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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Good news and surprises

"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' " (John 4:13).

Our God is truly a God of surprises. Jesus showed again and again that he, too, was full of surprises. This text is one such example. It's long, but I encourage you to read the entire passage from verse 5 through 42. It's a fascinating story and contains so many points of departure for discussion or for a sermon.

In this text, Jesus breaks with tradition and custom: Jews and Samaritans were enemies and would not converse with one another. Jewish rabbis never spoke with women in public. Even Jesus choosing to travel this route through Samaria was probably unusual. But Jesus often surprised the religious leaders by drawing people in rather than rigidly following rules that might exclude. What do we take from this for our day?

There is the fascinating conversation about water: the water we need daily for physical nourishment (for which Jesus depended on the Samaritan woman since he had no vessel) and the life-giving water for which we all depend on Jesus. We fill our lives with so many things in our attempts to slake the thirst that's really only ever met by Christ and the life-giving water he describes in verses 13 and 14.

Then we find a theological conversation on true worship and where it should be. Jesus points out that true worship isn't about a place. It's about relationship — relationship with God. Do we forget that ourselves and get caught up in right worship?

In the woman's response we see the growth of faith because Jesus tells her facts about her life that lead her first to think him a prophet and later to wonder whether he might be the messiah. Her response? She runs to tell others. Is that our response to the life-giving water and the amazing love of Christ? How do we serve as a conduit for God's mercy and grace?

This text contains so much more than all this — one really could spend days teasing out different threads of meaning. As a woman, I have long felt drawn to this text — it's good news for me even beyond the promise of life-giving water. It's good news to me that Jesus took this woman as seriously as he took the disciples or the religious leaders. He took her seriously enough to discuss theology with her. He was less concerned with her lifestyle, gender, past marriages and all the rest than he was with her soul. He cut through all the differences and spoke right to her heart. He invited her in, into the streams of life-giving water that are there for you and me, for all of us — no matter our theological training, status, gender, race or sinful condition. That's good news to me.

This week's front page features:

God sightingsGod sightings: Make it your Lenten practice to watch for God's activity.

Like swords into plowshares: In Cambodia, Lutherans help replace land mines with vegetables, fruits.

Women to women: Delaware congregation reaches across the world with sophisticated sale.

Mosaic TV closes with The Life of Apostle Peter: Rick Steves hosts the final episode.

Also: Exploring right relationships.

Also: Why Manz matters.

Also: Second-career pastors.
Read these articles on our front page ...

Discuss God sightings:

Carolyn Coon MowchanJoin Carolyn Coon Mowchan (right), author of "God sightings," to discuss how to make watching for God's activity a Lenten practice.

Consider reading "God sightings" before joining in.

Join the discussion ...

Deadline extended! Boomer feedback needed fast!

As America's 77 million baby boomers approach retirement age, they're asking, "Where do we go from here?" In the April issue, The Lutheran will explore this question as it reports on the faith life of boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) and the impact this generation has on ELCA congregations.

Boomer readers, we want to hear from you. How has being part of this generation influenced your spirituality? How has it influenced your involvement in and understanding of the church? What impact do you believe the baby boomers will have on the church in the years ahead?

Using those questions as a guide, email your response (500 words or fewer) to julie.sevig@thelutheran.org by Feb. 22.

Or respond online...

This week on our blog:

Andrea PohlmannAndrea Pohlmann (right) writes about the changing face of potlucks.

Amber Leberman blogs about being "singled" out.

Julie Sevig writes about "souper" news.

Check out our blog...

The February issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived:

Don't let them miss another issue.
The Little LutheranThe Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.
Subscribe today ...

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Recent coversDid you know: An individual subscription to The Lutheran magazine is only $15.95 a year and includes a Web membership at no additional cost.

For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 800-328-4648.)


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