Put down your jar and dance

John 4:1-42 – Put Down Your Jar & Dance

I have a video to show you that features Glennon Melton talking about who Jesus tells her she is as a former alcohol and food addict.  She keeps a blog called Momastery and, in the last few months, rejoiced with her readers that she finally passed a background check so she could volunteer with the kids at the church.  Did I mention to you that she’s a former addict with quite a past?  Let’s watch.

Watch the video here

glennon-thumb1It would be easy to get in a frenzy over this woman’s past.  We could comb through her blog and find faint outlines and gory details of her past behavior.  We could spend our time then telling others why she’s not qualified to speak about God’s grace and love. Why she’s really not the best candidate for Christianity since she’s put it out there for people to know she’s done some simply awful things.


She has a lot in common with the woman at the well.


This scripture we read today has been one that’s been over-scandalized.  It seems like it’s a big deal that the woman has had 5 husbands and scandalthat Jesus said it. Out loud. To her face. In public.  It’s a big deal that she seems to be living with another guy who isn’t, according to Jesus, her husband.  Over the years, preachers and theologians of all stripes have frothed at the mouth over the woman’s past: her infidelities, her current situation.  Many have even said she’s a prostitute. 

At the wellThe picture that is alive and well in my head is of Jesus and this woman, sitting serenely beside the well.  But the feeling I project onto this picture is that the woman is ashamed as Jesus names her reality, sees her for who she is.  Calls her on the carpet.  It’s the ultimate, literal “come to Jesus” moment.


But what if all the shouting is actually about the wrong thing?  What if the frenzy about her supposed shameful sexual behavior is not


what any of this is about?  I think it’s misdirection and slight of hand to get you to focus there.  We do not know the circumstances of her previous husbands. And if Jesus knows, he doesn’t get up and run. He meets her right there and doesn’t leave.  She’s the one to get up and go.


map_locationBut she doesn’t leave until after they’ve talked about worship.  They had a theological conversation, right there, in the middle of the day, at the well. You see, Jews and Samaritans had serious disagreements about plenty of things, but where to worship was a huge one. It might seem sort of sanitized to us now, but it was a big deal. Samaritans had developed their own version of worship, using only the first 5 books of the Bible and rejected all other books of the Old Testament. The Samaritans also built their own Temple for worship on Mt. Gerizim, and stated that their mountain was the dwelling place of the Lord, not the Temple in Jerusalem. These were fightin’ words! 

You should also know that Samaritans were, in Harry Potter-speak, the Mudbloods of the day.  hermioneThey were dirty half-breeds.  Jews who married outside their own.  Oh, and you should also know that for a Jew and a Samaritan to speak, to share water or anything else was not done.  And, especially for a single man to talk to this woman with a terrible reputation.  It too was just not done.



ethiopian-woman-carry-waterBut it’s this woman. It’s not about her past, although Jesus doesn’t dismiss her past.  He looks at her, sees her, and talks with her at length. About who he is.  And this makes this story about her future, about our future.  Because this woman does something after this meeting.  She isn’t commissioned by Jesus. He doesn’t tell her to go and tell. She just does.




Water jarThen the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”


She leaves her water jar. She puts down the very thing she was at the well to fill with the promise it will never have to be filled again and heads back to town and tells everyone, in the form of a statement and a question, about Jesus, saying again and again, “he told me everything I’d ever done.”  She becomes the first evangelist, out-doing Jesus’ own disciples, by telling everyone she meets.  All the townspeople who would avoid her or not trust her or dismiss her.  She tells them!  She starts a whole new life, a whole new reality. Talking to everyone.  It’s like she starts dancing to music she’s never heard before. As if she were saying:  He saw me.  He told me everything I’d done.  Now here I am to tell you – go hear about this love for your own self.

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She has learned how to dance. She has learned a new dance.  Jesus has told her that arguing about proper religious practices, where to worship, is getting her nowhere.  That to worry about past lives and to fight about worship is not the point.  He, Jesus, the Messiah, is the point.  She’ll never be thirsty again.


Isaac, you’re being invited into a dance today. A great, big, messy dance where you’ll get to figure out your own style, your own steps.  And Jesus isn’t the chaperone, standing against the wall, scowling at you, refusing to dance, mad at your for dancing.  No, Jesus is your dance partner, calling you into the fray.  Giving you water, so you’ll never thirst again.  Giving you words to tell others about him – could this be him?

It’s enough to make you put down your judgment, put down your excuses, put down the jar that will never be filled and just dance.


  1. Sara Pollmann says

    I am a little ticked off about missing this sermon. The video was great. I might have to buy her book.