Pilgrimage 2021: God is in unexpected places. -Lord, when did we see you in the Stranger?
Story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) the whole weekend.
Friday Scripture: Called to Go
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
Devotion: (submitted by Charlie Hatch, Meredith University junior)
The story of the unnamed Samāritan woman is a personal favorite of mine. We enter the chapter with Jesus leaving Judea to head back to Galilee. Now, one may read this section and think that it only sets the stage and setting for what is to come. Admittedly, I was one of those people. However, it is in the details that we see the beauty in this section of scripture.
It is important to note that Samāritans and Jews did not get along very well. In Verse 4 it says that Jesus HAD to go through Samāria which, at first glance, makes it seem like this was the only route back to Galilee. However, that is not the case because there were other routes that were available. For him to have chosen this route was unexpected due to the hostility between Jews and Samāritans. The phrase “had to” insinuates that there was a divine purpose for Jesus to have chosen this route. The divine purpose becomes clear when a local woman comes to the well to draw water. Not only does Jesus acknowledge her presence, he asks her for a drink.
In the Wesley Study Bible, it notes that this woman is “a marginalized woman, even an outcast,” which is some reason as to why she is not named. We all feel like social outcasts at some point of our lives. Being a pastor’s kid, I moved constantly and was always “the new kid” at school. I would have to adapt to new spaces all the time. The use of “marginalized woman” speaks to me being part of a marginalized community myself. It is hard to adapt to new spaces in general let alone as a marginalized person. However, the Assistant Dean of our institution introduced me to a group of people that I could not imagine my life without. I see Christ through each and every one of my friends, as well as the Assistant Dean, each time they reach out to others who have been deemed as social outcasts. Because not only do they reach out to those persons, they surround them in love and support.
In my Wesley Bible, it says “this is good news not only for someone so obviously vulnerable as the Samāritan woman but for all of us because every human being sometimes feels unloved and unlovable. Somewhere in the court of outcasts, Jesus is always waiting.”
- Have you ever felt like a social outcast before? How did that feel?
- Who was the stranger that reached out to you?
- In what ways can you reach out to others who you may not know as well?
Saturday morning Scripture: Invited to drink
8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Devotion: ( submitted by Adam Hood, UNC Wilmington senior)
In the beginning of John 4, we read that Jesus traveled through Samaria on his way back to Galilee. Considering the tension between Jews and Samaritans at the time (and Jesus being a Jew himself), one might say he took the road less traveled. This is why the woman at the well was so shocked to come across him. It would have been easy to take just about any other path to avoid her or any other Samaritan. Jesus continues to baffle the woman when he presents the opportunity for her to obtain a so-called “living water”. Jesus says that, unlike normal well water, whoever drinks this water will no longer be thirsty. It almost seems too good to be true. What did she do to deserve this?
Too often we are witnesses to people being wrongfully excluded. Maybe you have been left out before, whether it be from a friend group, sports team, or something you wanted to be a part of. When that happens it is easy to feel down on yourself. You might feel unworthy of certain things. The women at the well certainly did. Jesus reveals to us in verse 18 that she had 5 husbands. However, he did not do this to expose the woman or downgrade her, but acknowledge that she had a history of making mistakes. She had been trying to hide her flaws and sins but Jesus already knew what they were before he said a word to her. Despite everything, not only did Jesus know what she needed but he went out of his way to reach her when really nobody else was willing to do so.
The woman at the well was really not much different than us. She was a sinner who at times was searching in the wrong places for everlasting satisfaction. Unfortunately, the woman lived in a society that made her feel as though she was defined by her sins. Why do you think she came to the well alone during the heat of the day? Most people came in the evening when it was much cooler. She was ashamed and embarrassed. The woman was a prime example of someone considered socially a low life. She knew that. Jesus knew that too. He also knew that faith in God is not defined by social standards. There is always redemption and hope where there is living water.
May we all know there is hope in Jesus Christ.
- Whenever we drink water or eat food, we eventually become thirsty and hungry again. What does Jesus mean when he says “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst”?
- Do you think the woman at the well was deserving of “living water”? Are we all deserving? Why?
- Have you ever been excluded from something? Have you ever found yourself wrongfully excluding someone else? If you feel comfortable, share about that experience.
- In what ways can you be more like Jesus in this scripture? What can you do to reach out to those who need their thirst quenched?
