Encounter offers opportunity for unity amidst diversity

Edmonton Christians opened the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a service at Braemar Baptist Church Jan. 18.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Edmonton Christians opened the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a service at Braemar Baptist Church Jan. 18.

January 26, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well invites us to try water from a different well and also to offer a little water of our own.

That's the idea behind the biblical verse "Give me a drink," which is the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Jesus said those words to a Samaritan woman as he sat at a well owned by Samaritans, a tribe despised by the Jews of the time.

Bishops, leaders and lay people of many different Christian churches and organizations took part in the opening service of the Week of Prayer at Braemar Baptist Church Jan. 18.

The themes of John's Gospel and Brazilian Christianity feature prominently in the celebration as the focus of this year's Week of Prayer is Brazil.

After leaving Judea, and while on route to Galilee early in his ministry, Jesus came to a Samaritan city. "Jacob's well was there and Jesus, tired by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon and a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give me a drink.'"

"If we were to pick one story that shows us the most about who Jesus is, it would be his encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well," said the Rev. Kevin Kraglund, president of the Edmonton and District Council of Churches, the association behind the local celebration.

"This is a story with its own bucket ready for filling. She is a Samaritan. He is a Jew. She is a woman. He is a man. It's a highly public place. Jesus, as usual, is inviting trouble with his typical unconventional attitude and behaviour. He shouldn't be speaking to a woman in the first place, let alone a member of a tribe of Israel long despised by the Jewish people."

Kraglund says it is hard to tell what is happening in this conversation between Jesus and the woman, "with every word giving you the feeling that it might mean something more than it seems.

"When the conversation starts they are perfect strangers," he points out. "When it ends, the woman is so excited that she wants everyone to know about the man she's just met. Now if this isn't a picture of unity, I don't know what is."

At the heart of Jesus' request to the Samaritan woman – give me a drink – is the recognition that that they each needed something from each other, Kraglund said.

"Give me a drink compels us to change our attitude, to commit ourselves to seek unity in the midst of our diversity."

Brazilian native Filipe Drumond, an evangelist with Edmonton's Last Harvest Evangelistic Association, spoke briefly about Brazil's culture, religion and economy.

MESSAGE OF HOPE

The Lord's words to the Samaritan woman provide a wonderful message, he said. "It's a message of hope, and I believe it is a message for our time."

Filipe Drumond

Filipe Drumond

There is much hopelessness in Brazil nowadays, according to Drumond, 30. There is endemic poverty and inequality. There is a class system that leaves the poor and racial minorities at the bottom. There is child labour. Even soccer doesn't offer much hope these days. Politicians from every sphere try to come up with solutions.

Drumond said the only solution for Brazil's hopelessness is Jesus Christ. "The solution can only be found in the cross."

A place of hopelessness is the place where the Samaritan woman lived. "She did not have hope. From the Jews she was ostracized. They had no desire to have any business with a Samaritan."

LIFE-CHANGING ENCOUNTER

But Jesus offered her hope and she wanted to receive this water that brought life, this water that brought hope, Drumond said. "By having this encounter with Jesus Christ, her life was changed."

That's what Brazil and most of the world needs, "an encounter with Jesus Christ."

Drumond encouraged his audience to look at the conditions of the world with compassion, and said Christians must embrace ethnic minorities "because the Gospel is not limited to skin colour or nationality."

"We must go into the entire world with compassion, delivering this good news of Jesus Christ," he said.

"I believe if we want to reach Samaritans all over around us, as we are Samaritans ourselves in need of this water, we will have to come together as we have come (tonight) and, if necessary, even bury some of our theological differences."