Summary: Following Jesus means going places we might normally not go.
John 4:4-30, 39-42
I am in my 8th year of being Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church.
That means you all have put up with me for nearly 8 years!!!
I’d say, that’s amazing, and thank you.
In all seriousness, there are real positive things about serving an active church in the same community for nearly a decade.
For one thing, we have gotten to know one another very well.
I trust you.
I know you.
I think you trust me.
You can’t help but know what makes me tick by now.
We love each other.
And, how couldn’t we?
We have been and still are involved in front line ministry together—ministry to the homeless, the least, the lost.
It’s amazing stuff.
Another cool thing about pastoring the same church for so long is that you really get to know the community.
For instance, so often, when I see some folks walking on an overpass or holding up signs by the road which say: “Will work for food,” I recognize them as someone who has been ministered to by this church.
I sometimes know them by name.
I know some of the things they are going through in life.
I know a bit of their story.
Perhaps they used to receive meals from us when they lived at the Superior Creek Lodge.
Maybe they still receive meals from us every Monday evening.
They might come to our small food pantry on a fairly regular basis, or we have put them up in a hotel room or have helped them in some other ways.
And they know us as well.
That doesn’t mean that they necessarily come and worship with us—but wouldn’t it be great—but they know this is a church that accepts them for who they are.
They know we are here when they need us.
They know we love them.
This is a place that Jesus does ministry out of, because…because…Jesus is doing ministry through you!!!
I hope people know…
…it is my prayer that this community will know more and more and more that they are not here for us, but we are here for them!!!
You folks prove over and over again that everyone is welcome in this congregation—and everyone is more than welcome to become as involved in the ministries of this church as they would like…
…and whoever becomes involved will be loved, treated with dignity—they will fit right in.
That’s what ministry in Christ’s Church is supposed to look like.
This church has to be involved in its community.
We have to reach out.
You know why?
Because that’s what Jesus does.
And we are following Jesus.
As we follow Jesus in John Chapter 4 this morning we come face to face with a person in great need.
And Jesus reaches out to this person.
Jesus offers this person new life.
Jesus calls this person.
And His call changes not only her life, but the lives of nearly everyone in her town.
But you know that by the cultural standards of His day—Jesus shouldn’t even have been at Jacob’s well in Samaria on that hot day.
Of course, our Gospel Reading begins with this: “Jesus had to go through Samaria…”
And that is only because Jesus is God.
God is Love.
And God goes where there are people who need Him.
Most Jews went “around Samaria”—they didn’t go through it.
Samaria was a dangerous place.
Jews were hated there.
Samaritans were apt to mug them, attack them or worse if they walked into their territory and along their streets.
And Jews didn’t like Samaritans either.
The two races hated each other.
So, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Jesus “had to go through Samaria.”
Is there any place you have to go through even though you could more easily avoid it, go around it or completely ignore it?
Close to 20 years ago when HIV and AIDS were much more taboo than they are today, I felt God calling me to get to know the people living in an old hotel in Macon, Georgia which had been renamed “The Rainbow Center.”
It was a place for homeless people living with HIV and AIDS.
The majority of the folks had been prostitutes.
Some of them were people who had been disowned by their families due to their lifestyles.
I remember one man, he was mentally challenged, always had a great big smile on his face.
He had contracted HIV from being raped.
I started my relationship with this community by going and eating lunch at the Rainbow Center every Friday afternoon.
Before long, some of the members of the church where I was associate pastor started to come with me.
One guy started driving the church van down to the Rainbow Center every Sunday and bringing a van full of folks to this Upper Middle Class church every Sunday.