You are the bucket: The woman at the well

This is the homily I gave at dear friend’s’ wedding last year. They chose the reading about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well from John; it’s also the reading for this weekend in the Catholic lectionary. Enjoy!


Ruth 1:8-18

James 1: 2-8

John 4: 1-42

In every relationship there’s a vibe, right? You can feel it. The space between the two people.

We’ve all felt it – you walk into a room and you *know* they just were fighting. Or you walk in and you realize *now* is not the time. There’s a palpable presence. Another thing.

Or sometimes, you’re around two people who just seem at ease with one another… when you step into their home, you pick up the feeling of the people who live there. Easeful, respectful, joyful…

When two people come together there’s a third thing created… The space between them.

With Naomi and Ruth it was a space of selfless love, as Fr. Brent says… a space that was so compelling, so attractive, so charged with God’s presence that Ruth could not go back to her old life. She just couldn’t. She had experienced the God who showed up when Naomi showed up. A God who might just have a more fruitful and invigorating future in store for her than what her community expected of her – or what she could engineer for herself. She couldn’t go back. She had to stay with Naomi. The space they created was a captivating space.

When Jesus arrives at the well and strikes up a conversation with the woman there, they begin to carve out another unique, intense space. With each exchange, the stakes get higher. The conversation gets more real, and they each challenge each other to go deeper:

“Give me a drink.”

“Who are you?”

“If only you knew.”

“Dude, where’s your bucket?”

“You are the bucket.”

Suddenly, we are not talking about H2O.

The space they create is one of mutual self-revelation. Jesus tells her who he is and she shows him who she really is.

This is one of *those* conversations in life. Where you choose to go there. To take the risk to tell someone who you really are. To let them know that you see them for who they really are.

And Jesus, of course, chooses to engage in this vulnerable and risky – and highly theological – conversation – not with an appointed religious leader, not with Peter, not with any of his named disciples… but this conversation he gets into with a foreign, outcast, woman whose name we never learn. Classic.

Could this have been the first time a man had engaged this woman in respectful, honoring conversation about substantive, serious issues? Something tells me perhaps this is the case. Maybe this is part of what disarmed her – what invited her to pay attention. What ultimately changed her heart, about herself.  How transformative for her.

And I kind of think the disciples felt the vibe when they got back from their errands. According to the text, they didn’t question why Jesus was doing something so bizarre as speaking with this foreign, outcast woman. They must have felt it…the space these two created in their escalating exchange of words. This was a space marked with naked vulnerability – and awe – between Jesus and the woman at what they revealed.

And so too it is … With you. In choosing to be married to each other, you are choosing to foster a space… A special distinct creation that only the two of you can make.

It’s a space for the two of you, of course…  each of you agrees today to foster space for the other to grow into the people you are destined to be. To allow each other the freedom to take risks, try new things, and know that a soft landing always awaits at home.

And, it’s a space where others will experience the nature of God. Because of course, God is the original space-maker…God who spoke – and space materialized.

God comes into contact with something else and immediately the space is transformed into something holy, rich, vibrating with the sacred explosions of creation… this vibe bounces around between Jesus and the Creator… this wild, vibrant Holy Spirit. This very same spirit has taken up residence between you.

And this is where we are so lucky… To catch a glimpse of our loving God when we watch the two of you do the work of being married. Each day of your lives.

We can see the Divine as we accompany you through struggles and disagreements, doubts and grief…

We experience the Holy when we rejoice with you at accomplishments, new depths of understanding, and maybe a Stanley Cup win for the Blues. Maybe.

Your unique space will shift overtime -of course -as anyone here who has been married for any length of time will tell you…

You might feel like the space is too close or too distant.

The space might get sour with familiarity…

This space might get crowded with too many kids…

Nonetheless, today you promise never to abandon the space…to tend it with the care of the most devoted gardener–

feeding it with time together and time on your own,

trips to the ski slopes and trips to the beach…

hikes and bike rides,

concerts and Cardinals games…

And slowly, as you nourish this space, it becomes its own thing. The space between you- fertile and abundant, generative and nourishing – it is your gift to each other and to the world.

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