Summary: To follow Christ is to take down barriers, not add to them.
By: Rev. Ken Sauer
Pastor, Parkview UMC
Newport News, VA
A colleague of mine was eating with a parishioner in the food court of a mall.
As they were eating and talking my friend’s attention was drawn to two teenagers—a girl and a boy who were seating themselves at a nearby table.
What caught my friend’s attention was the way these two teenagers looked.
The boy was wearing those really droopy drawers…you all know what I’m talking about.
Both kids were dressed in black, they had piercings in their noses, lips, eyebrows, etc….
They were “Goth” kids my friend said.
As he watched them, he began to classify them in his mind…
…put them into certain categories.
Categories which build barriers between people…
…he began to try and imagine what kind of mischief they must be up to…
…he was judging them by their appearance.
Then, to the shock and awe of my colleague, the boy and the girl, joined hands—bowed their heads and gave thanks to God for the food they were about to eat—unabashedly, in the middle of that busy mall food court.
The classification of people is most definitely an indictment against all of us.
Instead of getting to know others, we so often take the ‘easy way out,’ and judge them quickly.
We allow our first impressions to ruin the wonderful opportunity we have to break down the barriers of misunderstanding between persons that cause prejudice, hate, pride, and violence.
In verse 4—right before our Gospel Lesson for this morning we are told that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.”
Jesus could have avoided Samaria.
Many Jews were able to easily avoid that place by crossing the Jordan and traveling on the east side.
But Jesus “had to go through Samaria.”
Could it be that Jesus had to go through Samaria because there was a harvest there?
Could it be that, even in Samaria, a place that was considered to be so ungodly…
…there were people of sacred worth…people who God loves... who were ripe to accept Christ and be transformed?
Could it be that Jesus doesn’t classify people—put people into categories like we so often do?
This person is good, this person is bad, this person is not the right race, this person is not intelligent enough, this person is too intelligent, this person is too sinful, this person is too dirty, this person is too ugly, too poor…whatever it is…
…Jesus doesn’t see people this way and neither should we.
Has the exclusivity of any club, organization, institution, or even certain part of town ever caused you to feel as if you do not measure up?
Well, Jesus broke through these barriers of exclusivity.
He was just as likely to be found speaking with a rich young ruler as he was a leper, an outcaste…
…any person on the fringes of society.
Jesus reached out to all, and made bridges of love and friendship, as He brought the message of God to our world.
Sadly, 2,000 years later, we still haven’t gotten what Jesus was about.
For…some of the very institutions which exist as the self-proclaimed mouthpieces for Christ can be some of the most exclusive parts of society.
When we read the Gospels we find that Jesus was constantly in conflict with the religious authorities of His day.
He associated with the wrong people, broke the Sabbath, challenged the Hebrew Law, and spoke out against the practices of the temple priests, Pharisees, Scribes, and other religious leaders.
And He paid dearly for doing this.
They killed Him.
I was in conversation with a group of colleagues not too long ago, when one person in the group made the statement: “If Jesus were to come to earth in 2005 like He did 2,000 years ago He would be put to death again.”
Then this person poised the question, “But who would it be that would put Him to death?”
My response was, “Probably the leaders of the Christian Church.”
They would not approve of the kinds of people Jesus would accept into God’s Kingdom.
And Jesus would not approve of the way we, so often, shut the doors of the kingdom of God in so many persons’ faces.
Today’s Gospel Lesson is a perfect example of how Jesus transforms conventional wisdom, breaks down barriers, and challenges the status quo of this world.
The Jews of Jesus’ day hated Samaritans.
The Samaritans were the descendents of the ten lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who had been overrun and conquered by the Assyrians 700 years before Christ.
It was unthinkable for a self-respecting Jew to have anything to do with a Samaritan, yet Jesus intentionally journeyed through this region.
Moreover, it was against all accepted practices for a Jewish man to engage a woman in conversation.