Summary: the importance of buildng bridges over the divides that separate us
Triple AAA Church and Christian.
I want to speak to about being an Accepting Christian!
Bridges and walls are both necessary and both serve very different purposes. Walls divide. Bridges unite!
In 1964, our family lived on Staten Island, NY. It was an exciting time for that borough of New York City. The Verrazzano Narrows bridge was finished, and for the first time, those living on the Island felt like they were a part of the city. The multiple lanes on two wide decks of that world famous bridge turned a 30+ minute ferry ride into a two minute drive.
The new connection brought development (a good thing?) and Staten Island changed, almost overnight. At the same time, I saw the effect of walls. The people who moved into our neighborhood from Brooklyn thought they had moved onto country estates, despite having postage stamp sized lots. Standing on our back porch, one could see a crazy quilt of fences - stockade, picket, split rail - built around tiny backyards, fences that declared- "this is my space!"
Here’s my question to you this morning- are you a bridge-builder or a wall-builder?
Stated another way, I’ll ask- are you forming connections with others, or shutting them out?
I invite you to turn with me to a wonderful story from Jesus’ ministry. He relates a woman in the story with acceptance for her despite her religious difference, her racial difference, and her moral or I should say, immoral choices!
TEXT - John 4: 1- 26 Pew Bible page 1651
This story’s impact is lost without an understanding of the times in which Jesus lived. Here are several factors that bear on the story we will read. (Show map.)
Samaria was a region that was right in the center of Palestine, separating the Judean region and Jerusalem fom the Galilean in the north.
Jews so despised Samaritans that they went out of their way not to travel through that territory. We’ll learn a bit about why in a moment.
Men did not speak in public with women because to do so opened a person up to accusations of immorality. There were distinct boundaries between male and female.
The time of day when this woman was coming out to draw her water is a clue about how even her own community felt about her! Generally a person came to draw water in the cool of the early morning, but she came alone at midday. She came in heat of the day to avoid the stares and the comments that followed her wherever she went because of her promiscuous life.
So, let’s see what Jesus does. READ text
Jesus intentionally went Samaria. I wonder if any of the men who traveled with him objected? Did Peter say, "Jesus, where are we going? Don’t you know that we Jews don’t travel in this region of Samaria?" The Bible is silent about this, but since Jesus was teaching his followers all the time with both His words and actions, I believe his choice to go through Samaria was an intentional one, teaching experience for them and for us.
It was about walls and bridges! Let’s take a look.
He was tearing down a wall of prejudice!
As the result of complex issues in history the Samaritans were not ’pure’ Jews. 5 centuries earlier during the time of the Assyrian invasions, other people had been settled in the area and over time the Jews in the region of Samaria inter-married. So the Jews in Judah looked down on the Samaritans as racially inferior!
The woman at the well was astonished that Jesus would even ask her for a drink. [re-read v. 9]
He also tore down the wall of gender!
Men of Jesus’ time generally treated women with contempt, valuing them only for the work the did, for the children they bore, and as the object of desire. But Jesus speaks to her with respect. Other men this women knew spoke to her rudely, many probably were suggestive. She was an object to most. But to Jesus, she was a person. He asks for a drink, he does not demand one. He engages her in conversation, speaking with her, not down to her!
He tore down a wall of religion!
When she tried to engage him in a debate, he skillfully re-directed the conversation to one that was concerned with knowing God. In so many words, He says to her, "Let’s not argue about religion, let’s talk about your spiritual needs.
He tore down the barrier of SELF!
Take a look at v. 6 (read) Jesus was tired! He could so easily have ignored the woman as she came by the well, pretending to doze, not to notice her, but he didn’t. Or, once she gave him the drink he needed, he might have dismissed her with a wave of his hand. But he gave of his time, not hiding behind a wall of selfish concern!