In pm's words
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March 20, 2017, 9:29 AM

the one about barriers and conversations


Sermon from March 19, 2017

Text: John 4: 5-42

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, wow. That was a long reading, right? Well, get used to it because the next few weeks are all very long readings. Every three years we get to this point in the lectionary where we hear Jesus speak with an individual in an extended discourse. Last week we got a taste of that as we listened in on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus at night. Today, we listened in on Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well of her village.

Because we are so removed from the climate and culture of the time in which we read of this morning, we lose a little bit of the radical shock and scandal that Jesus has stepped into and lived through. There’s a lot going on in this story from John’s gospel – and I won’t be able to cover all of it here, but there really and truly is a lot going on.

But, the one thing that I did want us to focus in on is the sheer desire of our Lord to cross those boundaries that others are unwilling to venture near. Our Lord breaks so many cultural taboos in our gospel reading this morning. He goes above and beyond what anyone else would do. He goes against the norms of the day in order to speak with, begin relationship with, and to bring God’s presence.

In that desire – through that love for all – Jesus welcomes this woman at the well into the life of faith, and if I’m being honest and a little scandalous here – in John’s gospel she becomes the first apostle. She hears our Lord, she’s compelled to share his message, she invites others to know him as well, and she leads them to that source of new life. That’s the definition of an apostle y’all.

This morning we are confronted with our Lord – our God – who travels boldly over those boundaries and taboos in order to be with all those who yearn and need to hear this word of love and grace. Jesus – a Jew – enters into a Samaritan village.

Then we listen in on Jesus’ conversation about water while sitting at a well. The person he is speaking to is a Samaritan. Samaritans are the ‘culturally bad’ people that good Jewish boys and girls are told to stay away from. Samaritans are outsiders and in a culture that focuses on ritual purity and cleanliness you didn’t mix what was considered ‘bad’ or ‘dirty’ with what was considered ‘good’ in your own culture.

For us there really isn’t a central cultural group that we all have strong feelings against. There are some that would attempt to put or name a group here that there are a lot of tensions with – strong tensions – but, it still wouldn’t encompass that for everybody. But, to drive the point home for each of us; imagine that Jesus approached a person who was from a group you have the most tension with and towards.

I don’t want to put words in your head – so I’m not going to name groups of people – but, think about that group that you would most like to not be seen around. That group that you would steer clear of, you caution everyone you meet to be wary of ‘those people.’ That is a different group for each of us.

Now, you got that group in your head? Good. Know this; Jesus goes to talk to them. Jesus goes to show them love. Jesus steps over your own boundaries and walls that you’ve erected in order to be with them; fully and completely.

Jesus deliberately travels across that boundary through this area of Samaria. In spite of those who cautioned him to steer clear, Jesus does it anyways. He’s not here to maintain status quos.

And not only does he talk to a Samaritan, but he talks to a woman! And not just talk to her but, out in public! In the middle of town where everyone else came to get their water. This isn’t some back-water hole on the outskirts of town. This is the famous well given to them by their ancestor Jacob! This is what their town was built around. Jesus isn’t about having ‘secret’ meetings to talk about faith and proclaim the kingdom.

So, not only does Jesus talk to a Samaritan. Not only is he talking to a woman. Not only is he talking to her in public. But, he is talking to her as an equal! This isn’t supposed to happen. Women, at this time, were unfairly treated and not given the same level of equality as that of men. Jesus comes into conversation with anyone and everyone. He is not interested in limiting the message that is to be proclaimed for all the world – for all people. All are to hear this message – equally. There is no barrier to hear OR proclaim.

Yet, Jesus continues doing unthinkable things. On top of all of these barriers that Jesus is breaking – his conversations centers a bit around sex! Jesus – come on – what are you doing! Jesus is out there in public talking to this woman about the ‘husbands’ she’s had and that the current guy she’s shacked up with isn’t even her husband now. Yet, Jesus talks to her and tells her about who he is and what he brings. Jesus doesn’t shy away from sensitive subjects nor does he appear to limit his message from individuals who live a life different than he’d probably want.

Jesus is there sharing and proclaiming the everlasting water. Jesus is there telling her who he is.

Nowhere else in John’s gospel is Jesus as direct about his own identity than he is here with the woman at the well.

Jesus is ‘I am.’ Jesus steps across the cultural and physical boundaries and divides and offers himself to one on the other side. He gives of himself freely to this woman who is on the outside of the life of faith in which Jesus was raised in and in which he initially proclaimed towards. Jesus comes to speak and share with one who was pushed to the cultural outskirts of her own people.

He speaks with her. He shares with her. He invites her into a deeper relationship. He sends her to bring her ‘husband’ as well.

But, she doesn’t do that. Instead, she goes to tell everyone about who this man is. Not only does she tell them, she invites them to see him, know him, to be with him.

She’s an apostle. She’s an evangelist. She’s one of the first.

All because Jesus was willing to break down those barriers and have a real conversation with someone. Jesus comes to be in a real relationship with this woman. He never dismisses her, despite that people would more than likely consider her dismissible. He doesn’t talk about her previous relationships in a way to talk down to her – but in mentioning it to prove who he is. How else would this stranger who had never met her know these things?

In our own conversations with those who are ‘different,’ with those who live a life a little (or even vastly) different from our own. We tend to talk ‘down’ to those who we don’t agree with totally. We tend to speak negatively. Where our conversations aren’t truly ‘loving’ or ‘full of care’ because we don’t agree with how that other person has lived. And then if we even attempt to have the conversation about faith – its ended before its even begun. Those conversations don’t center around the gift of life that comes from Jesus – no matter who you are – but, instead devolve into something that sounds like, “If you had this that I offer – you wouldn’t be the way you are now.”

Jesus doesn’t talk to this woman that way and I don’t think we’re called to that either. Like Jesus – we can have conversations with all around us about faith and life where we share and grow with one another. Because we get to share this wonderful message of a Savior who comes to be in relationship with us. A relationship of love and care. A God who isn’t afraid to acknowledge the sin – but doesn’t use it as a club over our heads.

Instead – Jesus states the elephant in the room – and says – Listen, I know about this. I’m still here. I still want to be with you. I still want to share with you. I still want you to be with me because my love is more than that. It always will be. No matter what. On top of all that – Jesus wants her to share the message he brings. This woman at the well is sent to proclaim God’s word.

Jesus is there calling us to be in relationship with folks – to be in conversations – to proclaim this message of love, acceptance, and grace. Within those conversations there will be times of awkwardness – but, we are called to proclaim.

We get to share this wonderful message of Christ to the entire world. There’s little that can or should keep us from sharing the message, nor is there anything that keeps people from receiving this message – this grace – this love of God. That’s awesome.

Jesus shares this message and invites us into this conversation of love even with those on the outskirts. Even with those whom we disagree with. So, if Jesus is willing talk to those whom we call ‘them,’ surely Jesus is willing to talk, invite, share with, and love us.

Jesus is at work – in us, through us, for us. Jesus is out having the conversations – we get to be a part of that. I love it. Amen.

 

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