Generosity : the Samaritan Woman

Gospel of John #29

Hello Generous ones,

I continue today our study of the Gospel of John. Please subscribe (on the left via the drop down menu) if you’d like to study along with us. You may also scroll through to read the 28 posts before this one, all about the Gospel of John.

Today, we start on John 4 (see text below), which depicts a meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Our theme concerns guilt vs compassion, and envy vs good will, in spiritual and religious life — and in practical matters of finance.

[Please note, as we have indicated throughout: the Jewish religious leaders in John are portrayed as the enemies of Jesus and the epitome of religious hypocrisy in this Gospel. However, Jesus himself was a Jew. Let us recognize and critique rather than reproducing ethnic stereotypes, and anti-Semitism, that may be embedded in this sacred text.]

In the opening of the chapter,  Jesus is being hunted down by the religious authorities, who are envious because of news that Jesus has baptized a good quantity of new adherents to his sect. The narrator is quick to confirm that this news is a rumor, since Jesus, in fact, performs no baptisms himself. Because Jesus directly harnesses the divine source (as we shall soon discover), i.e. the fountain of Life, it is not his function to perform ritual signs (i.e. baptisms).

Such religious rivalry plays out, subsequently, in the dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. The Samaritan woman expects religious or ethnic barriers to be upheld; she notes that as a Jew, Jesus would not be expected to share table fellowship (i.e. a drink) with a Samaritan. The Samaritan woman’s caution about this regulation suggests a worldview motivated by customary ethnic and religious rules.

That the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman takes place at the well of Jacob, an ancestor sacred to both Jews and Samaritans, symbolizes the universal allegiances, common to different religious sects, both Jew and Samaritan. Rather than fighting over religious property rights — i.e., in a competition over whose cult or ancestors are superior –a more generous approach will be to recognize a common source of vitality behind both religious claims. Both Samaritans and Jews draw from a single source: the fountain of Life itself.

Jesus overturns the competitive worldview, fostered by ethnic segregation.  He counters regulations, which restrict the gifts of God, by offering free and inclusive access to the living source itself of abundance:  v. 10:“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water;” and: 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Let’s see now how this idea may be applied in our lives. I will sketch the implications of living within a world of abundance (symbolized by the universally flowing water), rather than a world of scarcity (characterizes by guilt and envy).

Money, so economists say, is ruled by laws of scarcity. Yet, in practical reality, generosity and giving may produce greater wealth than holding back.

The author of the Seven Laws of Money (c.1974), Michael Phillips, notes that compassion produces generosity while guilt does not. As a financial expert, the master-mind behind the Whole Earth Catalogue, and a leader of several foundations (including the Glide Foundation in San Francisco), Phillips has a record of tangible financial success. (For the book, see: Book: Seven Laws of Money). Based on his experience in lending money and in soliciting donations, Phillips underscores the priority of right motivations for giving. If one gives money because of coercing or guilt-tripping, how generous will one feel in doing so? How motivated will one be to participate in the ongoing projects to which one donates? A guilty giver may donate once and never again.

The worldview that underlies guilt is constricted. One endorses the limiting notion that people must be pushed to do good things, against their will; people are thus untrustworthy.  Resources are limited.

By contrast, if one is compassionate, then one finds every way to assist another, whether that entails giving money, material resources, or so-called spiritual gifts (like talent, service, wisdom). One’s underlying worldview, based on compassion, is open and unlimited. One trusts the heart to to give freely out of caring.

In the case of guilt, one experiences fear of punishment or negative consequences; in the case of compassion, one experiences faith in benefits and positive outcomes. A contrast between guilt and compassion thus differentiates a world of scarcity (regulated by fear and coercion) from a world of abundance (regulated by faith and freedom).

Give Generously and Freely!

TEXT (NIV) version Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Born from Above

Gospel of John #28

Hello, Lightworkers:

John 3:7-8: “Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

To be born “from above” (also translated as: “again”) means that I let go of the effort to control my origins and my destination. One who is born of the Spirit is like the wind. We do not know where the wind comes from or where it goes.

How do I actually implement this advice?

In relationships, it is common to break up with somebody — or to have a falling out — while harboring the expectation that the relationship will come back, and be reborn, in some fashion. The same kind of expectation may occur in other spheres of life; for instance, as one may watch another’s death while praying for a recovery.  The recovery may, indeed, occur. Yet, if we let go of the sick person – or the relationship –  only on the condition that they may return, we do not exactly let these cherished things die so that they may be reborn. We cling to the effort to control the direction of a relationship, or a sickness, its origins (or: its inception and raison d’être ) and its destination.

A prerequisite for being “born again” or “from above” is that we let go of who we are now. If you think about it, when you are actually living your life fully, you are often governed by a power that is not your own, in its origins and destination. To deliver oneself over to that power is to release the self. How may I release the self (let the self die, spiritually) if I am still attached to a preferred outcome or reward for doing so?

“I will let go of control,” I say, “only if I may be assured that in doing so, I will become who I want to be or get what I want. I will let go of a habit of anger, for instance, only if the obstacles in life (which make me angry) are cleared away in the bargain. I will release my attachment to my professional role (which causes me anxiety) only if I am assured that I will perform even better in my profession without my anxiety than I did while being overly attached.”

