Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Saturday, March 14th: Exodus 16:27-35; Psalm 95; and John 4:1-6. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today’s Gospel reading prepares us for our Sunday morning church reading and also the sermon. This reading is timely. I’ll talk it about more tomorrow, but the Samaritan woman of Sychar personifies isolation. She is a woman in a world that intentionally isolated women. She is a Samaritan. As will be noted in the later conversation between Jesus and this woman, Jews and Samaritans are again intentionally isolated from each other. Third, the woman’s personal history has isolated her even from her own neighbours as a moral pariah.
Her isolation is a heavy burden to bear, and it ends dramatically with the arrival of Jesus. Our Saviour speaks with her, breaking down the wall of isolation, and treats her as someone who matters. When His disciples return toward the end of this account, they are amazed that Jesus is speaking with a woman. Jesus treated her with respect and dignity, and spoke to her of important matters that everyone around Him assumed were not women’s business, that women were not intellectually or spiritually capable of comprehending.
The Samaritan woman of Sychar proves to be the most successful apostle in the whole of John’s Gospel. The entire village comes down to Jesus because of her fearless testimony. Jesus tore down the walls of her isolation and introduced her to community, and the community was blessed.
This blessing is one of the sacred gifts of church, of the community of Christ’s called-together people. At this holy time of the year as we prepare for Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection, it is an unfortunate coincidence that the Corona virus pandemic may cause us and other churches to close our doors. For the safety of our members and those around us, we may have to curtail our gatherings. This same protocol will be employed throughout society. Isolation will be real.
March’s Newsletter article (https://www.hatfieldchurch.org/pews-news/category/newsletter) was about the blessings of the ordinary that too often are not recognized until they are no longer. One of those casual blessings is community, the neighbours and friends around us, the “village” we each inhabit, and also our church community. Isolation will hopefully help us to appreciate the extraordinary blessing of the ordinary.
In the meanwhile, let us try to fight against isolation by contact that is not in person. Check in on people who may be vulnerable. Call friends more often. Use our website or FaceBook page to keep conversations going among all of us. One way or another, there will be church because just as Jesus proved to the woman of Sychar we are here for each other.
I hope to see you in church tomorrow if possible. If you have underlying conditions that would put you at increased risk if infected, please stay at home. If you are feeling sickly, please stay at home. For those of us who will gather, we will practice “social distancing” in church and I think it best that we cancel Chat and Coffee until further notice.
May Jesus help us all in this time of pandemic, and may our faith in Jesus help us all to help each other.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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