Bringing The Unchurched To The Well of Living Water
A long time ago, there was a theologian of the church who wrote this: "Seeking me, You sat down weary; redeeming me, You bore the cross". The reference was to the Gospel account of the Samaritan Woman who encountered Our Lord at Jacob's well. This reading is prescribed by the Church to be read on the Fifth Sunday of Pascha.
Certainly Jesus was tired from his journey. Certainly He was thirsty. But is there still another reason why he sat down by Jacob's well that hot day? There is. Biblical scholars agree that Jesus was waiting for someone special whom he had in mind to meet at the well. He was waiting for someone who needed to be saved. "He was seeking me". You see, the Samaritan woman at the well suddenly becomes each of us! The Lord is constantly seeking us. Don't you think he knows that we need to be saved? He does.
It's obvious the Samaritan woman did not go to Christ. She was only going to the well. Christ went to her! This is an important fact that should remind us we have a duty as Christians – to go out and find the modern, contemporary Samaritans of our own time. Bring them to the well, and let Christ come to them.
Where is that well? Where is the Jacob's well in your life? It's not far at all away! Your parish church is your well! Every Sunday we open the doors of our churches. And how many people are coming? Perhaps many, and we should be grateful for that, but it is not enough! There are, I am sure many empty seats. There are many more who could be coming. Some of them we have churched ourselves; others are unchurched.
Taking our Diocesan Cathedral of Christ the Saviour as an example, a March 9th article in the Johnstown Tribune quoted the city population as 20,000. According to recent surveys, 40% of Americans claim to attend religious services. Using that national average, that means there are 12,000 people in the Johnstown area who are not attending Sunday services at all. These are all people who live lives away from the church. They are people for whom Sunday morning is like Tuesday morning.
Whether you live in Johnstown, Pa or any other city in America, the unchurched need to be convinced by our example that life close to the church is peaceful and beautiful. They need to know that when we leave church on Sunday morning, we leave lifted up – with a blessed spirit, peace and hope that will carry us all week long. These lost souls need to hear that from us!
Who are these people? These people all remain outside our doors. Most of them do not live far away. We don't have to travel miles and miles to search them out. Let's identify them. The people I'm talking about are our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, even our relatives. If they don't attend church services somewhere, they need someone to urge them to come here. Some of them may need to be urged more than once, maybe often. But they all need to be urged and made welcome. And after you have done your part, the priests of your parishes will do their part – they will help them come to Orthodoxy.
The message of this gospel reading is not a complicated one. That's why all of us, from the Sunday School Student to the Ph.d can embrace the message fully and eagerly.
"Seeking me, you sat down weary. Redeeming me, you bore the cross."
Very Rev. Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro
Dean of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Johnstown, PA