Such demands constitute efforts at exerting control over outcomes, thus defeating the intention to let go of control. I seek to control the origins of my self (i.e. the animating power that propels me) and my destination (what I will become).

How may I be born from above? By standing constant in the intention to let it happen, unconditionally, no matter the outcome. A hard bargain! Except for the exhilaration and peace that I experience when I do so.

The Flat Earth Hypothesis = Life without Rebirth

Gospel of John #27 : John 3:3-8 (passage is reproduced below)

Hello Lightworkers,

Side Question: Why is it that scientific knowledge makes progress while religious knowledge often stays in the dark ages – as if antiquated ideas are holy, never outmoded, and spiritual truths are incapable of being surpassed ? Or: are spiritual ideas actually eternal in a way that scientific ideas can never be? A puzzle.

Today’s puzzle bears on the concept of spiritual rebirth. Is rebirth by the Spirit an ancient and eternal truth or instead something new, which abrogates our customary religious ideas?

Main point: The single-birth hypothesis, I suggest, rivals the flat-earth hypothesis. The single -birth hypothesis posits that we have one lifetime to live, which is counted in years and measured according to space in three-dimensions. Thus, if one is elderly or middle aged, one has lived a long time temporally, having experienced lots of life (as if life were a finite substance), while one’s life is draining away, too, since one is closer to death than before.

Life is measured by time and by corporeal metaphors.

This single-life hypothesis, because it depends on sensory experience, resembles the flat-earth hypothesis.

Evidently, the flat-earth hypothesis – which has no theoretical basis – is making a come-back even while climate change is regarded by some as a hoax. Not everything true can be confirmed by our senses. The earth looks flat. But, the hypothesis of a flat earth is not coherent according to science.

For instance, the round-earth and heliocentric hypotheses, stipulating that the round earth revolves around the sun, allows scientists to explain biological life, and the role of our planet earth in the larger cosmos, while the flat-earth and earth-centric model of the universe lacks such explanatory power.

Take a look at this article. Flat Earth Hypothesis

Jesus confronts the single-life hypothesis in John 3. In order to see the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, you must be born again (also translated as: born from above). Yet, the concept of being born again contradicts our common sense.

In fact, as Nicodemus (Jesus’s dialogue partner) objects, “How can someone enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be reborn?” Nicodemus measures life according to time and space. Jesus replies that many things that are real are in fact invisible in origins and destination. Like the wind, so the Spirit (which gives rebirth) leaves a sensory trace (one can hear the wind blow) yet its causality and direction cannot be perceived by the senses.

If you suppose that life is invisible in its essence, spiritual by its nature, and a continually renewable resource (rather than a limited and finite quantity), then one may be born again (or: born from above). Just as a round-earth and heliocentric model explains the relationship of the earth to the larger cosmos, so the hypothesis of spiritual rebirth explains facts about life in the spirit, including: forgiveness, miracle, and love.

Such spiritual realities are not well accounted for by a single-birth hypothesis. If we love according to the amount of life that a person exhibits, then it would follow from the single-birth hypothesis that there would be less to love as a person’s biological life moved towards its expiration date.

Spiritual life follows principles and laws that confound sensory experience and logic.

John 3:3-8
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Spiritual Self-Assurance

#26 John 2: 22-25

Hello Lightworkers,

In the Gospel of John, Jerusalem is the place of controversy while Galilee is more likely to be populated by Jesus’s disciples and friends. Accordingly in John 2, there is a contrast between Cana — where Jesus trusts his mother to serve him as he does a “sign” by converting water to wine — and Jerusalem, where Jesus finds false-friends.

In Cana, Jesus has performed his first miracle while just afterwards in Jerusalem, Jesus engages in controversy at the Temple. He makes a cryptic prophecy. If the Temple should be destroyed (as it was to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE), then Jesus’s own body will be the new Temple, a prophecy that his disciples unravel in retrospect after Jesus is raised.

The last verses of chapter 2 contain a puzzling comment by the narrator, which serves to distinguish the few (his disciples) who understand Jesus’s prophecy about the Temple and the many who simply put their faith in Jesus’s “signs,” i.e. his miracles. Jesus does not entrust himself to those who favor his “signs.” Jesus requires no testimony from human beings, even while he is able to see into the hearts of all.

Jesus models spiritual self-assurance.

When we are self-confident and grounded in the Spirit, we are protected and self- aware. Because our self-assurance is rooted in a divine source, we are not vulnerable to the fluctuating opinions of others, based on our popularity or impressive deeds. A certain  insight or intuition about humanity is the byproduct, too, of spiritual maturity. We can sense danger and the motives of others.  Yet, because of being divinely protected, we do not hold back from speaking out in favor of justice as the occasion demands.

Question: When are you spiritually self- assured and protected? If you were grounded in the Spirit, how would you live? Which fears would fall away?

