Year A, Third Sunday in Lent
On Sunday, March 15, with our normal worship life upended by restrictions on gathering and close contact in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I spoke briefly on two topics to a small congregation that assembled, widely spaced, in the church, to say Morning Prayer together. First, I observed how evocatively our Gospel readings over the past few Sundays have led into our Seeing Beyond Difference: Jesus’ Kingship of Kinship presentations and conversations.
Two Sunday days ago, when we welcomed Jonathan Sigworth from More Than Walking, it was an easy jump from Jesus’ refusal of temptation to thinking about our own temptations to a) make “others” out of people who seem different from us and b) to give up when life challenges seem to difficult to face.
Last Sunday, just before Bola Akanji spoke to and with us about issues of gender and sexuality, we heard Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” This phrase struck me as a vital reminder of God’s good intentions for us when so many millions of people in the world today are condemned to lives of oppression, fear, violence and even death because of their gender and sexual identities. And that condemnation exists in North America, as we have seen all too clearly in recent months, just as it does around the globe.
Sunday morning's Gospel was the story of Jesus and a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, a story that fits remarkably well with both last week’s Seeing Beyond Difference topic of gender and sexuality and with what was to be this week’s topic (now postponed until we gather in fullness of community again) presented and led by Whitney Batson: race.
“Christ and the Samaritan Woman” (1957) by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrovic, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
By all social and religious convention, Jesus, a single Jewish man, should not have been speaking with, let alone asking for water from, a Samaritan woman. You may not be surprised by the gender based prohibition, but you may not know that, for a variety of religious and historical reasons, Jews and Samaritans of the ancient world did not get along or interact (and, I believe, still do not). That’s why the Gospel of Luke’s story of the Good Samaritan is so powerful. A Samaritan is the last person one would expect to offer help to a Jew and a Samaritan is probably the last person from whom a Jew would normally want to receive help. Who is my neighbor, indeed?!
At first, I imagined that this confluence between Gospel readings (and some epistles, as well, as Bola observed last week) and Lenten topics was purely fortuitous. How amazing, I thought, that weekly Sunday scripture and Lenten discussion topics are so nicely aligned. But then the light of understanding dawned: The reason for this happy confluence is that Jesus’ Kingship of Kinship is one of the principal New Testament themes. It appears over and over in our sacred texts. No wonder it keep showing up in our lectionary readings. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” We are all in this together!
Which brought me to my second topic: the new coronavirus. It is ironic that a highly contagious and sometimes deadly virus can become such a strong reminder of something so essential and positive—that is, we are all in this together. To echo a theme from our recent Ash Wednesday service, the virus does not care about skin color, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender, etc. And the only way that we will overcome its dangers is to cooperate with one another regardless of those apparent differences.
In the coming days and weeks, may we be faithful, prudent and patient. May we support each other through prayer and acts of loving service. If neighbors need encouragement, please visit them if a visit is appropriate or, if not, call, text, or send an email. If you know someone who has been quarantined who needs assistance with groceries or other chores outside the home, please help. Pray for one another.
We are in this together and, with God’s grace, together we will overcome!
Lastly, here are the words to the hymn “Lord of All Hopefulness,” which we sang together on Sunday morning. It seemed like a fitting choice for a number of reasons.
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace:
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
Peace and stay well,