Enemies No More
March 15, 2020*
By Pastor John Partridge
Exodus 17:1-7 John 4:5-26 Romans 5:1-11
Last year, as a part of his activities in ROTC, our son Jonah participated in a competition involving a variety of firearms. In and of itself, such a competition, for a bunch of young people who are preparing for a career as officers in the United States Army sounds pretty ordinary. But what made it interesting, at least to me, is that it was possible, if you scored well enough, to earn an award that could be worn on your uniform. What makes that remarkable, is that the competition is not an American competition and the award is not an American award. Both the competition, and the award, are a part of the German army. There are very few, if any, other similar awards, given out by other countries, that can be worn on the uniform of the United States Army and it is that rarity that highlights just how close the United States and Germany have become as allies in the last 60 years. Imagine how odd that would seem to a time traveler that arrived here from the height of World War Two. Or imagine their confusion at seeing the United States Navy and the Navy of Japan holding joint war games together. Or imagine trying to explain to a visitor from the height of the Cold War, how we cooperate with Russia and other members of the former Soviet Union in building and operating the International Space Station.
The world has changed.
Many of those nations with whom we were once at war, are now some of our closest allies.
And that idea is a big part of what we see as we read our scriptures for today. We begin in Exodus 17:1-7, where we hear these words:
17:1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So, Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah [Massah means testing] and Meribah [Meribah means quarreling] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
For four hundred years, the people of Israel lived as slaves in Egypt and prayed that God would rescue them. Finally, God sends Moses, they gain their freedom, and they set out across the desert. They got what they wanted. They have their freedom. They have escaped the grasp of the Egyptians. And still, they complain. They got what they wanted, but it still wasn’t good enough. God rescued them, but they didn’t trust God. They grumbled against Moses and talked about going back because they weren’t sure what God intended. The people had followed God and Moses, but only half-heartedly. They couldn’t bring themselves to trust God when things got difficult. And their doubt caused them to test God by asking, “Is the Lord among us or not?” And God tells Moses to go out in front of all the people and he provided a very visible and obvious sign so that everyone will know that God is still here, God is with you, and God still cares about you.
More than a thousand years later, Jesus arrives with an entirely different way of demonstrating that God is with us. And with his coming, we receive the comfort of knowing that God cares about us and our entire understanding of what it means to be an enemy is changed. (John 4:5-42)
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
At first, this doesn’t sound nearly as revolutionary as it really was. Jesus, a Jew, is passing through Samaria because Samaria was in the middle of Israel and the fastest way from the north of Israel to the South of Israel was to go through Samaria. But it was still a big deal. For years, the Jews and Samaritans were at war with one another. They hated one another, and the only reason that they weren’t fighting was because the Romans made certain that they didn’t. Jewish Rabbis taught that the Samaritans were unclean. Good Jews generally tried not to have any interaction with Samaritans at all. Some carried food with them as they journeyed through Samaria so that they didn’t have to talk to Samaritans or buy food from them. So bitter was their hatred for one another was that devout priests and rabbis would add several days to their journey, and go several times farther, so that they could travel around Samaria rather than through it. On top of that, good Jewish men often tried to limit their contact with women, and if you take all these things together you begin to see why the Samaritan woman was so surprised when Jesus takes the time to speak with her and have a conversation. You can almost hear the surprise in her voice. “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
And before their conversation is over, the woman understands that Jesus is the messiah for which both the Israelites and the Samaritans had been waiting, hoping, and praying for generations. And then, based on her testimony, the entire village comes out to meet Jesus. In an instant, generations of hatred were erased, and enemies are joined as friends and coworkers for God’s kingdom.
But, as I often ask, what does that have to do with us?
And, as is often the case, the Apostle Paul can help us to understand. In Romans 5:1-11, we hear this:
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Paul explains that it wasn’t just the Samaritans and the Jews that came together because of Jesus, the same is true for all of us. We have been justified through faith and we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Not only were human beings constantly at war with one another, we were also enemies of God. But because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have all been welcomed back into God’s family. And, because human beings are still just as stubborn as they were in the time of Moses, God offers us a sign, a demonstration, of his love for us just as he did when he caused water to start flowing out of a rock for Moses. Of course, in this case, the demonstration of God’s love for us is the sacrifice of his own son. While we were powerless, Christ died for his enemies… us, so that we could be reconciled, and welcomed back into the family of God.
Abraham Lincoln had it right when he asked, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” And that is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection ended our separation from God. We are no longer the enemies of God once we believe in Jesus. Just as the coming of the messiah brought the Jews and the Samaritans together, it also offers us hope that the warfare between other groups of humans can also be ended. Because we are joined with Jesus, we no longer separated from one another. Whether we are white, black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, North American, South American, European, African, rich, poor, male, female, Jewish, Christian, rural, urban, suburban, college education, uneducated, or any other division that you can think of, once we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are adopted by God as brothers and sisters and joined together in a common purpose for the Kingdom of God.
We are enemies no more.
We are no longer the enemies of God, nor enemies of one another.
And that is the reason that Paul says that “we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
Every day we hear messages of hatred. “I hate Republicans,” or “I hate Democrats,” or corporations, or rich people, or poor people, or sick people, or the Russians, or the Chinese, or evangelicals, or progressives, or Hollywood, or… whatever. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Prince of Peace has come to end the fighting and to end the hatred.
We have heard the Good News.
God is still here. God is with you. God still cares about you.
We know the truth.
We have hope.
Neither the Corona virus, nor anything else, can take away our hope, our joy, and our peace.
And it’s up to us to share our hope so that everyone else can have hope too.
Have a great week everybody.
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