Image from the Nevertheless, She Preached conference.

The Working Preacher Narrative Lectionary post for this week can be found here.

In the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, we see Jesus modelling a way of encountering others that is inviting, challenging, provoking, affirming, and, in the end transforming, not just for the one he encounters but for a whole community.

At the well, though weary from travel, Jesus discerns an opportunity for engagement. He could easily have drawn water for himself. He could easily have sat quietly watching the woman from the shadows. But, by making himself vulnerable, by asking for help, he invites the woman to respond to him.

It was Jesus’ questions and the response they demanded that led to the woman’s transformation.

That kind of leadership, that isn’t afraid to display vulnerability, that doesn’t avoid difficult questions, that invites help from others, modelled on Jesus can be transforming, for us and for others. Through that kind of leadership the woman at the well became an evangelist, rushing off to tell others what she had heard.

This woman, revered in other traditions, is known as Photene – the enlightened one.

When the disciples returned, they were horrified to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. The woman herself was not blind to the cultural difficulties that their encounter threw up. But as that encounter unfolded, it went far beyond the narrative of the day, something beyond anything she might have imagined.

It is in this encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well that Jesus first reveals himself as Messiah in John’s gospel. And that revelation was made to one on the margins of society – a stranger and a foreigner.

But it is perhaps what the woman does with that revelation that is the most powerful part of this story: the woman goes off and tells others, encourages them to come and see for themselves, to come and meet the man who told her everything she had been and done. And her neighbours, encountering Jesus for themselves, are also transformed.
Transformation by encountering the Messiah is not just for us but for our communities, not something to be kept to ourselves but to be shared with our neighbour.

In this story, we glimpse something of Jesus’ model of leadership. Coupled with the Samaritan woman’s model of discipleship, we have powerful themes with which to preach good news in our communities today.

So where will you go with this text? Please share in the comments how preaching is shaping up for you this week, along with any resources you have found or created to breathe life into the word for today.

Liz Crumlish is a Church of Scotland Minister currently working on a National Renewal Project in Scotland.  A Board Member of RevGalBlogPals, one of the instigators of Spill the Beans and contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, Liz blogs at journalling.

RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

6 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Transformative Encounter (John 4:1-42)

    1. This is REALLY GOOD. I like the contrast with Nicodemus and I like the talking to one another at the end. I might do that this week.

      Last week at a session retreat we had them pair off and talk for 30 minutes. At least 1/3 of the people cried and all of them found a connection they didn’t know they had. Heidi and I are wanting to move our congregation into telling its own story/stories. I think this might be a seed planter.


      PS I been thinking about Nicodemus leaving disappointed and The Rich Young Ruler leaving disappointed. Not sure where that’s connected but it seems to be in my brain.


  1. a hymn for this Sunday set to the tune: O Waly Waly….
    One hot and dusty day, you Lord,
    Came to a well and tired sat down
    Then to that well a woman came
    And dry, you asked her for a drink.

    So many think, she was despised
    Carrying a hist’ry long and dark
    But there you met, two souls as one
    Each so in need. each finding peace.

    Both wanted water – one for thirst
    The other that she’d, truly live
    Together there at Jacobs’ well
    Both needs were met and new starts made.

    You, Lord, broke down all that divides
    Reached out a hand to soothe away
    Hundreds of years of history,
    Making friends of past enemies.

    But she showed courage too, oh Lord,
    In staying, asking, talking truth
    A woman who had been so scorned
    Needed to know that she belonged.

    We offer thanks for all who talk,
    Who do not judge or turn away
    We thank you too for those outcast
    Who find in you, the life that lasts.


  2. this is one of my favourite stories.
    I am thinking of writing a monologue from the woman’s perspective after the event. but i also like Nicodemus and Well Woman Dialogue by Melissa Florer-Bixler, and i don’t know how both would fit into a service that also has a dramatic reading of the text and communion. I have 2 morning services, in different venues, and this is one week where i am feeling constrained in what is possible, compared to where my imagination is going.


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