Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org


Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 23:

Call:    Romans 5: 1-11
Text:    John 4: 5-42
Prayer:  W&S # 20
Psalm:   Psalm 95 (814)


This morning, you can sit back and relax.
   For I have a story for you.

My story is - not surprisingly - about Jesus The Christ
   About an incident in his life
   About one of the many times in his earthly life
      That teaches us what he expected of himself
         And what he expects of us.

But if we are going to understand the story
And if the story is going to have an impact on us
   Rather than simply producing nods of agreement
   We have to grasp the relationship between
the Jews of Christ's day   and
the Samaritans

To do so, we need lessons in history and geography.

Now those are subjects that I like.
And yet I know some of you may instead have a passion for
   Subjects like:
   Math, Physics, or Elizabethan Literature

And so for you whose passions are in areas other than history and geography
I ask you to bear with me
I think it will be worth your time.

The geography lesson is quite short:
   It is about the location of three areas:
      Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.

These three were stacked on top of each other
   With Galilee being the northernmost
   Judea being the southernmost
   And Samaria, of course being located directly in between.

Jesus' ministry began in Galilee
And Jerusalem was in Judea

Thus unless he wanted to take a circuitous route
   To get from Galilee to Judea
   Or from Judea to Galilee
      He had to pass through Samaria

Simple, isn't it?

Now      on to history.

The Jews of Jesus' day looked down on Samaritans
   We know this because every preacher I know
Has told us that that fact when discussing the Good Samaritan

This widely held view of the Samaritans
is what made that parable
   Such a powerful lesson to Christ's Jewish listeners

That attitude began long before Jesus

In fact it began after Solomon's deathin 922 BC
when the unified Israel came apart
   dividing North and South.

Jerusalem   remained the capital of the Southern kingdom
Samaria  became the capital of the Northern Kingdom

In addition to the anger over the split,
Jerusalem looked down on Samaria for two main reasons:

Number One,
when they split, the Samaritans installed Jeroboam as king

Jeroboam was not a descendent of David

And the understanding in Jerusalem was
that God had promised that descendents of David
would rule forever.

Thus the Jews in Jerusalem
   Saw the Samaritans as an illegitimate nation of infidels
They saw them as unclean and ungodly

Number Two:
Two centuries later, Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians
         while Jerusalem remained independent
albeit paying tribute to their neighbor's conquerors

Those in Jerusalem saw the Assyrian conquest of Samaria
As an act of God punishing the Samaritans
   For not having a Davidic king
From that, it was "obvious" to them
that God still loved Jerusalem
but that God did not love Samaria.

And this vindicated and strengthened their view of the Samaritans
   As unclean and ungodly

Thus despite their common roots,
The Jews in Jerusalem despised the "infidel" Samaritans
And thought of them being ungodly

In fact, so much did the Jews despise the Samaritans
that in 520 BC
200 years after Samaria had been conquered
   400 years after the original split
and   70 years after Jerusalem itself had been conquered

when those exiled from Jerusalem as a result of that conquest  returned from Babylon
they rejected the offer of their northern neighbors to help rebuild the temple, saying in essence,
   "We don't want to share our temple with you ungodly people"

This is the background for our story
Which begins with Jesus returning to Galilee from Jerusalem
   And thus, as we have learned, he had to pass through Samaria

Now:     the story
         It is from John's gospel   [John 4: 5-42]

You and I recognize this story,
   Some of us have heard it dozens of times.

We like the story, but I fear thatit won't grab us or move us
   Until we read it
   By putting ourselves into the cultural milieu of first century Palestine

We do so first    as the woman at the well.

A thirsty Jesus asks us for a drink

This stuns us. This amazes us.      This astonishes us

A Jew    had talked with us
   It was as if he thinks of us as real persons
      Not as some inferior life forms

Our astonishment causes us to ask him
"How is it that you  a Jew
asks a drink of me      a woman of Samaria?
[at which point in the scripture, John explains,
   ("Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans")

Knowing that Jews
did not talk with
and   certainly did not drink with     Samaritans
we find it hard to believe that this Jewish stranger has asked us    - "ungodly" Samaritans as we are -
for a drink.

Now, let's switch our role in the story

You and I are no longer the woman at the well
Instead, we are Christ's own disciples returning with food,
   And we see our teacher
      Amazingly, astonishingly, unaccountably
      Talking with, of all things:  a woman!

We don't not even get to the issue of the fact that the woman was a Samaritan
   We are shocked that Jesus is talking to any woman
   For rabbis (in that place and time)
      Were not supposed to talk to a woman in public.

With our eyes wide open, we think to ourselves,
"What a hullabaloo would take place
   If the scribes, Pharisees, and Chief Priest were with us!"

And as our stay at the well continues, we disciples are witnesses to something we never, never, never expected to observe
   This ungodly creature (this ungodly female creature!!)
      Engages in a real conversation with Jesus
      Then goes back and gets friends and acquaintances
         All of whom are of course, Samaritans
         (and therefore, additional ungodly people).

And those friends, like the woman, believe.

They recognize that Jesus is the messiah.
   They ask him to stay with them
   And we spend another two days
      By       that well
      With     those people.

We would be further stunned if we had known at the time
   That Jesus would eventually commission us to
      Go out not only in Jerusalem and Judea
      But also to Samaria and to the ends of the earth
           To do exactly what this "ungodly" creature has done
            Be witnesses and make disciples for Jesus.

We don't know what to make of it.
But we are humbled by it.

After what we have observed
   How can we ever again,
think of this woman or her fellow Samaritans    as ungodly
For we have seen Jesus interact with her
And we have seen God's love working through her
   And then passing to those whom she brought to him.

The woman at the well never met Paul
   But after her experience with Christ
she would have understood his words to the Romans

   "For while we were still weak ... Christ died for the ungodly."

I think that the disciples who observed that experience
   Would likewise have understood Paul's words

But the question for us this morning is,     "Do we?"
   Do we understand them?
   Do we appreciate them?
   Can we relate to them?
Or Do we simply take them for granted?

Lent is a good time to ask ourselves those questions.