March 15, 2020: “A Savior, A Woman, A Virus, and A Kingdom”

Sermon for March 15, 2020

Gospel John 4:5-42

“A Savior, A Woman, A Virus, and A Kingdom”

Today I want to continue the theme that I started last week about Team up.

How in Lent Jesus meets…teams up…with very interesting characters.

A pharisee named Nicodemus

A blind man

A dead man named Lazarus

And today a Samaritan.

Its interesting that last week Jesus meets Nicodemus a Pharisee and a Sanhedrin. 

This week, he meets a Samaritan woman. 

Let’s look at the contrast:

Nicodemus, being a Pharisee and Sanhedrin, is in a position of authority.

He’s an insider, someone with power, influence.

And being a man in that society was certainly an asset. 

Now as far as the Samaritan woman…

She is not any of those things.

First, she is a Samaritan.

And Samaritans and Jews did not get along. 

They went out of their way to avoid contact with each other. 

Jews and Samaritans were like a biblical version of the families one would see on the show Game of Thrones.

One family (the Jews) thought they were pure, they considered the other family (the Samaritans) half breeds.

When this story occurs, the hate had brewing for over 400 years.

So how did Jesus end up in Samaria?

Jesus is heading north.

He is leaving Jerusalem (in the south) and heading back to Galilee (in the north).

And the quickest way to get to Galilee was to go through Samaria.

A journey of about three days on foot.

Being Jewish, Jesus should have gone the long way to avoid the Samaritans.

But that would have taken twice as long (almost a whole week).

So why Samaria?

Let me connect something that Jesus said to Nicodemus last week.

“16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The reason Jesus goes to Samaria is to put what he said last week into action.

The Gospel was meant to cross borders.

It meant that a Jewish man would talk to a Samaritan.

And today’s Gospel is so full of great moments that I cannot get to all of them this morning, but what I want us to concentrate on is THE CONVERSATION ITSELF.

THE CONVERSATION itself is Good News!

That Jesus would make contact with a Samaritan would be mind-boggling.

What makes it even more shocking is that the person Jesus talks to is a WOMAN.

Did you know that Jesus, being a Rabbi, was forbidden to greet a woman in public?

For a Rabbi to be seen talking to a woman in public was the end of HIS reputation.

But one thing we know about Jesus is he really doesn’t care about his reputation.

Reputation is not the message of the Gospel.

Love and grace are the messages of the Gospel.

And we get those messages in spades today.

For instance:

We got to meet Nicodemus.

But the woman…we don’t know what her name is. 

All we know about her is what she lacks:

Money, relationships, & social standing.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like our society today?

Many of us are known for WHAT we are more so than WHO we are.

We have LABELS placed on us, and we place LABELS on others.

Sometimes those LABELS can be hurtful.

LABELS can make a person feel unloved, unwelcomed, and hopeless.

And it looks like Jesus is going to LABEL this woman when he reveals to her that he knows her deepest darkest sins.

But the Good News is NOT in the revealing of the secret.

The Good News is NOT in seeing this woman live in a sad, lost, and lonely darkness.

The Good News is NOT that God had abandoned her in her time of darkness.

The Good News is that GOD was right there!

A little did you know:

One of the issues between the Jewish people and the Samaritans was God’s location.

The Jews said God was in Jerusalem at the temple.

The Samaritans believed God was in their own backyard, up on Mt. Gerizim.

That kind of argument still goes on today in our culture, in our world of over 40,000 different denominations.

You ever notice the argument is usually over where one worships, and how one worships, but never WHO one worships?

The Jews and the Samaritans both worshipped God, but hey, let’s not let that get in the way of a good rivalry.

But because there was this debate, imagine how someone who was lost and rejected would feel?

Think about what we are going through at this point of history.

I mean, here I am doing a sermon in an empty sanctuary.

And in the city, I know members who have weak immune systems to stay inside.

Don’t go out. 

And there are people all over the world who are suffering,

Scared.

And they are asking…

“Where is God when I need him?”

I know I’m asking that question myself. 

That is why it is important we hear this story today of all days.

Because What Jesus shares with this woman is something WE can hold on to.

Jesus says, “I AM RIGHT HERE WITH YOU!”

Jesus came to her!

And in coming to her,

In talking to her,

In acknowledging her existence, 

Jesus is giving her a foretaste of what is to come.

He is giving her something for HER thirst.

And it is called Living Water.

This water does not come from a well.

It is Water that not only quenches your thirst but saves your life!

It is one thing to LABEL someone as falling short in the eyes of God.

It is another to OFFER something that person has not had: Hope.

And in that HOPE comes:

Grace. And 

Invitation.

An invitation to be a part of something new.

And this woman goes from being a Samaritan to a Servant.

She becomes a Witness FOR Jesus!

And today in this conversation Jesus invites this woman, this Child of God, who God so loved as to cross enemy territory to reach, a place in the kingdom.

A kingdom that continues to grow.

Even today, during this crazy and scary time.

What does the kingdom look like in the middle of a pandemic?

I think we all are a little thirsty for answers today.

The kingdom looks like this:

Reaching out to you via modern technology so we can have some sense of worship.

I also see it in the people who are here with me this morning to make sure we know what we are doing.

I see the kingdom at work in groups like the New Hanover Disaster Coaltion, almost 80 non-profit groups/faith groups working together to make sure people are fed, cared for, checked on.

I see the kingdom at work in the parents who are figuring out ways to care for their children while at the same time hold down jobs.

I see the kingdom at work at the people who are working at the grocery stores, trying to restock on necessary items, 

Taking time out of their lives, their families so that we have what we need.

I see the kingdom at work in the hospitals where doctors and nurses and volunteers are going non-stop to give the best care they can.

I see government officials trying to coordinate and give out the latest information that will help flatten the curve.

I see police, firefighters, social workers, counselors, military, putting service above self.

I even see the kingdom working in our government as politicians are working together for once on a bill that will help all.

That is what the kingdom looks like in this troubling time.

It is alive and kicking.

So as we begin this very tough and scare time,

Remember

YOU are not alone.

You are loved.

By a God, a Savior who loves you now matter what.

A God who will cross any border to reach you.

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