•Exodus 17: 3-7 8 Romans 5: 1-2, 5-8 * John 4: 5-15; 19-26; 39 -42•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 3rd Sunday of Lent
“Make America Great Again.” That slogan worked so well as a campaign theme. It was a subtle and veiled appeal to our selfish impulses — or worse a denial of the gospel. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here. Love of country is a virtue and a moral obligation. However the nationalistic impulse currently promulgated by that slogan is amoral at best. It blatantly ignores and contradicts the behavior of Jesus recalled by John in our gospel text today.
We just heard details of the complex encounter Jesus had with a nameless woman in Samaria. She was drawing water from Jacob’s well to bring to her home. It was probably about noon, and she did not expect to encounter anyone – especially a male stranger who was a Jew. Jews then considered themselves superior and too pure to mix with Samaritans. A Jewish man would never ask a Samaritan woman for a favor.
That story is so timely as we begin this third week of Lent. There was no one else there to record the encounter. We don’t know the extent of their conversation. But it is clear that in spite of her personal history and ethnicity, Jesus accepted her just as she was.
That acceptance is what I invite you to ponder! As the two sit, talk and listen to one another, the walls, boundaries, hostilities and hatreds, which had long separated Samaritans and Jews, melt away and disappear.
“Make America Great Again.” “Talk of white supremacy, isolationism, building a ‘wall,’ and both racial and religious barriers of the past era are now again front page news. On the international scene, long standing alliances are showing cracks; newly budding agreements suffer frost.” A flood of “alternative facts” inundates us.
The Bishop of Rome, proclaiming Christ and gospel, urges us to stop tolerating the spread of misinformation. The New York Times columnist David Brooks warns that he sees “the opening of a door for fascism and a new authoritarian age.” The editor of America magazine suggests, “the real fear in the Trump Era should be that everything will become disorganized, chaotic, degenerate, clownish and incompetent.” We see it happening.
Spiritual plagues prowl the darkness. Hysteria is born of the conviction “they hate us” (whoever they are? – people of Islam!”) “Muslims are a convenient scapegoat.” Our so-called “protectors” exploit our fears of the immigrant and the poor, and offer us walls and deportation. How foolish we are! With all such rhetoric, real concerns are so easily being pushed aside.
Our gospel text at this mid-point in Lent is about a nameless woman in Samaria. Jesus accepts her as an equal! Solidarity! His behavior in this gospel text demonstrates the only path by which we will continue to make America great. Solidarity!
We human beings respect our own nature only when we recognize and respect the equality, dignity and rights of others, of all peoples – including the refugee, the alien, the poor. I no longer have a doubt. Every day it becomes clearer to me that the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is an appeal to power, wealth and success. It is not about solidarity with others. It is not about justice or freedom. It is not about imitating the behavior of Jesus, the one we name the Christ, and most obviously it is not about truth.
The gospel calls us to solidarity. The Table of Eucharist celebrates our solidarity with Christ and one another. This week a friend of mine from the Bitterroot Valley sent this quote to me.
“A primitive society lives by the Rule of Might, and the strong prevail.
An advanced society lives by the Rule of Law, and the privileged prevail.
An enlightened society lives by the Rule of Love, and everyone is lifted higher.”