Saturday evening Scripture: Come and See
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Devotion: (submitted by Mercy Neal, UNC Chapel Hill junior)
There’s always something powerful about seeing someone discover the faith for the first time–about them finding and rejoicing in the endless love and mercy of God. In their eagerness to talk and to share about the love of God–in the fact that all of the gospel is so new and exciting and strange. I’ll admit, after a lifetime in the church, I often find myself in the shoes of the disciples. I get so accustomed to the ins and outs of the church that I don’t stop to actually mean the words I’m saying, and to hold their weight in my hands. I’ll be so concerned about what I should and shouldn’t do that Christianity can start to feel like just another routine.
We see that sheer joy of new faith in this passage, as a woman collecting water by herself rushes back into town to tell others about this thing that she’d discovered. This woman, by all societal metrics, should not have had that kind of breathless joy. She was alone, collecting water in the most uncomfortable part of the day- most women would have gone together in the early morning, before it got hot. She had not been treated kindly by the world or by those around her. She was carrying the heavy weight of the grief of loss and of the societal snideness of a community who thought they were better than her.
And yet, when the Messiah comes to her and tells her of living water, she runs, “leaving her water jar” in excitement. Joy is powerful. It is even more so when it comes from someone who when looking at things from an earthly perspective should have no reason to rejoice. But the good news of the gospel, when we really let it sink into the core of our hearts, is really, really good. The price has been paid. No sin of the earth will ever change the fact that God, and love, are already the end of the story. No matter the pain around us we always have a reason to have hope. To carry with us a peace that passes human understanding. To really, truly love everyone, even those we see as less than us, even those who didn’t love us first. To believe that people and situations can and will change, and to be a part of that change.
It’s hard when you’ve sat with the story we tell for years to remember the power it holds; to remember how exciting it is. But there is a gift of God in the women of the well of our world, who remember or are discovering how important what we have to say is. Their joy sows seeds deep in the soil of the church, bringing life and renewal back to old words. Take a moment tonight to look at those people in your life: those new to the faith, those old to the faith, whose starry eyes haven’t faded. And if you don’t have someone in your life who’s sowing those seeds, look to the woman at the well tonight. Let these people remind you of what you already know.
There is that same joy in rediscovering the gospel, in realizing that God’s love is always bigger than we’d hoped, or could dream. So, to all of you who I do not know and to those I do, but who in Christ I all love, allow yourself to reap the joy of the gospel again. The fields are ripe for harvest.
- When was the last time you were really excited to be a Christian?
- Who in your life is good at that joy?
- How would your practices of faith change if you approached them with the joy of the woman at the well?
Sunday morning Scripture: Go Forth and Believe
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Devotion: (Catherine Stallsmith, Elon University senior)
What a powerful charge we are left with as we leave Pilgrimage – to go forth and believe. This first sentence of verse 39 really packs a punch! It was because of the woman’s testimony that people were called into life and ministry with Jesus. We see this common theme across scripture – women were some of the first witnesses to the resurrection, and the woman at the well is witness to Jesus knowing everything about her. We do not learn this woman’s name, but her legacy lives on, as she was not shamed by Jesus, but rather called into community with him. While some might disagree with her choices, this is the perfect example of welcoming the stranger. God does not call us to judge others – God calls us to love them.
All of you have women in your life who are important to you and who have influenced your life and faith. Women are not always included in the story, especially those with intersecting identities – as Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and/or LGBTQ+ women. As we follow God’s call to believe, we must believe women when they trust us enough to share their experiences- whether they are sharing joys with us or telling us about a harm they have experienced. We must commit to ending injustices in whatever forms they present themselves.
Women have been seen as “the stranger” for much of history. As Christians, we strive to see equal participation and inclusion of women in church leadership, in governments, and in all places where decisions are made. When a woman makes your life better, tell her! So many people are underappreciated and do not know the impact they have on others. The women in your life work hard, make sure they know that you love them and that God loves them! As you leave Pilgrimage this weekend, know that God loves you, and we are called to go forth from this place to love others. When we reconvene at other conference events, at camp, or at next year’s Pilgrimage, may we share with each other all we have learned that strengthens our faith and allows us to believe. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
- Can you think of a woman in your life who has influenced your faith in Christ?
- What is something that you took away from this weekend that will help you to go forth and believe?
- How do you welcome someone into your church community if they seem different from you?
- A lot of times it is easier to see than to believe. What reminds you to believe in what is unseen?