Alrighty blog readers, I have a special treat for you. Below is a guest post from Eric Young, the Assistant Dean in the Georgetown University MBA Career Center and also a member of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. Eric paid us a visit at STSA on Sunday, April 23 and below is his reflection after that visit. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Last Sunday, at the invitation of a Georgetown MBA student and in solidarity with Christians in Egypt after suicide bombers attacked churches there on Palm Sunday, I worshipped at St. Timothy & St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church in Arlington, Virginia. I was surprised that this congregation, founded in 2012 in the tradition of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, has a relatively young and exceedingly spirited pastor.
Fr. Anthony Messeh seeks to bring an ancient faith – dating to Mark the Evangelist who introduced Christianity to present day Egypt around 42 AD – to the modern world. More importantly, Fr. Anthony wants his flock to “see that God is real, relevant and rewarding,” such that we allow God to lead our lives.
After a traditional service with an elaborate Liturgy led by robed clergy amidst candles, icons and incense, I stayed for a more contemporary service they call “The Well”, referencing the place and story we know quite well. A Samaritan woman who has had five husbands is drawing water at a well in the heat of the day when Jesus – a Jewish man who by custom would not speak to a woman, no less one part of a traditionally despised group – asks her for a drink.
He continues, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” (John 4:13-14). The woman is even more startled that Jesus knows everything about her. Jesus reveals he is the Messiah, and the woman believes. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39).
That was the last I had ever heard of the woman at the well until Fr. Anthony shared the rest of the story.
According to the tradition of the Orthodox Church, she became a follower of Christ and was baptized, receiving the name Photine, meaning “light” or “enlightened one.” Photine “converted her five sisters and her two sons who became tireless evangelists for Christ. After Apostles Paul and Peter were martyred, Photine and her family left Samaria for Carthage to proclaim the Gospel of Christ there.”
Her profession of faith and commitment to Jesus were fierce; even under torture, she refused to renounce her Savior. In 66 AD, under the persecution of Emperor Nero, she was ordered thrown down a well “where she surrendered her soul to God” – just as she had surrendered her life when she first met Jesus.
To this woman who became a saint, “the well was an ordinary place that took on extraordinary meaning and significance through the encounter she had there with a man called Jesus. She showed up at the well one way, but left completely different – completely transformed.”
Jesus knows you and wants to surprise you with the love and life you’ve always thirsted for. Watch for his gifts of grace, forgiveness and living water that will make you a believer, perhaps a martyr, and one day a saint.