The Enlightened One

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Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here on the website where you found this audio file. For the nerds in the know, this is Third Sunday in Lent, and here’s the sermon I preached on March 12, 2023. 

Good morning! I love the reading we have today from John’s Gospel, and you might have noticed that, given how I read it. And since a good portion of it chronicles a private conversation that Jesus has, there’s this thing I like to do. I like to imagine that the narrator of this story, the original storyteller who put together this story about Jesus, was someone very close to him. Not necessarily a disciple, because they all went into town to buy food, but someone else – a brother, a best friend, a wife. Someone who already knew exactly who Jesus was, what Jesus was on about, and quietly kept a straight face during the interaction. (And if such a supposition could be true, and the narrator was written out of the story, then it was probably a woman, because that would have been normal for them.)

And so I imagine Mary, with a twinkle in her eye, desperately trying to keep a straight face when the Samaritan woman points out that Jesus has no bucket. And I imagine Mary, her heart expanding even further, when Jesus doesn’t shame the woman for living with a man she wasn’t married to, especially after the last five tries went south.

And you know, I’m not the only one to add commentary to the telling of stories of Jesus, because the Greek Orthodox Church went so far as to give the Samaritan woman a name. More like a title, really, but one that is used like a name. They call her Photini, the Enlightened One. Because in the Gospel of John, this Samaritan woman (an outsider, if you’ll recall – a Samaritan was someone who was jewish, but who didn’t think the Temple in Jerusalem was all that important or necessary, and so they were hated and reviled by more orthodox and proper Jews who did think the Temple was important. But they were ritually unclean people, and Jesus shouldn’t be touching anything she touches, and shouldn’t be drinking water from her jug, either. But this was clearly of minor importance to Jesus, since he sent his disciples to go get food from the Samaritans, and they ended up staying with them for two days. But I digress…) This Samaritan woman is the first person in the Gospel of John to see that Jesus is the Messiah, and to proclaim it to others. So the Orthodox Church calls her The Enlightened One, and the first evangelist. Photini. She’s a recognized saint in the Orthodox Church. Her saint day is February 23.

Ah, but not all Chrisitans agree on any one thing, and certainly not this. The protestant reformers, generally a group of people I agree with, but they sometimes liked to throw out the baby with the bathwater, they disagree, and so Photini is not a saint in our own church. Rather, reformers like Calvin argued – she wasn’t the first evangelist, people believed just because Jesus was that awesome. And she wasn’t enlightened, she was a whore, and ostracized from her people, or else why would she be getting water at the hottest part of the day, instead of the early morning with the rest of the women?


You know, it all may be true. But I want to look at it like Jesus does; see, but not condemn. Understand, and use that understanding to gently teach and lead into love and forgiveness.

And that is what we can do today, in our own lives. See, but not in order to condemn. Understand, and use that understanding to gently teach and lead into more and more love and more and more forgiveness in our lives. And if anyone follows our example… and if no one follows our example… We are still doing what Jesus has done, and leaving Photini… enlightened ones… in our wake.


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