Enemies No Longer

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Enemies No Longer

March 12, 2023*

(3rd Sunday of Lent)

By Pastor John Partridge

Exodus 17:1-7                        John 4:5-42                Romans 5:1-11

World War 1 began in June of 1914, but the United States didn’t issue a declaration of war until the spring of 1917.  Regardless of the argument that the results would have been the same without our participation, the first war to end all wars ended on November 11, 1918.  Similarly, World War 2 began in 1939, the United States issued declarations of war on Germany and on Japan in December of 1941, just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  And so, the second war to end all wars finally ended in 1945.  Peace was even more elusive this time as the United States and many of its allies, once again fought in the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1953. 

I suppose that this shouldn’t surprise us.  If we look at almost any time in history, we can almost be certain to find that warfare is common.  Over the last two semesters we have been diving deep into the history of Israel in the Old and New Testaments and, much like ours, a common thread running throughout Israel’s history is that of conquest, warfare, and shifting allegiances.  For me, the thing that stands out in our recent history is how quickly we resolved and reconciled our differences with our enemies.  Despite fighting two wars within the span a half a century, Germany is now one of our closest allies.  And much the same can be said about our relationship with Japan.  Korea is a little different but while North Korea remains an internationally isolated state, South Korea, which was once practically unknown, is now a close ally and, though we still have our political differences, China has become our biggest trading partner.

What does that have to do with us, our church, and the season of Lent?  Quite a lot.  But before we get to that part, let’s begin with the story of Exodus and the moment when the people were far enough away from Egypt to feel safe from its armies, forget their suffering, and start complaining about Moses and their current problems.  We read this in Exodus 17:1-7.

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. 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?”

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?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

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. 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. And he called the place Massah(which means testing) and Meribah  (which means quarreling) 9because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

As the people of Israel follow Moses away from Egypt and toward the promised land, they pass through that dangerous time when they find themselves far enough away from slavery to feel safe, but not close enough to the Promised Land to feel the comfort of their new home.  They were far enough from their problems that they no longer needed to rely upon God and instead began to fight amongst one another, complain, and grumble against Moses because he wasn’t meeting their needs fast enough.  They were suspended between fear and comfort, and between slavery and freedom, and they asked themselves if God was with them, saying “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Is the Lord among us or not?

It is a question that we can easily find ourselves asking as individuals, or as a church, whenever we find ourselves far enough from our problems and our fears to feel comfortable, but not yet arrived at the destination for which we had hoped.

Hold on to that tension as we move on to the story of when Jesus met the Samaritan woman and brought an entire village to faith in God in John 4:5-42.

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

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.”

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows, and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Despite generations of hatred between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus breaks the rules to talk to one, and then to an entire town, and even, again in violation of societal and priestly rules, stays with the Samaritans for two days to teach and to preach the Good News.  And, if we take a look at what Jesus said to his own disciples, “…open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  Essentially, Jesus says, “Pay attention! The harvest is right in front of you.”  And then the Samaritans, the enemies of the Jews, hear the Good News, and are welcomed into the kingdom of God.

But God’s relationship with the Samaritans is not the only relationship that Jesus redeemed and reconciled.  In Romans 5:1-11, Paul says…

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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.

We are immediately reminded of last week’s message “What Faith Isn’t,” and we remember that, like Abraham, whether we are Jews, Samaritans, or Gentiles, it is our faith that brings about our adoption as the children of God.  The way that Paul describes it, Jesus died for us while we were still living in sin, and while we were still the enemies of God.  But, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our relationship with God has been redeemed and reconciled so that we can be welcomed into God’s family.

We worry, grumble, and complain because, like the Israelites in the desert, we find ourselves far enough from our problems and our fears to feel comfortable, but have not yet arrived at the destination for which we had hoped.  But just as the Samaritans next door were not the enemies of Jesus, the people outside the doors of the church are not our enemies and neither are the Germans, Koreans, Chinese, Iranians, Iraqis, Mexicans, Russians, rich, poor, vaxxed, anti-vaxxers, Republicans, Democrats, or anybody else.

Much like Jesus reminded his disciples in Samaria, we too are reminded that the harvest is right in front of us. 

We must love our twenty-first century Samaritans.  There is no one who is beyond God’s grace.  There is no one who cannot be redeemed, reconciled, and welcomed into God’s family.  And so, no matter who it is toward which we aim our hatred, no matter who our modern day Samaritans may be, Jesus, and the Good News of the gospel is still bigger than our hatred.  Our mission, like the disciples, is to get past our hatred and our biases, and invite our enemies into the family.

To paraphrase Jesus, “Open your eyes! The harvest is right in front of you.”

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™