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Kicking Protocol To The Curb

Kicking Protocol To The Curb

It is Sunday, July 7, 2019 and I’m in morning worship with my husband, Anthony, my youngest daughter, Jewel, four of my grandchildren and two of their cousins. For me, worship service is a family affair that I look forward to each Sunday. I’ve already passed out sticks of gum by the time Nick approaches the pulpit and, by the grace of God, the children settle down so that I can grab my notebook and prepare to take notes for the church blog. 

As members of the church, many of us love the thought of using our gifts and talents to serve others. However, establishing and sustaining a ministry of service can be a daunting experience. There are ups and downs.  Disappointments bring us low and test our faith.   At times, fatigue will set in and emotional anguish and bodily pain will make us feel vulnerable. In today’s lesson Nick helps us recognize that those moments of vulnerability can bring purpose to our ministry as we witness God work in the lives of others. 

Nick introduces us to his lesson by reading from John 4:1-7 and giving us his lesson title, “Kicking Protocol to the Curb.” This is the first part of what will become a two-part lesson. Today’s lesson will prove to be a brief message with an enduring impact.  In my writing, you will find that I offer insight into the lesson and then expound on the text. Lastly, I express how the lesson directly relates to my own life. I do encourage you to read John 4 without worrying about how much understanding you gain. I hold to the belief that the word of God has a way of edifying us even when we don’t completely understand it. What’s most important is that we approach our studies with a sincere desire to build an intimate relationship with Jesus. The understanding will come by and by.

As you read John 4, you will find that the author is writing about Jesus and his experience with several different people during his travels from Judea to Galilee. First, he learns that in Judea the Pharisees are apparently keeping count of the baptisms attributed to Jesus and John and have concluded that Jesus baptized more followers than John. So, Jesus leaves Judea and returns to Galilee. However, in verse 4, it states that he had to go through Samaria. Nick points out that there were multiple routes Jesus could have chosen to travel back to Galilee and going through Samaria was only one way. 

Protocol is defined as a formal system of conduct. And rules are set up to govern conduct and behavior. Nick explains that the Samaritans were racially intermingled and, as a consequence, were rejected by the people of Israel. In addition, they were further divided by their religious beliefs given that the Samaritans only followed the Pentateuch or the first 5 books of the Old Testament. In general, the Israelites considered themselves superior over the people of Samaria and did not to treat them as equals. This means that stopping in Samaria on the way to Galilee may have been against acceptable conduct. And the consequence of socializing with a Samaritan would have definitely been unpleasant to say the least. But the scriptures say Jesus “had to go through Samaria”. 

According to the passage Jesus stops in a Samaritan town called Sychar. He is tired and thirsty from his travels. He sits down by Jacob’s well right around noon. Simultaneously, a Samaritan woman is approaching the well to draw water and Jesus speaks to her and asks, “Will you give me a drink?” His disciples were on their way into town to buy food and Jesus was by himself and had broken custom to speak to this Samaritan woman. 

Once again Nick points out that according to John 4: 4 Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. By definition the word “had” refers to something that is proper and right.  With emphasis on the word “had”, Nick explains that going through Samaria was something proper and right. It had to be done. So, it was no mistake that Jesus traveled through Samaria on his way to Galilee. And it was no accident that Jesus became tired and stopped to rest in Sychar at Jacob’s well around noon. In fact, God has a way of setting things up to fulfill His purpose. So, when the Samaritan woman showed up to draw water, it was no mistake that Jesus broke protocol in order to minister to her. 

Just like Jesus, we can find ourselves at a point in our lives when we become tired and have to depend on someone else. Nick points out that it is in those times, when we are most vulnerable, God endows our ministry from on high. I would add that many of us our prone to believe that our greatest results come about when we are at our best. It is our nature to do all we can to be self-sufficient and avoid dependence on others to meet our needs. But the truth is, in our moments of weakness, God shows up with strength. When we are low God can use us for His higher purpose and to His glory. When we are vulnerable, we become best suited for ministry and service to God. And, in our times of dependence, we are given a golden opportunity to witness God work in the lives of others.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

This lesson definitely had an impact on me. Most recently, my position at work was eliminated and I found myself between jobs again (the 2nd lay-off since 2012). What made it even more difficult was the fact that my co-worker lost her position too. To make matters even more complexing, she was in a severe car accident recently that left her dealing with a great deal of physical pain. So, instead of being able to focus on job searches and interviews, she is going through regular physical therapy sessions. I found myself struggling to make sense out of this situation. My friend, I felt, could use some assurance and encouragement. But how could I convincingly offer encouragement to her while I was facing so much personal uncertainty myself? 

This is the message I shared with my friend:

I’m so sorry you are in pain. I continue to lift you up in prayer and thank God for keeping you and your son. I also want to share that this lay-off has stirred up a deep sense of confidence in me that is not tied to a career or cash flow or any status symbol. I remain confident in the Lord despite how things seem. He has called for me to wait on Him. So, I’m waiting, I’m watching and I’m praying. His mercies and blessings are unending and I know that He will shower you with abundance and make your cup to overflow.

I count these words as a victory over self-doubt and rejection. I honestly believe I experienced the Lord ministering to my friend through me. In my moment of weakness, He showed up strong!! 

There is more to learn here when it comes to the right time and place to break from established protocol. Be our guest for worship every Sunday at 10:30 am to hear Nick’s sermons firsthand. And look for me sitting with my family. I’ll save a stick of gum for you!