The meeting of the Samaritan Woman at the well is one of those stories that I think our “High View” of the bible often gets in the way of deeply understanding. I think it is pretty clear that verses 1-15 have a lot of playful irony in them. And that irony is the set up for an encounter with The Truth. The role of a prophet is to tell the truth. And this woman at the well didn’t just meet any old prophet. She met The Truth. In the midst of plague, one that is asking we step out of tick-tock time, we are having ourselves an ironic meeting with the truth. This sermon holds up the woman’s answers and asks what ours our. It also holds out not just the The Truth, but The Way.
Of the images or metaphors of what Jesus has done for us I think husband or marriage is one the most different and compelling. And while it hovers over the entire biblical story, there just aren’t that many text that are most directly seen as a proclamation of the Bride and Bridegroom. In my reading this text is a biblical Romantic Comedy, and as such it is about the Bride and Bridegroom.
The structure used is something I’ve been playing around with occasionally, a limited use of the church father’s 4 level allegory. In my playing with this outline what I’ve found is that the literal level allows you establish the text and any connections to the modern day. In this case the text follows all of the Romantic Comedy beats. Knowing that it is such a genre, opens the door to the Typological level. Jesus is not just anyone but the bridegroom and the Samaritan woman is not just any woman but the type of the bride, the church. Following from the fourth beat of the Rom-Com script we find out what the protagonist (Jesus) wants to accomplish. In this case for the bride to know the gift of God and to know who offers it. That is the basis of the moral level, coming to know the Spirit and Word and Sacrament as the gifts of God or the living water, and knowing Jesus who offers them. The last level is the eschatological. In this case the end-times image is of the wedding feast of the bride and the lamb brought to its fulfillment in the New Jerusalem. At that time we won’t be arguing about the where’s and why’s of worship, because there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, because the bride and the bridegroom are together.
John has typically defeated me as a preacher. He’s too thick or maybe I should say not linear. This outline has helped me present texts from John. The other thing I’d add is that while allegory has a bad name because of some of the extreme uses of it, I don’t think it is wholly deserved. Most preacher’s outlines are just a collapsing of the four levels to usually two. Text-Application, often call puritan plain style or even just Wesley’s outline, is literal and moral levels typically. Hence it can often come across as all law or Jesus as our great example that we should follow. Law-Gospel usually ends up being literal and typological. You always get Christ, but also the problem with much of Lutheran preaching never actually having a moral point. True pentecostal preaching is usually literal and eschatological which gives it that on fire or otherworldly nature. If you respect the limits that you can’t say anything in the three upper levels not clearly established in the literal then I’ve found it to be a robust outline.
I’d invite you to take a look and give me any comments.