“Tell of it, you who ride on tawny asses,
you who sit on rich carpets,
and you who walk by the way.
“To the sound of musicians at the watering places,
there they repeat the triumphs of Yahweh,
the triumphs of his peasantry in Israel.” – Judges 5:10-11
Walter Brueggemann comments on the verses above:
“These verses are in the old Song of Deborah, thus a model of Israel’s earliest self-awareness as being linked to this odd God. They invite a conversation of saturation that continues while riding, sitting, and walking – that is, all the time. There is to be much talking and telling and bearing witness. The talk is to happen at the watering places, at the oases, at the village wells, while the community does its most mundane, daily routines, where the women gather to gossip, to sing while the buskers play and entertain and enjoy.
“In that context, Israel is to talk endlessly about Yahweh, about Yahweh’s victories, about Yahweh’s acts of making things right, about Yahweh’s solidarity with the peasants who, without Yahweh, are hopeless and helpless. Israel is to repeat these exhibits of Yahweh..
“… the subject was ‘the triumphs of Yahweh..’ except those deeds are also ‘the triumphs of his peasantry.’ Thus the singing and telling is about the acts of courage whereby Yahweh’s people have run risks for an alternative life in the world… This is not a courtroom, but it is nonetheless a context in which competing versions of reality are in play against each other. And those who speak while they ride and sit and walk are advocates for a particular, peculiar Yahweh-world.” Cadences of Home, 50
* * *
“He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was
from the journey, sat down by the well.
It was about noon.” John 4
In this encounter we are going to see new triumphs at the watering places, the real-life dusty road places where ordinary people congregate and tell their stories. We will hear a new song from this tired Singer, and we will hear a response of deep hunger from the hopeful daughter of Israel. And then she in turn will sing a new song and become part of the story of God’s mighty acts in Israel. What a beautiful interweaving of threads in the garment of salvation!
And the political reality, in the face of the liturgical and cultic life of Israel, is also stunning. There are two dangerous dreams here.
First, Jesus asks the woman to imagine an alternate world where access to hope and to God’s future are not determined by location or ethnicity.
Second, Jesus asks the woman! He shapes new imagination not merely by picturing an alternate reality, but by inviting her into the drama – the new story that he is authoring moment by moment in this god-forsaken place by an ancient watering hole.
He asks the woman! A Jewish teacher contradicts the rabbis and crosses a religious and cultural boundary, thereby affirming for all time that this new Song is not about religion at all – but about something much Larger that God is doing in the world. He challenges the narrow frame of cultic life in a remote corner of Palestine and replaces it with the Big Story – the coming of God’s just kingdom where there is no slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female….