Waynedale United Methodist Church
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!
   

March 22, 2015 Sermon

“Sinners, Outcasts and the Poor”
John 4:3 – 10

Ted Jansen  March 22, 2015  Waynedale UMC

           

1.)        I want you to listen to a song written by Larry Norman in 1972 called “The Outlaw.”  The song expresses different ideas of who Jesus was, as it shows some video from the Gospel of John movie.  As we “Walk in the Footsteps of Jesus” let us open our hearts.    (Video -  Greg Murray)  

 

2.)        John 4:3 says, “When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.”  (Demonstrate in sanctuary visually the two routes Jerusalem to Galilee.) Jesus is traveling from Jerusalem to head back north, to the Sea of Galilee area.  We know that there are two main routes that you can take to get from Jerusalem to Galilee.  One is to travel close to the Jordan River.  The other is to travel through Samaria, the quicker route.  The route by the Jordan added time and effort.     

            Yet, it was a common decision in Jesus’ day for most Religious Jews to avoid Samaria, to take the route by the Jordan River. They did not go through Samaria when they headed north.   

           

3.)        Samaria was a region of Judea that was conquered about 700 years earlier by the Assyrians.  When this region was conquered some of the Jewish people were exiled into Babylon and some remained.  Assyrians settled in Samaria among the faithful Jews and in time the peoples were intermarried and had families.   These Samaritan Jews did not worship the gods of the Assyrians but kept reading the scripture they had in the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch.  They decided to build a temple on Mt Gerizim because they could not worship God in Jerusalem since the Temple was destroyed.  They kept the faith as they understood it.         

            When the Jews came back from exile in Babylon over 200 years later these Samaritans were considered “unclean” because they had married the pagans and disregarded worship of God in Jerusalem.  Samaritans were people to be avoided.  They were outsiders and sinners.     

           

4.)        When Jesus was headed north what route did Jesus, the Son of God, take and why did He take the route?  Did Jesus go away from Samaria or did He go to and through Samaria?  We know that Jesus chose to go through Samaria.  Not only did Jesus choose to go through Samaria He decided to stop and talk with the people of Samaria.  Jesus was present with the people that the Jewish culture had determined were outsiders, the outcasts.  (White Board – Incarnation)   

            Jesus was bringing the Incarnation, the personification of God’s love, to the people most “good” Jews thought were far from God’s love.  Jesus is personifying what God Almighty desires.  God’s will is that Jesus takes the path to those who are the “outcasts.”  God’s will for is that we take the path to those who are outcasts in our world.   

 

5.)        Jesus is tired and thirsty and stops at a well in Samaria at noon.  At this well we see the love of God in Christ that brings about a transformation.    

            Jesus expresses the love of God in three ways when He stops at the well.  The first way is that Jesus meets a Samaritan.  This was an indication that something unusual was happening.  Jews and Samaritans did not meet and be together.   The second is that Jesus talks to this Samaritan woman.  Women were not considered as important in that culture, and with her Samaritan background this was highly unusual.   The third way Jesus is expressing love is he, in broad daylight, out in the open, is seen talking with this woman who has had five husbands and is currently living with a man that is not her husband. 

            These three expressions of love by Jesus enter the women’s heart.  This moment is a picture of scandal and shock for the disciples and for Jewish tradition.     

            God’s presence in Jesus Christ in Samaria brings transformation to the woman.  

            The conversation makes her realize that Jesus is someone special, someone unique, some one that cares for her on a deep level.   (White Board – Transformation)

            Jesus is bringing Transformation to her life by His presence, His conversation, His acceptance of her and His offer of living water.  God’s will is that Jesus offers His life so that she can be transformed.   God’s will is that we let people know that living water is available and that they can be transformed into something different.    

 

6.)        This woman tells the people of the town and they come out to hear Jesus Christ.  Here is what the people say in John 4:42, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” 

            The term for Savior, soter, is only mentioned three times in Luke, and John.  The first time the word Savior is mentioned is in Luke when Mary offers her song and prayer of thanks when she realizes that she will carry the Messiah.  The second time is when the angels tell the shepherds in Bethlehem that a Savior has been born today.  This time in John is the third time in the gospels. 

