Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Samaria and Our Spiritual Journey

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria.   (John 4:1-15)

Edward DeBono is a man who travels all over the world, giving seminars on how to think. He teaches what he calls “lateral thinking,” and he illustrates what he means by that from an experience early in his life.

Some thirty years ago he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. One night he attended a party in London. The party lasted late, and he got back to Oxford after the gates were closed. Traditionally in that college the gates were locked at twenty minutes past midnight. So, in order to get to his room, he had to scale the college walls.

There were two walls, and he said, “I got over the first one without too much difficulty and came to the second wall. It was about the same height as the first one. I climbed that, and jumped to the other side only to find myself outside again.”

He had climbed in and out across a corner of the wall. He tried again, this time with more careful attention to where that second wall was. He noticed that there was a gate in the wall, and as the gate was lower than the rest of the wall, and provided footholds, he decided to climb over the gate. He did, and as he was sitting astride the top of the gate, it slowly opened. It had never been locked!  He said he learned a lesson from that. No matter how good you are in climbing a wall, you should always pick the right one.

And when he applied that to problem-solving, he called it “lateral thinking.”  Instead of facing problems head-on, instead of trying to climb over them just because they are there, try lateral thinking.  And by that he means try solutions that are not obvious.  Don’t attack the problem head-on.  Take detours, moving latterly, or even sometimes moving backwards, until you find the gate that no one knew was open.

Reflecting on our Scripture lesson my approach was to do as usual and think “head-on.”  There are obvious lessons in the text, and I’ve taught them before, and so have many of you.  If you approach the text head-on you see it.  

  • The breaking down of barriers is a central lesson.  Jesus shattered racial barrier, social barriers, and the barrier between men and women.
  • There is also the lesson about the universal presence of God, Jesus *said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."  (John 4:21-24)
  • Then there is still another huge lesson. Jesus makes the radical claim that He is the source of meaning in life. Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)
These devotionals could have been about any one of these obvious and great truths in the Scripture.  But, let’s do some “lateral thinking” about this passage.  Back away from it, move in and out of it, take some detours in thinking, look in from the side rather than head-on, and this is what you may come out with:

  • One, there is a Samaria in all of our lives.
  • Two, there is a ministry in Samaria.
  • And three, Samaria is to pass through, not to stay in.
Scripture to Claim:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. (Psalms 23:1-3)

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