It’s in the edit…
John 4: 20-29 (NRSVA)
20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ 21 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ 25 The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ 26 Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28 Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’
Yesterday I compared the first part of the encounter with ‘the woman at the well’ to a ‘meet cute’ in a romcom — where two witty people spark off each other in seemingly mundane circumstances. Today I’m going to switch genre and turn to the offbeat arthouse indie flick.
One of the striking things about watching films made outside the big studio system is that they often expect you to do some of the work. Because blockbusters have to appeal to — and hold on to the attention of — a wide audience they are often edited in a breathless way. They cut from shot to shot rapidly with accompanying quick-fire dialogue which explains all the action.
This contrasts with the often more measured editing of an arthouse film which tends to leave room for pauses, gaps and ambiguity. Indie directors are sometimes willing to risk boring their audience (even to a self-indulgent extent…) in order to take their time to tell their story their way — perhaps inviting the viewer to come to their own conclusions. They will deliberately leave gaps: ‘How did that phone call go?’, ‘Where did she go next?’, ‘Did he escape?’ They engage our imaginations and encourage us to be part of the storytelling process, looking for clues.
The Bible, with its mass appeal, is undoubtedly a blockbuster but the often startlingly post-modern approaches of these pre-modern texts leave room for the subtlety of the offbeat indie film as well as the mass-market crowdpleaser.
The Bible is never one thing.
The jump cut between verses 26 and 27 leaves us guessing. We find out that the woman goes back to the town to tell others about the man claiming to be the Messiah. But do we really think that she didn’t say anything else to Jesus? We are not told how she reacts in the first instance but tellingly we are told that the disciples don’t even bother to address her or ask Jesus why he is talking to her. The men return and she is sidelined from her own story. Is this just the sexism of the time or a sly knowing joke highlighting the ignorance of the disciples? What do you think happened? Did she raise her eyebrows? Did she have a witty comeback? The style of editing invites questions. The Bible is often rich on story and light on details — inviting each generation to come to it anew…
Editor above all editors,
we thank you
rearrange the scene
take the wide angle
switch to the close up
showing us evermore…
Lent Legacy 2021 Action
The Transforming Drink: Make time every day this week to thank God for a drink, whether a blessed cuppa, a cool water or a glass or two in celebration. Think about how Jesus lived a human life and regularly had to drink just like us. Give thanks for the drinks you have.