Yesterday’s lectionary readings both dealt with unhealthy systems. The Old Testament reading had us wandering in the Wilderness of Sin with the Israelites. They were thirsty. They demanded Moses give them water.
They had left Egypt, and reminded Moses of this. The Israelites were slave in Egypt for 400 years. In that time, they were victims of an unhealthy and abusive system. And when they finally were set free and faced their a real crisis, what did they do? They went back to something familiar – an abusive system. Instead of “make more bricks” it was “give us water.” They went from being the victim to being the abusers in an unhealthy system. But can you really blame them? 400 years of being in an abusive system would convince anyone that the abusive system was normal.
In our Gospel, we encounter Jesus in Samaria. Samaritans and Jews did not talk. They did nothing together. Jews considered Samaritans half-breeds. They were worse than tax collectors (those that worked for Rome). And yet, we find Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, talking with a Samaritan. Not just any Samaritan – a woman. Two abusive systems in play – a man not talking with a woman, and a Jew not talking with a Samaritan. The Scripture makes sure to tell us that these actions are considered normal. But they aren’t. They are abusive and unhealthy.
And Jesus doesn’t fight against them. No, he just breaks through them. He creates new systems – healthier systems. And as a result, lives are transformed. In this case, a whole village is transformed. So transformed that they invite Jesus to stay with them, and he does. The unhealthy and abusive system is buried.
Abusive and unhealthy systems exist in our world. the #MeToo movement show us this. The abuses of priests and pastors in churches show us this. White collar crime in businesses are abusive as well. Politics is full of unhealthy and abusive systems. Our country has a long history of abusive and unhealthy systems when it comes to race, sexuality, and gender. These are real.
And if you have ever been the victim of such abuse, then all I can say is I’m sorry that you have suffered. I’m sorry if the church has ever hurt you. I’m sorry if you have been in an abusive relationship of any type.
Please know that abusive systems and unhealthy systems are not normal. they never have been. They are wrong. They are sinful. And they must end. Jesus shows us a way forward for people who are victims of abusive systems – to implement a healthy system.
But what about the abusers in abusive and unhealthy systems. Jesus doesn’t meet up with those who perpetuated the abusive systems. But he does in other instances. And each time, he acts in a particular way – he confronts them. He lays out the truth to them. And often the truth is unpleasant for the abuser. That’s because the systems they create and perpetuate are unpleasant.
Abusive systems come to an end. We are called to confront those systems and the abusers who are created abusive systems designed to continue the abuse and to protect themselves. We are called to change those systems so that victims are no longer abused. We are called to participate in the healthiest system – the Kingdom of God. Let us go forth and do so.