Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 19; 150, Isaiah 43:14-44:5, Hebrews 6:17-7:10, John 4:27-42
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., said “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Many factors contribute to this phenomenon, including our natural inclination to congregate with people like ourselves. Almost instinctively we apply religiously, political, and cultural labels. Sometimes we intentionally gravitate toward groups that affirm our beliefs, but more often than not we’re happy to stay put where fate planted us. There is nothing necessarily wrong with being part of a group, but problems start when we are too eager to define who is not in the group.
Jesus was notorious for ignoring such boundaries. Like many famous rivalries, the bitter one between Jews and Samaritans was between relatives. Both tribes claimed a common ancestor in Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah. By Jesus’ time they had nothing to do with each other. When Jesus ignored this history of enmity and spoke with a Samaritan woman at a well, they had a frank conversation that left her wondering if he might be the messiah. When she told her story to her people, they invited Jesus to stay with them and he visited for two days. Upon his departure, many followed him because they recognized the truth in his teachings.
Who are our Samaritans? People we refuse to talk to because they are too different from us? People who are similar in almost all ways except the one we can’t bring ourselves to be flexible about? Or people we can just ignore because our lives are structured in such a way that we never encounter them?
If we are to follow Jesus, we have to follow him into both friendly and unfriendly territories. We must do our best to accept people as Christ did: across ethnic divides, up and down the economic ladder, beyond humanly imposed doctrine. We must welcome rivals into our group, and we must be prepared to be welcomed by our enemies. A well is a place that draws together people who have a common need. If we can’t find one, let’s start digging.
Comfort: Christ’s family is not defined by anything or anyone but Christ.
Challenge: Everyone is someone’s “Samaritan.”Be honest with yourself about who yours might be, and whose you might be.
Prayer: God of all creation, teach me to love my neighbors even when we don’t like each other. Amen.
Discussion: Could you be somebody’s Samaritan? If so, whose?
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