Summary: If only, if only we could learn from Jesus in today
Sermon for John 4:5-42
Third Sunday in Lent
March 27, 2011
The conflict the Jews had with the Samaritans goes way back, and I mean way back. When the Hebrew people were brought out of the land of Egypt there were originally twelve tribes—twelve lands. But due to reasons of survival these twelve tribes were basically combined into two kingdoms about the time of David in 1000 BCE. They were Israel the northern kingdom and Judah the southern kingdom—where Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem.
These two kingdoms never did see eye to eye. The northern kingdom was conquered by Assyria (current day Syria) in 722 BCE, and the southern kingdom of Jerusalem in 587 BCE by the Babylonias (current day Iraq). However, 70 years later king Cyrus of Persia (current day Saudi Arabia) defeated both the Assyrians and the Babylonias and allowed the Hebrew people to return home and rebuild their temple.
At this time the Hebrews of the south actually become a formal religion—Judaism. They considered themselves the true religion and would not allow these so-called Samaritan’s who had remained behind during the years of captivity to help rebuild the temple. Even though Samaritan actually means “keepers of the law,” these second class citizens had their own holy ground in the north and worshipped the God of Abraham and Jacob as we see in today’s reading.
At the time of Christ the Jews had such animosity for these outcast they would not talk to them and refused to even walk through Samaria. This posed a problem cause if you wished to travel from Judea to Galilee, Samaria was in the middle and so the devout Jews would go out of their way, cross the Jordan River, travel north and then cross back over the Jordan.
Sounds a little ridiculous, huh? But I can remember not too long ago in Hickory NC, there were second class citizens and actually once again two parts of the city, white and black. White school, black school, white restrooms, black restrooms, and on and on. The main streets were even rerouted so one did not have to go through the black section of town.
My father, a Lutheran pastor, doing the work of Christ, began assisting with the civil rights movement. He had a large church in the white neighborhood, some 2000 members, and one Sunday the dean of English at Duke University attended our all white congregation. The following Sunday there stood a sign that read, “No Niggers Allowed.”
Sounds ridiculous, don’t you think? But I can remember not too long ago in Louisville KY, there were second class citizens in the church. The women could do all the grunt work, while the men were the only ones who could make the decisions and proclaim the good news. One particular Sunday a female pastor stood up in the pulpit and began to share with us one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard. Close to half of the congregation walked out.
How ridiculous is that? But I can remember like it was yesterday in parts of Indiana, there were second class citizens still in the church, straight and homosexual. Sure the gays and lesbian were told they are welcome to do the grunt work, but just don’t proclaim the message of Christ’s love. Cause if you do, then we’ll go find another church that doesn’t have Samaritans, homosexuals, women pastors, or people who are different than us.
All these true stories sound so ridiculous its no wonder the Church is falling flat on its face and fighting a losing battle. We proclaim the Words of Jesus as the Christ, but live our lives in total opposition to the message. We walk around the people who need it the most. Think of it this way.
Would you buy a product that promised to grow hair from a man who head was as slick as baby’s butt? Of course not! What a silly question.
Then can we expect the youth of our society, the broken and downtrodden, the searching, anybody different than us to buy into the message of the life changing gospel from a bunch of ridiculous people? Of course not! Again what a silly question.
The sad part of the story is that today most of the people descending from the Samaritan race now subscribe to Islam where they worship the same God and just happened to be accepted by the Muslim people with open arms.
If only, if only we could learn from Jesus in today’s lesson? Jesus the Christ shattered any idea of stereotypes and prejudices. He shatters any notice that who we are, male, female, Jew, Samaritan, black, white, straight, gay makes no difference to a God of Love.
You know Jesus could have easily done what the good Jew would do and go around Samaria, but no! In the first verses of today’s reading it says, “He had to go.” He had to go, because that is what Jesus came for.