The title caught your attention, didn't it? It would have caught mine. Let's not kid ourselves. We LOVE a scandal.
I was watching the Kardashians last night (judge me, I don't care), and it was interesting to watch the inside version of the Kris/Bruce Jenner split. In the tabloids it was all crazy. Step siblings slamming step siblings, etc etc. Behind the scenes (giving them the benefit of the doubt in terms of reality TV), all sides of the family were sitting at one table trying to figure out how to navigate the waters so that the youngest sisters didn't get hurt by it all. We, the entertainment-consuming public, much prefer a dramatic scandal over real-life families working through their stuff as best they can. (Don't worry. My glasses aren't too rose-colored.)
Over at the Working Preacher Narrative Lectionary commentary for this week David Lose lifted up the idea that maybe we preachers have been over-scandalizing the story of Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) for a long time. It's a good read, and you should check it out.
What if it really isn't that big of a scandal? What if she isn't a prostitute? What if she isn't "living in sin"? What if all of the other women in town really don't care if they're with her at the well and really don't look down their noses at her? What if there are perfectly good, non-scandalous reasons for all these things we have turned into a soap opera so that there's this great story of Jesus rescuing this dark woman from her shady past? Because if that's all the story is, than for many of us in middle of the road America it's a pretty distant story. It doesn't really speak to us, as we perceive ourselves, not all that sinful, fairly righteous (not saying it's true, just saying we think of ourselves this way). It's a good story about how Jesus fixes the really bad people, but we are not the really bad people.
But what if this story isn't about the scandal of a cast-aside prostitute, and instead is about someone having a personal encounter with Jesus? For many in our culture that would actually be scandal enough. She doesn't just sit there politely and smile and nod. She stops what she's doing that productive. SCANDAL! She listens AND talks back. SCANDAL! She challenges Jesus and questions what he says. SCANDAL! She engages him, explores what he says, and ultimately decided to believe him and tell others about him. HUGE SCANDAL!
From several different angles, these days what she does is ultimately scandalous even for many in our culture. The right-wing conservative Christian part of our society might be scandalized by questioning Jesus, challenging him in general, but add in her gender and there's another whole layer to it all. Questioning God? Thinking about things deeper than they appear on the surface? Challenging the divine. That's scandal. On the other side of the spectrum, totally secular, ultra-liberal audience might find scandal in the faith she eventually professes - - faith that changes her life. Who would believe and trust and follow anything other than herself?
I love the way John lifts up, encourages and blesses even, a faith that explores and grows, a faith that isn't blind, but sees in the sense of seeking and searching until God is revealed. It's a blessed scandal.
photo credit: NapInterrupted via photopin cc