Saturday, 14 October 2023 I’m a Christian Despite…Despite Sexism…
St John 4:4-30 But Jesus had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.
Reflection I was brought up in a home where all forms of prejudice were challenged but at church I encountered both sexism and misogyny.
The most damaging incidents were at the youth group. My expressions of interest in ministry were met with: “you’re a girl! Girls are not clever enough. It’s not allowed – just read the Bible!” This shocked me. Why would God not want me? Am I not made in God’s image? So many questions. To jump many years forward, yes, God wants me – not despite the fact I am female but, as a woman, I am also made in the very image of God.
As I have travelled along life’s journey, one of my biblical heroes became the woman at the well. Jesus sought her out, broke all social protocol, and did not judge her. It angers and saddens me that the most common response to her, even now, is “she was a whore, a woman of ill repute.” She lived in a time and place where women belonged first to their fathers then to their husbands. Circumstance gave her no choice but to live, shunned, on the margin of society. It was to her Jesus turned to bring people to him seeing in her a deep strength, an open willingness, a true faith. For me she was the first female minister, and her strength gives me strength.
For a long time, I failed to understand why John did not name her. Despite still encountering sexism I have answered my call. Through training at the Scottish College and Aberdeen University alongside my own studies, I can now see why John did not name her. She does not stand alone but represents all women, named or unnamed. In not naming her John elevated her role to one that demonstrates that God calls us all regardless of gender. For we are ALL made in the image of God.
Prayer God of all, without prejudice you call us. Give us the strength of the ‘woman at the well’, to listen, recognise, and to answer when you call, to go and gather your people and share with them your unconditional love. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Margaret Higton is an ordinand at the Scottish College and a member of Shawlands URC in Glasgow