Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” – John 4:27-29
In past years many churches – Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox – would not permit weddings during the Lenten season. Some continue that restriction. The reasoning is obvious. Lent is the season of contrition and repentance and the rejoicing involved with marriage is in contrast to this.
In our current day, a few parishes and congregations maintain the total ban but generally the rule has been relaxed and the ban may apply only to Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
While I completely understand the traditionalist position banning weddings during Lent, I think there is great argument to be made for the exact opposite position. Perhaps Lent is the most appropriate time for a wedding!
After all, the traditional vows contain the admonition, “Matrimony is an honorable estate, instituted by God, and is therefore not to be entered into unadvisedly but reverently, discreetly, and with the fear of God.” This is serious language.
The happy loving couple might not want to hear that a prerequisite of a healthy marriage is reverent introspection and a heart that trembles in the presence of the Holy and Perfect One. In the marriage ceremony currently found in the United Methodist hymnal, the ring vow is “With all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.” During premarital counseling I ask couples to consider the great import of this statement. They are each offering (and asking) the other to receive all that they are. This means not simply noble sentiments and endearing traits. All means all – and includes petty resentment, short temper, impetuous comment, and sullen affect. There can be no pretending. Think of it as the warts and all clause.
Return now to the Gospel of John. At first glance the Woman at the Well’s invitation seems like a poor evangelism strategy. Do we really want to be in the presence of someone who knows “all that I ever did”?
A more thorough look, however, reveals that not only does Jesus know all that we are, say, and do but he still loves us and desires to be in relationship with us.
We engage in introspection and self-examination during Lent not so we can be disconsolate but so we can be forgiven. We admit our wrongdoing and wrong thinking not to reinforce self-loathing but to celebrate the Lord who loves us, warts and all. We marvel that God is able to use even our frailty and weakness to achieve great things. We offer therefore all that we have and all that we are and trust that God’s redeeming love is greater than our shortcomings and sin.
The woman went to the well to draw water yet so overcome with the joy of salvation, she forgot all about her water jug! She ran with the news that others might come and experience Jesus also.
Her invitation is timeless, echoing across the ages: Come! See! It is the Christ!
– Bruce Stanley