A Meeting at the Well
This morning, I attended an ecumenical worship service in celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian unity. Truth be told, this service wasn’t high on my list of things to do on a Saturday morning in the midst of a weekend where I am single parenting (my wife is away at a conference), where I spent five hours Friday night working at a bingo to raise funds for my daughter’s swim club, where I am weary from a full and demanding week, and where to say that Sunday’s sermon is “unfinished” would be the height of understatement. To top it all off, I usually feel a little out-of-place at these ecumenical services, standing amidst all of my more impressive-looking clergypersons with their beautiful robes and vestments. I can only imagine how it looks from the pew. Who’s that guy with the scruffy sports coat who forgot to shave? What’s he doing up there? Who let him sit amongst the real pastors and priests?
But I had agreed to read the gospel text from John 4. So, I dragged myself out of bed, made sure the kids were up, and marched off to church. And a funny thing happened, as I stood up at the ambo (I had to ask the Roman Catholic priest what an “ambo” was after he told me to sit beside it… Turns out it’s a lectern. Who knew?) and read the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. I found that in the “Gospel Proclamation” I really was proclaiming good news—to others, certainly, but also to myself. Good news about living water for the thirsty, the broken down, the sinful and confused. Good news from one who knows me better than anyone else, who tells me everything I ever did and loves me all the same. Good news about the one who “really is the Savior of the world.”
At the conclusion of this morning’s short, simple service a beautiful benediction was spoken over the rag-tag bunch of sinners and saints that had inexplicably come to church on a gloriously warm January Saturday morning. I now pass them along to you, these life-giving and hopeful words, spoken by an Anglican priest in a Roman Catholic parish, after a Lutheran sermon, prayers spoken by Baptists, Presbyterians, and officers of the Salvation Army, and a tremulous “Gospel Proclamation” from a scruffy Mennonite pastor who found himself surprisingly thirsty for living water from a well never runs dry:
May the Lord God bless and protect you,
fill your heart with tenderness and your soul with joy,
your ears with music and your nostrils with perfume,
your tongue with song giving face to hope.
May Jesus Christ the living water be
behind you to protect you,
before you to guide you,
by your side to accompany you,
above you to bless you.
May the life-giving Spirit
breathe into you that your thoughts may be holy,
act in you so that your work is holy,
draw your heart so that you love what is holy,
strengthen you that you will defend what is holy.
May he make his home in your heart,
water its dryness and melt its coldness,
kindle in your innermost soul the fire of his love,
and bestow upon you a true faith, and firm hope,
and a sincere and perfect love.