How Can We Come Together? Jesus Christ Has an Answer

by Mark Kurowski | MySpiritualAdvisor2017

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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   3/19/2017  The 3rd   Sunday of Lent.

Please pause this audio and read John 4:5-42.

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father….the hour is coming, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

We can worship in a house. We can worship in a church. We can worship in the park. We can worship in the woods, near a stream, in a board room, in a campground, a parking lot, or wherever. We can worship, complete with the Eucharist, our entire lives, never go to a particular place, and we will be complete. We don’t have to go to the Ganges, to Rumi, to Mecca, or to Jerusalem.

Yes, we don’t have to go to Jerusalem. If ISIS were to overtake the Holy Land, destroy all the shrines like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Church of the Nativity, Church of the Holy Cross, etc. you name it and it would not impact Christianity, really. Oh, sure, we would be scandalized, hurt, but it would never stop us from worshiping in Spirit and Truth.

The discussion today at Sychar, near Mt. Gerizim, between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, scratches at the scab of regional and religious divisions. Jesus is about to set us free from all of that. There are major divisions in every religion. Taoists have 2, Confucianism, 4; Buddhism, 3; Hinduism, 4; Islam, 2; Christianity, 3; and here we see at the time of Jesus Judaism had 2: the Jerusalem Jews and the Samaritans.

It was on this mountain where Jesus encounters this Samaritan woman that the Samaritans set up a rival temple to Jerusalem on Mt. Gerizim. When the Israelites were sent into exile in 722 B.C., the Jews say that Sennacherib, the king of Babylon sent colonists to settle at Gerizim where paganism and Judaism were mixed on this mountain. The Samaritans say that it was the remnant of the Jews who were not taken by Sennacherib who set up a temple when Jerusalem was under control of the Babylonians.  Whatever the truth was, they hated each other for it. The Jews called the Samaritans unclean and pretenders and the Samaritans scoffed at the so called superiority of the Jerusalem Jews.

The Samaritans had some geography on their side. The place where they were standing was the well of Jacob, one of the patriarchs of Israel. He purchased the land, settled there, and built this well from which Jesus asks the Samaritan woman to get him a drink. Like last week’s passage, there are lots of similarities to other Old Testament passages here. Mostly, it is similar to when Elijah asked the widow to get him a drink and when Isaac asked Rebecca to draw water for him. Both were important figures in the History of Israel. Again, Jesus comes and is about to transform the whole situation. He is greater than Jacob, Elijah, and Isaac. The statement by all of the actions is that the One who is speaking with her is the Messiah, greater than them all.

Once again, like so many times, our Lord breaks social convention. It is completely out of sorts for a man to ask a woman he does not know for anything. It is just not done so that propriety can be observed. On top of it, Jesus, a JEW, is speaking with the imposter Samaritans.  He is stopping, talking, and setting up a scene where the despised woman is going to bring the despised to him.  Once again, Jesus is transforming and transcending things and situations. He is not diminishing Judaism in the least. He is elevating it.

It is Solomonic, if you think about it. The Jews say that we are to worship in Jerusalem. The Samaritans say on Mt. Gerizim. Jesus says, “the Hour is coming when it is neither.”  The hour is the Hour of his Resurrection. In the context of this story, when Jesus begins the transformation of the world at Easter, he will begin the transcendence and transformation of worship itself.

Worship will happen when two people pray together. Worship will happen in Baptism. Worship will happen when the Word of God is preached and heard, when the Scriptures are read. Worship will happen in the breaking of the bread.  That can happen on any mountain.

We don’t need to sacrifice on a Mountain anymore after Jesus because He IS the sacrifice of all sacrifices for our sins.  He is the High Priest. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.   When he takes, blesses, breaks, and gives, he transforms a sacrifice into an offering that passes our lips, nourishes our bones, and transforms our lives. He is God come down to life us up.

Through the Samaritan woman, Jesus reveals that he is greater than Isaac, Jacob, and Elijah. He is greater than the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He is greater than Mt. Gerizim. He transcends them all and transforms worship for all people for all times. Thanks be to God!

In the end, Jesus brings us back to the mission of what it meant to be the people of God. Two weeks ago, I told you that Israel wanted to have a king so that they could be like everyone else. This is a symbol of the problem. They wanted to have a king and a God who would make them greater than everyone else.  Here, even with the Samaritan Woman, everyone was awaiting a political Messiah who would deliver the entire area of Palestine from Roman Rule. Yet, the Israelites were not supposed to need a king because they were not supposed to be like everyone else.  They were to be like a priest among nations that showed the others how people were supposed to live under God.  Instead of fulfilling their mission to be God’s representatives in the region, they wanted to be like everyone else.

To their shame, the Jerusalem Jews lorded their Temple over everyone else. To their rebellion, the Samaritans insisted upon Mt. Gerizim. Both were in a contest for who was better than whom, who God favored more than whom.  That is not what religion is about.  Religion is not about all the divisions we can create to say that one branch of faith is better than the other, which is really all that we are doing. True faith, true worship, true spirituality, is lived with the same sacrificial spirit with which our Lord Jesus lived in the hopes that all will be transformed, transcended, and united.

Are our churches breaking down the barriers that prevent people from being loved by God or are they setting up barriers that perpetuate the divisions and dominance that humanity likes to set up? Even if we lay claim to being from Jerusalem or from Gerizim, we are still claiming division. Jesus Christ transcended his own desires in the Garden of Gethsemane and said, “Not my will, but your will be done.”  The scriptures stay he sweated blood in a psychological convulsion that was so strong that he had a physical reaction.  Transcending our own desires for who is in and who is out is hard, but we must do it.

Did Jesus stop being a Jew? Did he stop calling people to repentance? No. What he did do was transcend Gerizim and Jerusalem, Isaac, Jacob, and Elijah. He became the Temple himself. Wherever two or more are gathered in his name, the Temple is there. They are there to bear witness to what it means to follow Christ. We are there to bear witness in every situation that even though we may know someone is wrong in their choices, wrong in their attitudes, wrong in their vulgarity, ludeness, whatever, we are there to love them on behalf of Jesus Christ.

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father….the hour is coming, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

Let us begin, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…Amen.

This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated.  My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.

#HowCanWeComeTogether is the podcast for March 19, 2017. With all the Divisions in Religion, how can Christianity expect to be the answer when it has its own? What does the story of the fight between the Samaritans and the Jews about where to worship inform us? Jesus Christ is the answer.  Listen here and find out more:  Download it into your phone.  #John45-42 #Transform #Transcend #JesusChrist #Samaritans #jews #MtGerizim #Jerusalem #Temple #ChurchFights #ReligiousDivisions

Mark Kurowski, M.Div.

Mark Kurowski, M.Div.

Executive Director

Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian