Archive for the ‘Woman at the Well’ Tag

Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan, by József Molnár

Image in the Public Domain

Faith and Works

MARCH 5, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Genesis 12:1-8

Psalm 105:4-11

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

John 4:5-26 (27-30, 39-42)


Heavenly Father, it is your glory always to have mercy. 

Bring back all who have erred and strayed from your ways;

lead them again to embrace in faith

the truth of your Word and hold it fast;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.


God our Father, your Son welcomed

an outcast woman because of her faith. 

Give us faith like hers,

that we also may trust only in our Love for us

and may accept one another as we have been accepted by you;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 18


O God, whose glory is always to have mercy,

be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways,

and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith

to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 34


I grew up with a stereotype of Second Temple Judaism.  I learned that the Judaism of Christ’s time was a legalistic faith with works-based righteousness.  I learned a lie.

As E. P. Sanders thoroughly documented in his seminal work, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), Second Temple Judaism taught Covenantal Nomism.  Salvation came by the grace of being born Jewish.  The maintenance of that salvation was a matter of habitually keeping the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  The failure to do so resulted in dropping out of the covenant.  St. Paul’s objection to Second Temple Judaism was that it was not Christianity.  For the Apostle, the death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

The Law of Moses, which postdated Abraham, defined the lines one should not cross.  “Do this, not that,” was necessary guidance.  The application of timeless principles to culturally-specific circumstances was essential.

It remains so.  Unfortunately, many devout people fall into legalism by failing to recognize the difference between timeless principles and culturally-specific examples.

Faith, for St. Paul the Apostle, was inherently active.  He dictated, in Greek translated into English:

For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

–Romans 3:28, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The author of the Letter of James defined faith differently.  He understood faith as intellectual assent to a proposition.  Therefore, he reminded his audience that faith without works is dead (2:17) then wrote that Abraham’s works justified the patriarch (2:21f):

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Despite the superficial discrepancy between Romans and James, no disagreement exists.  When people use the same word but define it differently, they may seem to disagree when they agree.

Or justification may not be a factor at all.

Consider a different translation, O reader.  David Bentley Hart, The New Testament:  A Translation (2017) is a literal version that, in the words of its Eastern Orthodox translator, “provokes Protestants.”  Hart renders Romans 3:28 as:

For we reckon a man as vindicated by faithfulness, apart from observances of the Law.

“Justified” becomes “vindicated,” and “works” become “observances.”  Then we turn to James 2:24:

You see that a human being is made righteous by works, and not by faith alone.

“Justified” becomes “made righteous.”

Justification is a legal term.  “Vindicated” and “made righteous” are not.  That is a crucial distinction.  I acknowledge the existence of the matter.  Nevertheless, the point about using the same word and understanding it differently holds in both interpretations.

The reading from John 4 has become the subject of much misinterpretation, too.  For nearly two millennia, a plethora of Christian exegetes have sullied the reputation of the Samaritan woman at the well.  Yet Jesus never judged her.  And his conversation with her was the longest one recorded in the canonical Gospels.

Jesus violated two major social standards in John 4.  He spoke at length with a Samaritan and a woman he had not previously met.  Jesus was not trying to be respectable.  He had faith in the Samaritan woman at the well, who reciprocated.

For reasons I cannot fathom, God seems to have faith in people.  My opinion of human nature is so low as to be subterranean.  Observing the irresponsible behavior of many people (especially government officials who block policies intended to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic) confirms my low opinion of human nature.  Yet God seems to have faith in people.

May we reciprocate.  And may our deeds and words be holy.





Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA



Devotion for the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above:  Christ and the Woman of Samaria at Jacob’s Well

Image Creator = N. Currier (Firm)

Image Created Between 1835 and 1856

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2099

Living Water in the Wilderness

MARCH 13 AND 14, 2023


The Collect:

Merciful God, the fountain of living water,

you quench our thirst and wash away our sin.

Give us this water always.

Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 24:1-27 (17th Day)

Genesis 29:1-14 (18th Day)

Psalm 81 (Both Days)

2 John 1-13 (17th Day)

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (18th Day)


Oh, that my people would listen to me!

that Israel would walk in my ways!

–Psalm 81:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The daily lectionary I am following in this series of posts focuses on the Revised Common Lectionary, building up to a Sunday’s readings Thursday through Saturday then glowing from those readings Monday through Wednesday.  Thus, for the purpose of this post, one needs to know that the Gospel lection for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year A, is Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well.  This is the longest recorded conversation of our Lord and Savior in the Gospels.  And it was, I have mentioned, not only with a woman but with a Samaritan–a radical step in that social milieu.  That Jesus, what will he do next?  Which social norm will he violate tomorrow?

I bring the discourse on living water in John 4 into this post, for that content belongs here also.  At a well a servant of Abraham found Isaac’s future wife and Jacob’s mother, Rebekah.  At a well Jacob met one of his future wives, Rachel.  Wells were crucial sources of life-giving and life-sustaining water, especially in an arid environment.  And, elsewhere in the biblical narrative, God provided water for the wandering Israelites in the desert after the Exodus and before the settlement of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun.  The tie between water and the sense of God providing for the people was palpable.

The metaphorical living water of which Jesus spoke in John 4 brings me to 2 John 6:

To love is to live according to [God’s] commandments:  this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of live.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

As we journey through the wilderness of anxiety, fear, animosity, misunderstanding, and perhaps even hatred, may we drink deeply of the living water of Christ-like love–agape–which accepts others unconditionally and self-sacrificially.  May we trust that God will provide sufficiently and on time.  May we have the grace and strength to seek the best interests of others–also our own best interests–for we are all in in this life together and dependent on God.  May this living water enable us to help others–therefore ourselves–and to love and glorify God, regardless of how bleak the wilderness seems or is.