John 4:20-21, 23 NIV
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… …a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
Most people know this story of the Samaritan woman at the well, although few actually know what a Samaritan is. The Samaritans were a group of Israelites that, like the Jews, descended from the Hebrew people. Also, like the Jews, they observed the Law of God that is found in the Torah, the first five books of our Old Testament. In fact, they kept God’s Law so well that the word Samaritan comes from the Hebrew Shamerim, meaning keepers [of the Torah].
At first glance, the Samaritans look pretty much like normal Jews. That’s because they were, except for a few disagreements. The most significant of which was this: the Samaritans maintained that the proper place to worship God was in Shechem, while the Jews believed it was Jerusalem. So, who’s right?
In my interpretation of the Gospel according to John, Jesus maintained that the proper way to worship God isn’t found in any particular location—on any mountain, in any church. Today, as you ponder the importance of connection, consider this message of liberation. Look around, and I guarantee you’ll see plenty of Shechems, plenty of Jerusalems. People today are no less willing to die on their mountains than they were in Jesus’ time. But the “proper” way to worship God isn’t in the lean-to churches of Intibucá or the Catholic monasteries of Tibet. It isn’t at Christ the King or St. Mark’s Episcopal, as a Calvinist or an Arminianist. It is neither by separating ourselves from the world nor insisting that it adopt our own beliefs.
The “proper” way to worship God is to do what Jesus did for the Samaritan at the well (John 4:1-42), for the defendant at the Mount of Olives (John 8:1-11), for the Romans who crucified him (Luke 23:34), and for the disabled man at the pool (John 5:1-13). That is, recognize the humanity of every person you encounter; defend unwaveringly every human’s right to a good life; practice forgiveness and understanding; and do something good before we each must slip away from the crowd.
Prayer: God, I pray that we learn to appreciate the value of each member of the human race. I pray that we arrive at the understanding that to connect with a person is not to change them, but rather to value their identity, to fight for them, to make love something real and practiced. Amen.