In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.
Christ is risen!
How should we interact with those outside the Church? Are they scary and to be avoided at all costs? Or are they unimportant and rightly ignored? Perhaps they are potential converts to whom we must “sell” Orthodoxy? Or even they may come from other Christian traditions and we need to explain the errors of their ways? Perhaps they should only be spoken to in riddles and mystical phrases? How should we interact with those outside the Church?
The Lord, in today’s Gospel reading, shows us the way. The woman—Church tradition identifies her as St Photini—was a Samaritan, outside the Jewish faith. And much like our modern Britain, those of differing faiths often kept to themselves to avoid disputes and arguments. Christ meets her and engages with her; he does not start with condemnation—even though he is God—and nor should we.
He meets her and listens to her: he is not waiting for her to pause and then give his “marketing ploy” but is truly listening to her. He loves her: not as a potential convert to his movement, an extra follower, but loves her because he sees within her a person made in his image. He cares for her and offers her Truth—offers her himself—but in a language and manner which she can receive.
My dear brothers and sisters, we must do the same. We offer Christ freely but in a language in which our society can understand. And they are free to accept or reject. There was no compulsion in the words the Lord spoke to St Photini, she could have walked away, but through his love for her she and her city were brought into faith in Christ and they knew that “this is indeed Christ the Saviour of the world.”
Christ is risen!
To our incarnate Lord, Jesus Christ, be all honour and majesty and might, together with his Father and All-Holy Spirit, Amen.