When the dust settles
John 4: 27-38
The disciples rejoin Jesus
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?’ 30 They came out of the town and made their way towards him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’
32 But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’
33 Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’
34 ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.’
When the dust settles, you have to eat don't you? The fact is, none of us can keep going without provisions. The disciples were practical guys. They wanted to make sure that Jesus was eating. But his answer confused them. What was this mysterious food he was on about? Jesus must have longed for the woman he'd been speaking to a moment earlier. She got it.
Not only did she get it, she was already out there telling others, racing to the village and back with the news.
The disciples weren't racers. But you know what? - they were there. They were there at the well and they were there at the cross. They were there when Jesus did things they didn't understand - like speak to foreign women, or voluntarily give himself up to death.
They walked with him through it all. They left behind all that they had been in order to become all that they could be; in order to be with the leader they loved. They gave up power over their own futures - even over where their next meal was coming from - in order to follow him. And not just follow him, but care for him, nurture him.
Funny, in this chapter, how it is the woman who speaks boldly and the men who cluck and care.
Maybe our gender isn't as important as our generosity. Maybe when God made us, male and female, from the dust, he breathed into us all the blaze of courage and the warmth of care.
Hamlet was right. We are a 'quintessence of dust'. But dust, in God's hands, can do extraordinary things.
From dust we came and to dust we return.
But there is more to life than that.
There are moments of sweetness and clarity,
of bright, shining boldness,
when we know, we simply know, that we are more than dust,
that each tiny speck of existence has its place in the mind of God.
There are times of simple sharing,
of quiet, caring action,
when we feel, we deeply feel, that we are more than dust,
that we share also in the communion of Christ,
in the family of God,
in the promise of eternity.
From dust we came to dust we return.
But there is more to death than that.
To this quintessence of dust, you add living water.
And then we are not dust,
we are earth, we are soil, we are life.
We are the body of Christ,
the image of God,
in whom we live and are reborn.