St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-19-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-19-2017

Crossing the Line

Exodus 17:1-7, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I grew up here in rural Pennsylvania and as far back as my memory can recall I loved venturing into the woods and farm fields behind my childhood home. When I became of legal age to do so, I spent many days in the fall hunting small game in the same woods and fields. But, soon after that, many of the farms were sold for housing development and, seeing the potential, much of the wooded land was bought as investment for future building lots. With these changes came a concept I had not been aware of before announced by signs that read “Private Property, No Trespassing”.

Be it known, I had been taught to respect other people’s property; I wouldn’t think of tromping through a planted field, walking into someone’s lawn, and certainly wouldn’t be found hunting within sight of a home. But now I was being forced to take a much longer route by road to get to a friend’s house just a few hundred yards away even when the land between us was unoccupied. The message was, “I don’t care how it inconveniences you, this land is mine, keep out.”

After getting used to this, imagine my surprise when I moved to Arizona and learned that such things didn’t exist there; in fact, they were illegal! Of course, in the cities and densely populated areas you were expected to stay on the streets and sidewalks, but otherwise, you could cross any property that was between your point A and point B.

It makes perfect sense: in an area where natural sources of water are extremely scarce the shortest line of travel can make the difference between life and death. And, in rural areas where some privately owned property is measured in hundreds of square miles rather than acreage, a detour around would be, not an inconvenience, but an impossibility. In fact, a traveler on horseback, coming upon a fence intended to keep a rancher’s cattle in place, had the right to cut the fence to pass through being required only to rebind it once he did so. The general idea is that fences are intended to keep animals, who have no concept of property lines, in their proper place; not to restrict the free movement of other people. And it all works out well when the land owner respects the traveler’s needs and the traveler respects the landowner’s needs.

Of course, I’m not here to talk about the virtues of private land ownership versus traveler’s rights; but I do find it to be a good metaphor for explaining the effects of many of the other lines we draw through our lives; lines that we think protect us without regard to how they affect others; lines we draw to separate ours from theirs; lines we draw to keep out what we don’t like and keep for ourselves what we do like.


We can easily look around our world and see lines drawn everywhere. Looking at a world map we see every piece of land, large or small, divided into multiple nations by lines. Zoom in a bit and we see each nation divided into states, provinces and the like. Zoom in even more and the lines separate these into counties, counties divided into townships and boroughs which are divided into parcels.

Some of these parcels are public areas and others are private. Those with buildings on them are divided even more. Houses are divided by walls into rooms; some with restricted access such as bedrooms or home office; and some for communal use like the kitchen and living room.

Looking very closely we find that we are still not to the end of dividing lines, fences and walls as we see that every individual in the home has even more boundaries set. Around and within each one are the invisible lines made to keep out what we don’t want coming in and to keep in what we don’t want getting out; the walls and fences designed to keep our personal experiences personal; to hide what we don’t want others to see and to blind ourselves to what the others might expose.

Jesus came to break down these walls and fences; to erase the lines!

Looking at today’s Gospel reading about the Samaritan Woman at the Well we see this clearly. First, Jesus is in Judea and wants to return to Galilee. The only problem is that Samaria lies between his point A and point B. For a Jew, Samaritans were to be avoided at all cost. But Jesus, rather than taking the long way around, crosses the line and walks straight through the territory.

Next, he stops to rest within the heathen land and encounters a Samaritan woman (two strikes against her already) at the well. Jesus is thirsty so he crosses another line; actually two, make that three; he engages in conversation with an unaccompanied woman; he engages in conversation with a Samaritan; and he asks to be served by a Samaritan. If the Pharisees were there to witness this they would have been declaring a “strike out”!

Then Jesus crosses two more lines as he begins preaching a Jewish message of “living water” to a woman who is a non-Jew.

And then, Jesus crosses the personal boundaries, digging in to the woman’s personal life; pushing her to expose the fact that she is living with a man to whom she is not married; breaking down her self-made fence that separates her from the truth of his message.


So far Jesus has crossed at least 7 man-made lines in this one story, and we’re not done yet. But it is at this point when others begin to cross in the other direction. Once the woman’s personal boundaries were opened up, she begins to cross lines. She starts asking questions; bringing up the division over proper place for worship; on this mountain or in Jerusalem. Now the walls start falling fast.

Jesus declares that neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, but “in spirit and truth”! The woman leaves to bring others from behind their walls out into the open to see and hear for themselves. They, in turn, invite Jesus inside their defenses to stay for a while “And many more believed because of his word”. The word that never would have been heard if all those lines had remained uncrossed; all the walls and fences remained un-penetrated and the gates and doors remained unopened.

We don’t bring the Kingdom of God into being by drawing lines in the sand, or by building walls that separate, or by closing ourselves in and fencing others out. We build the Kingdom of God by erasing lines, tearing down walls, and opening pathways between people’s bodies, minds, and spirits. We build the Kingdom of God by allowing the free movement of Christ’s Word and God’s Holy Spirit within ourselves, within our homes, within our communities and around the world. We build the Kingdom of God by respecting how the Word and the Spirit move within others even when it moves differently within us.

Christ not only shows us how, he shows us the benefits that result. Believe in him. Amen.


John 4:5-42
4:5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
4:6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
4:7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
4:8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
4:11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
4:12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
4:14 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.”
4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;
4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.
4:20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”
4:26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
4:27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”
4:28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,
4:29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
4:30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
4:31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
4:32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
4:33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”
4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.
4:35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.
4:36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
4:37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’
4:38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
4:39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”
4:40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.
4:41 And many more believed because of his word.
4:42 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 truly the Savior of the world.”


Exodus 17:1-7
17:1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.
17:2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”
17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”
17:4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
17:5 The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.
17:6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
17:7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Psalm 95
95:1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
95:2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
95:4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
95:5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
95:7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
95:8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
95:9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
95:10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.”
95:11 Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

Romans 5:1-11
5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.
5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
5:9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.
5:10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.
5:11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.