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Chester 7

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The Common Cup
A Sermon on John 4 and Ephesians 2

Jesus’ disciples were shocked to see him conversing with a woman in public.  It just wasn’t done.  Jewish men did not speak to women in public, unless they were immediate family members.  And even then they kept the conversation to a minimum.  Jesus’ disciples would have been even more shocked if they had heard him ask to drink from the woman’s water jar.

It was challenge enough that he had taken them into Samaritan territory.  Like people now wishing to avoid going through a bad neighborhood, most Jews were willing to detour way out of the way in order to avoid going through Samaria on the way to Galilee.  But not Jesus.  John says that Jesus had to go through Samaria.  And any time scripture says Jesus had to do something, it really means he had to do it.  He was determined to do it.  He was determined to go through Samaria, even though Jews considered that enemy territory.

The hostility between Jews and Samaritans ran deep.  It was both racial and religious.  Jewish parents taught their children to see Samaritans as half-breeds, impure people that were descended from the remnants of the old northern kingdom of Israel and Assyrians and whatever other nationality the Assyrian empire dumped there way back in the 700s BC.  What’s more, Jewish children learned that Samaritan religion was corrupt.  Mt. Zion, another name for Jerusalem, is the mountain of God, and that’s where everybody ought to worship God.  The Samaritans think Gerizim is God’s mountain.  They’re wrong.

Meanwhile, Samaritan children were also learning.  “Those Jews are heretics,” their elders taught them.  “Their religion is corrupt.  Only the five books of Moses—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—truly are sacred scripture.  The Jews have added books that ought not to be there.  God’s word is clear: Mt. Gerizim is the mountain of God.  That’s where people ought to worship.  Don’t you children ever forget what those Jews did to us in 128 BC when they destroyed our temple on Mt. Gerizim.”

The pain between Jew and Samaritan ran deep, like that between Israeli and Palestinian, Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, Northern Irish Catholic and Northern Irish Protestant, native born citizens and immigrants. (more…)

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