Passage: John 2:22-25

22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

One Holy Place

Gospel of John #24

John 2:13-12 (text is reproduced below)

Hello Lightworkers,

Think about some beloved place, where you go for prayer, or a sacred building. Maybe you feel God’s presence everywhere — or the Spirit’s presence — so that all of creation is saturated by the holy.  But, when you are at this one place — whether it be outside (on a mountain top or in a forest) or inside (in a church, mosque, Temple, or at an altar of your own) — you are in touch with the Spirit in a special way.

Your heart is calm and peaceful. Your mind is concentrated. It is easy for you to contemplate your life, to forgive others, and to be inspired to take new and beneficial actions.

Based on a vision, Joseph Rael – aka Beautiful Painted Arrow – constructed numerous peace chambers of optimal acoustic design, which are portals to the divine. (See link: Peace Chambers) Some believe that certain places in the USA —  like Mount Shasta or the vortexes in Sedona — are gateways likewise.

What if there were no holy places on earth? Either in nature or man-made?

In this passage from John (see below 2:13-22), Jesus drives money changers out of the Jewish Temple, using a whip. This incident, which is found in all four gospels, is often called the “cleansing of the Temple,” a title that reflects a bias in favor of Jesus over against the religious establishment  (note, however, that in the Gospels, the word “cleansing” does not appear).

What does Jesus oppose here? Commercial exchanges in the Temple, which corrupt its holiness? Or does Jesus strike at the very existence of the Jewish Temple itself as mediator between God and  the people in Judaism? Could it be that Jesus objects to the whole notion of there being a “holy place” – a building or portal to the divine – on earth?

The Gospel of John may contemplate that Jesus attacks not the Temple itself but instead the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple – and its priesthood – for worship. Accordingly, although Jesus himself is a Jew, the Jerusalem authorities nickname him a demon-possessed “Samaritan,” an ethnic slur which casts aspersions upon his religious rectitude.

For the Samaritans (who were also Jews) Mt Gerizim rather than Jerusalem housed their beloved shrine. Yet, in John 4, Jesus predicts that people will worship God neither in Jerusalem nor on Mt Gerizim but instead “in spirit and in truth”.

Jesus may object to the notion that there may be holy places and buildings, which mediate the divine presence. OR he may be critiquing the sectarian politics of his day, which created competition and tension among different sites that were sacred to different religious and ethnic groups. Today, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is fraught even still by conflicting cultic claims (among Jews, Christians, and Muslims).

Question: Where is a holy place for you? What does worship in “spirit and truth” mean?

Passage:

John 2:13-12 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Wine of Joy

This post is for our Lightworker’s Study of the Gospel of John. On the left, click the folder icon, then sign up.  

John #23

John 2:1-11 (Text is reproduced at the end of this post)

Gospel of John 

Hello Lightworkers,  We move ahead to John 2, where Jesus performs his first miracle or sign (John 2:11). The Gospel calls Jesus’s miracles “signs”, which is also the Old Testament (i.e., the Hebrew Bible) term for the miracles of Moses.

At a wedding party in Cana of Galilee, Jesus turns water into wine. The water is contained within six stone jars for the Jewish rites of purification (2:6).  Note, here, that Jesus is himself a Jew. So, although the scene suggests that the new “wine” of Jesus replaces the old water of Jewish purification, in fact no super-cessionist or replacement theology is required. Jesus here is a Jewish prophet not a Christian god.

According to John, Jesus is also more than a prophet. He is the divine Bridegroom. The spiritual message, as I see it, has nothing to do with religious politics or sectarian disagreements: once the divine Bridegroom is present, enjoy the wine. You don’t need to keep purifying yourself, or waiting for the bliss to come. Religions, in general, often put people through rituals – for purification or as a means to an end, so that one will later on…meet and experience God, once one is holy enough or pure.

What if God has already arrived but we are in church so we miss it?  Drink the wine now.

The Wedding at Cana John 2:1-11
2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Happy Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day: July 22

Hello All,

Happy Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day, July 22!  Notice from these passages in the Gospels that Mary Magdalene is :

  1. Witness at the Cross
  2. At the tomb
  3. Witness/Apostle to the Resurrection (the first to see the Risen Jesus)
  4. In some traditions, she is exorcised of demons by Jesus – and she may have been among the women who supported Jesus financially

Here are the relevant passages:

MARK 15:40, 47:

After death of Jesus and revelation of Jesus as Son of God, Mary Magdalene comes on the scene as WITNESS

39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[c] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome.

See also Matthew 27:56

Then Mary Magdalene sees where Jesus is laid in the tomb:

46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

See also Matthew 27:61

BURIAL : ANOINTING

Mark 16:1, 9:Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.

FIRST WITNESS TO RESURRECTION

16:9: When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.

See also Matthew 28:1

And Luke 8:2

This verse elaborates on Mary Magdalene’s exorcism: She is accompanying Jesus, perhaps among those women who provide for Jesus financially (8:3)

8:2 “as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out”

Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their resources.

The Gospel of John elaborates the role of Mary Magdalene:

At the cross:

John 19:25 – “And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

At the tomb, where she meets the Risen Jesus

John 20:1 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”

(John omits burial anointing by Mary but includes tomb scene– see the entire dialogue in John 20)

John 20:11 “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb”

Witness to the Risen Jesus

John 20:18: “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.