Saturday, January 21, 2012

Across Borders

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:27-42

In the past few years, immigration reform, and stricter laws governing illegals has been a very hot topic. Since 911 we have become more fearful and more protective. Having been to many border locations in this country, I am amazed at who the agents flag through and who they search. I am always curious about what makes a threatening stranger and what makes a trusted welcomed person. We set up all sorts of barriers and borders, not just by country but by groups and individuals. People seem to need to separate themselves from others, to define who the enemy is, and draw the wagons tight, in order to feel safe. And yet, God is always inviting us to do the opposite, it seems.

The disciples are horrified that Jesus is talking to a woman, and even worse, talking to a woman from the enemy camp. They are horrified by his behavior, and maybe a bit frightened. They know who is safe and who isn't. Then Jesus is invited by the Samaritan people to come and stay with them, and he goes with them and takes the disciples with him. They stayed together in the strangers homes and ate in the enemy camp. I can't imagine the discomfort of the disciples or of the Samaritans who didn't go out to the well. This story about the early ministry of Jesus is told to us so that we understand that God refuses to define anyone as too far away, too strange or too broken. God loves those who we call enemies and aliens, and God calls us to seek them out, living as friends and neighbors with those we once thought of as the enemy.

Today I ask God to help me dismantle any barriers and borders I might have set up. Help my heart, Lord, to make room for the stranger, enemy and alien I encounter to day. Keep my feet from turning away, and my hands from seeking a defense. May my words and my actions be welcome and love. For once we were all strangers and aliens of God in our own understanding. And yet God sought us out and stayed with us. May we seek out the stranger today and accept the invitations we are given.

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