3rd Sunday of Lent | March 15, 2020
So I will be the first to admit, I am really struggling with this “social distancing” requirement.
Because to me it just feels like isolation.
A painful withdrawal from the people I care about.
Reducing the casual acts of connection that I take for granted.
The hugs. The handshakes. The arms around shoulders.
Cancelling the travel that I had been looking forward to for months.
Watching my calendar suddenly evaporate overnight, as my life that always seems to be racing on the verge of reckless suddenly grinds to a halt
Placing me on an island of my own creation.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I believe what we are doing is the right choice. But it is not an easy one.
And I spent a lot of time this weekend trying to figure out why.
And what I realized for myself is that this isolation triggers painful memories for me of other times in my life when I have been forcibly isolated, not physically but socially.
Moments in which I found myself outcasted.
Moments in which the tides turned against me and I found myself alone.
I found myself returning to my sophomore year in college. The beginning of a fall semester in which a group of my closest friends informed me that I was not the right kind of man to be a part of their social group.
Or to freshman year of high school, when I found myself typecasted as the nerd. Pushed to the edges of a high school’s social life with the other outcasts and misfits.
Or even to more recent moments when you learn that all your brother seminarians went out to dinner and you didn’t get the invite.
Or moments in which the loss I was experiencing somehow cut me apart from everyone else. They could gaze upon my pain but didn’t know how to enter into it.
Maybe that is why I dread the physical isolation. Because it brings me back to moments of intense social isolation, Moments in which I felt incredibly alone.
Which is why I have always felt a connection with the woman at the well.
Because she too knew what it was like to be isolated.
No one collects water in the middle of the day. And no one does it alone.
Water collection was a communal affair. Done in the early hours of the morning by the entire village. Stories were shared. Children ran and played.
But this woman is cut off from all of this.
Enduring an isolation that emerged from her own choices and the harsh judgment of her community that shunned her.
And yet, Jesus is not phased. He is not phased by the strangeness of her presence at the well at noon. He is not phased by the social rejection. He is not phased by what she has done. He is not phased by the social boundaries that exist to separate Jews from Samaritans, Men from Women, Sinners from the Righteous.
He smashed through every wall and returned this woman to herself. To her community. To her God.
And in so doing. Jesus invites us to do the same for one another.
I think if we are honest, we all have had those moments in which we feel cutoff from the world. Isolated. Alone.
When we start a new job or transfer to a new school and try to find a new group of friends.
When our friend group turns on us because of a choice we made.
When we are dumped by the one we loved or our spouse packs up and leaves the house.
When our private lives become the water cooler gossip or the latest drama discussed on snapchat.
When we are stuck in the well of our own depression. Our own anxiety. Our own addiction. Our own grief.
But in our isolation, Christ still approaches us. Shattering every barrier. Every wall. Every reason that keeps us isolated.
Returning us to ourselves. To each other. And to our God.
My friends, as we go forth this night into an uncertain week, may we be reminded of the fact that none of us are ever truly alone.
May we be comforted by Christ’s presence and in turn inspired to go forth and be the ones who enter into another’s isolation and return them to themselves.
May our necessary physical distance from one another only increase in us the desire to meaningfully connect with one another. Shattering through whatever walls and barriers exist to be present to one another, to strengthen and support one another, to love one another til the end.
We truly are one body in Christ. And none of us ever stands alone.
May God be Praised.