Anne Howard: A Word in Time: Risky Business


"Where," the woman asks. "Where can I get that water that water, that water that you say will quench my thirst forever?"

The Samaritan woman in this coming Sunday's story from the Fourth Gospel is filled with questions, the kind of questions that she's left unasked for decades.

She's been thirsty for a long time, trying to slake her thirst, as John tells it, with a long string of men, one after another. Her past is a tangled mess of broken relationships and broken taboos, as sorry as the complex history of the Samaritans and Jews, rival tribes locked in a pattern of bristling hostility.

And her future's no brighter. She's learned how to cover up, how to put on a brave face, how to hedge any revealing truth, how to stay away from the questions that might lead her into a deeper understanding of herself, her past, her future and her world.

But today is different. She's just met a stranger at the well. This stranger is different.  After all, this Jew had broken taboo first, speaking to a woman in public in broad daylight, speaking to an "unclean" foreigner, asking for a drink of water. He didn't seem to mind the risk. So neither does she. She decides not to hedge any longer. His question invites her own: "Where do you get this living water?"

She wants the well that is deeper than Jacob's well, she wants to quench her thirst. And she gets, in the person of this stranger standing right in front of her in the middle of the village in the middle of the day, a taste of God. And it's just like a cool drink of water on a hot summer day.

For the first time ever, her thirst is quenched. I like to imagine that for the first time ever, she has a new view of herself. Maybe she hears an echo of the voice that Jesus heard at his baptism in the Jordan; maybe she hears that she is beloved, and that she is worth more than the sum of her past. I wonder what her next questions might be?

Asking questions is a risky business. Our questions can push us a bit, like the question of the Samaritan woman, so that we have to look at our lives, to see what we want, what we need, what we don't need, and what God needs from us.

Lent is a good time to ask the questions we might avoid the rest of the year. What have you left unasked? What's your question? What question is God asking you?

Echoes from the Edge

Black Jesus?

By Heber Brown III, 2013-14 Beatitudes Fellow - March 18th, 2014

In an article on, Heber Brown responds to the movie "Son of God" and expands on the conversations on Jesus and race.

"Many of these Black Christians will say that the color of Jesus' skin doesn't matter. It's the story that is most important. However, interestingly enough they don't say the same about Barack Obama - the first Black president. It is precisely because of his skin and the skin of his wife and children that Black folks were shouting, crying, and leaping for joy at his inauguration. They'll say it's not about the skin of Jesus, but it was about the skin of Lupita Nyong'o, the 12 Years A Slave actress who before winning her Oscar, said in a recent interview that when she was a child she recognized that girls like her weren't represented in the entertainment industry so every day she woke up hoping her skin was a little bit lighter.

How does the skin of Obama and Lupita matter to Black Christians, but the skin of Jesus doesn't?

Like an aggressive cancer, Western/European Christianity with its imperial DNA spreads throughout the body and soul of Black folks locking us in the cells of slavery and "White Jesus" is the warden of the jail. More religious abolitionists like Valerie Bridgeman, Eboni Marshall Turman, Jawanza Eric Clark, Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Jesse Mugambi, Kofi Asare Opoku and many others are needed to wage war against damning depictions and doctrine that justify the dehumanization of Black people in the name of God. More Black pastors need to join the growing chorus of those who without hesitation challenge and hold "White Jesus" accountable for his sins.

Given his legacy of terrorism known the world over, I'm not sure that "White Jesus" can be saved, but it is my ardent hope that the mind and souls of Black people can be freed from his grip."  Read the full article here

Heber Brown, III is an organizer, activist, writer, and the Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Finally, the Poet

a way

By Rumi - March 18th, 2014

There is a way between voice and presence

Where information flows.

In disciplined silence, it opens

With wandering talk

It closes.


From the Beatitudes Society Blog.