For at home worship on Sunday, instead of sharing my sermon with our kids, we read the gospel reading (John 4:5-42, The Samaritan Woman at the Well) and I asked them if they saw any connections between the reading and what is going on in the world (and their lives) today, with the Coronavirus scare. Here are their thoughts:
Xenophobia. (I swear that’s the word that one of them used.) My fourteen-year-old noticed the woman’s comment, “’How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)” She has heard that many people, in these troubled times, are afraid of strangers and are blaming strangers for the spread of the Coronavirus. We talked about the ancient enmity between Jews and Samaritans. They would not speak to each other, walk through each other’s towns and cities, or acknowledge each other’s existence. We also talked about the fact that, while this is a time when staying away from strangers, and even friends, is a good idea, blaming strangers and being angry at strangers for a situation that we are all in just doesn’t make sense. We talked about how we, as Christians, during and after this virus, should look for ways to help strangers and affirm our common humanity. This also led to a discussion of the story that Jesus told in Luke 10, where a Samaritan ends up being the hero of the story, who models what it means to be a neighbor to someone who is suffering.
The nine-year-old them talked about scarcity. He talked about how he has heard that people are hording toilet paper and cleaning supplies and bottled water. He compared that with the promise that Jesus makes in this story. “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’” Jesus’ promise is a promise of abundance in contrast with the scarcity mentality that is even more evident in this time of crisis than it usually is in our community.
Finally, they talked about how the Samaritan woman came to the well alone, at noon, in the heat of the day. We talked about how the woman was socially distant from her community, because of her history and because of her current living arrangement (living with a man who was not her husband.) Jesus met the woman who was socially distant, he met her in her loneliness, and he affirmed her as a human being, engaged her in theological conversation, and gave her a way to reconnect with her community. This reminds us that even when we are socially distant from other people, Jesus is with us, and in Jesus’ presence, we can ask questions, we can receive comfort, and we can find meaningful ways to connect with our community, even when the situation is challenging.
I’m grateful to the children, not just my children, but all children, who with generosity of spirit, with curiosity, with faith, and with love, preach the gospel to their elders, especially during challenging times.