            This woman, these Samaritan people, these “outcasts and sinners,” were the ones who first proclaimed that Jesus Christ is the Savior.    (White Board – Revelation)  

            Jesus desires that the Revelation of His life as Savior was first affirmed by outcasts.   God’s will is that Jesus Christ is revealed to all people, especially those who are the outcasts, sinners and poor.  God’s will for us is to do something that expresses love in a joy filled and generous way that breaks convention and tradition. To walk in the footsteps of Jesus means that we look for tangible ways we can demonstrate love to those who might think they are on the outside of love.    

 

7.)        Here is a true story told by Tony Campolo.    (Video – Party with Prostitutes Andy Gill)  (Here is the approximate transcript of Tony Campolo’s story.)    

 

            If you live on the East Coast and travel to Hawaii, you know that there is a time difference that makes three o’clock in the morning feel like nine. With that in mind, you will understand that whenever I go out to our fiftieth state I find myself wide awake long before dawn. Not only do I find myself up and ready to go while almost everybody else is still asleep, but I find that I want breakfast when almost everything on the island is still closed–which is why I was wandering up and down the streets of Honolulu at three-thirty in the morning, looking for a place to get something to eat.

            Up a side street I found a little place that was still open. I went in, took a seat on one of the stools at the counter, and waited to be served. This was one of those sleazy places that deserves the name “greasy spoon.” I mean, I did not even touch the menu. I was afraid that if I opened the thing something gruesome would crawl out. But it was the only place I could find.

            The fat guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?’

            I told him, “A cup of coffee and a donut.”

            He poured a cup of coffee, wiped his grimy hand on his smudged apron, then grabbed a donut off the shelf behind him. I’m a realist. I know that in the back room of that restaurant, donuts are probably dropped on the floor and kicked around. But when everything is out front where I could see it, I really would have appreciated it if he had used a pair of tongs and placed the donut on some wax paper.

            As I sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at three-thirty in the morning the door of the diner suddenly swung open, and to my discomfort, in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes.

            It was a small place and they sat on either side of me. Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman sitting beside me say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be thirty-nine.”

Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”

            “Come on!” said the woman next to me. “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

            When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the fat guy behind the counter and I asked him, “Do they come in here every night?”

            “Yeah!” he answered.

            “The one right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why d’ya wanna know?”

            “Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do you think about us throwing a birthday party for her–right here–tomorrow night?”

            A smile slowly crossed his chubby face and he answered with measured delight. “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!” Calling to his wife who did the cooking in the back room, he shouted, “Hey! Come out here! This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday. This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her–right here–tomorrow night!”

            His wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, and nobody ever does anything nice and kind for her.”

            “Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about two-thirty and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake.”

            “No way,” said Harry (that was his name). “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

            At two-thirty the next morning I was back at the diner. I had picked up some crepe paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that diner looking good.

            The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. It was wall-to-wall prostitutes. . .and me!

            At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open and in came Agnes and her friend. I had everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the MC of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy Birthday!”

            Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted. . .so stunned. . .so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her. As she was led to one of the stools along the counter we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her. As we came to the end of our singing, “Happy birthday, dear Agnes, Happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the birthday cake with all the candles lit on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

            Harry gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles! If you don’t blow out the candles, I’m gonna hafta blow out the candles.” And, after an endless few seconds, he did. Then he handed her a knife and told her, “Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes, we all want some cake.”

            Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said, “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I. . .I mean is it okay if I kind of. . .what I want to ask you is. . .is it okay if I keep the cake a little while? I mean is it all right if we don’t eat it right away?”

            Harry shrugged and answered, “Sure! It’s okay. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake. Take it home if you want to.”

            “Can I?” she asked. Then looking at me she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home and show it to my mother, okay? I’ll be right back. Honest!”

            She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door. As we all stood there motionless, she left.

            When the door closed there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying, “What do you say we pray?’

            Looking back on it now it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner at Honolulu at three-thirty in the morning. But it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her.

            When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter, and said, “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”

            In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at three-thirty in the morning.”

            Harry waited a moment, then he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!