to blow the digeridoo seven times in a nod to the ‘wall breaking’ trumpeting actions of another ancient, tribal, wilderness people!

“You might not see it now but it is bound in the spiritual realm and freedom is on it’s way.”

Talk about worshiping in ‘Spirit and Truth’!  You can give me some of that ‘Living Water’ anytime!

The indigenous cultural elements at the conference were very powerful including a beautiful Weclome to Country that went for over an hour.

Over the course of the conference Rev. Graeme Paulson had said;

“My Aboriginal spirituality in-forms my Christianity and my Christianity trans-forms my indigenous spirituality”.

He had spoken over the course of the weekend about being in Central Australia at the time of the Vesty’s walk off in the 60’s-70’s and how its leader, Vincent Lingiari had told him how he had felt led by God, independent of any white missionary influence to initiate such an action.   Graeme had been involved in numerous baptisms at Wadi Creek through the course of that time which eventually became the birth place of the Land Rights movement for our nation.

He also made other powerful statements such as:

“The Aboriginal gift to Australia is spirituality”

and

“My challenge to the indigenous church is to save Christianity from Western culture!”

This felt a bit like a Samaritan Woman leaving her ‘water jug’ behind (connection to Wedding at Cana in John 2 and it’s implicit critique of the exclusive cultural captivity of the relgion of his day) to ‘find’ it in a fulfilment of another cultural form.

As we read the final passage about the Samaritans celebrating I recalled the striking image of Uncle Rex Japanangka Granites, an elder with a streak of long white hair spontaneously dancing up the front of the auditorium during the final worship session of Surrender11.

I haven’t seen a whole lot of elders from ANY cultures dancing in public and so it was not lost on me that this was an elder who has played important roles on ATSIC and Central Land Council’s etc. who felt compelled to dance and celebrate at a Christian worship service.  Clearly here was someone who saw in the way of Jesus a liberation and a path of ‘Spirit and Truth’ that was both profoundly spiritual as well as politically liberating… for us all!

Amen!

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