The Gospel lessons during the Lenten season are usually noticeably longer, but the readings for this Sunday and last are among the most significant readings of all in the Bible.
The story of the woman at the well was this past Sunday and is a personal favorite of mine. There are so many facets of this encounter between the Samaritan women and Jesus. Jesus, a Jew, asks a Samaritan for a drink of water: not proper, as we say in the south.
Jesus then told her to go and get her husband. When she replied that she had no husband, Jesus commended her for speaking the truth, “…for you have had five husbands.”
The woman left her water jar and went back into the city to witness that Jesus was the Messiah and to come and see. The disciples, of course, were “astonished” that he was even speaking to a woman.
After Jesus freed Mary Magdalene from demon possession, she followed him as a disciple from then on. She was also the first person to whom Jesus appeared the morning of the Resurrection.
Is it not interesting that Jesus’ experiences with women in the Bible are the ones that often revealed to the world who he was?
This Sunday (March 22), the Gospel is another great story and another personal favorite. As a child who loved to play outdoors, occasionally in the mud, I suppose I was fascinated by Jesus spitting into the dirt, making mud, spreading mud on the blind man’s eyes, and sending him to wash in the pool of Siloam.
This time Jesus uses a blind man to educate the disciples. Neither the blind man nor his parents were sinners who God punished with the man’s blindness; “…he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Jesus used the lowly and the infirm as personal witnesses that he was the Son of God.
A lesson for all of us for sure.
This Sunday’s anthem is a contemporary musical setting of an ancient poem. I frequently say that a text or tune “is one of the oldest things in the book.” Truth is, The Hymnal 1982 contains ancient texts and tunes that still speak to us today, and we need to not forget them.
Alcuin (735-804) was a scholar, teacher, poet, and priest from York, Northumbria, which is now parts of Northern England and Southeastern Scotland. English priest Christopher Idle (b. 1938) took imagery from Alcuin’s Prayer for Knowledge and Strength and wrote the text “Eternal light, shine in my heart.”
Alcuin’s prayer employs personification, of which I am also a literary fan:
Light eternal, shine in my heart
Power eternal, deliver me from evil
Wisdom eternal, scatter the darkness of my ignorance
Might eternal, pity me
By leading with the word eternal, Idle transformed Alcuin’s prayer into a litany-like text:
Eternal light, shine in my heart;
eternal hope, lift up my eyes;
eternal power, be my support;
eternal wisdom, make me wise.
Eternal life, raise me from death;
eternal brightness, help me see;
eternal Spirit, give me breath;
eternal Savior come to me.
Tying Sunday’s music to the healing of the blind man, notice all the light and sight images in our anthem and hymns texts. We will also sing the hymns “O for a thousand tongues to sing” and “I want to walk as a child of the light.”
In “O for a thousand tongues to sing,” Charles Wesley (1707-1788) empowers the infirm, as Jesus did:
Hear him, ye deaf; ye voiceless ones,
your loosened tongues employ;
ye blind, behold, your Savior comes;
and leap, ye lame, for joy!
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