Seeking Deep Christian Spirituality ~ John 4
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” 21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know so little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah will come ? the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”
The ancients believed that worship was location specific. Even today, many people of various faiths make pilgrimage to one location or another that they hold sacred. This not the common experience of, “I love to go to St. Peter’s because its such a holy place and I feel closer to God there.” (or to the mountains, or ocean, or wherever.) The idea is not that you can go to various places to feel closer to God, but that you MUST. And conversely, that you can not truly worship God unless you are there. It is drawn from the notion that the gods actually dwelt in this or that location (typically a mountain top). So the point of the woman’s question was, “What’s the deal? Which, if either of us, is right?” Perhaps she even sees the problem with claiming that this or that place is the RIGHT place. She knows that Jesus is a prophet, so maybe he has some insights into this situation.
The disciples, later, are surprised that Jesus has spoken at all to this woman. Little do they know that Jesus engaged her in a sophisticated theological discussion – which men of her own community would not even have done.
Things are changing, radically! Worship will be freed from location – God will be liberated from our ideas, and we will be liberated with him. In the conversation itself Jesus demonstrates this liberation – old barriers will be broken down. Fences that once kept people away from God will be transformed into bridges that welcome and shelters that protect.