October 2019

Ever hear of the Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby? It’s a song about loneliness and lonely people. The song asks a couple of questions. All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? Well, you’re in luck IF you’ve been waiting for the answers to those question because you will get them today. I also must commend your patience since you’ve been waiting since 1966.

Loneliness is one of life’s most painful experiences and there are many songs that deal with that subject.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide. From 2005 – 2015, Depression alone has increased more than 18% among people worldwide. Several hundred million reported cases.

People who use their devices a lot reported higher levels of feeling lonely, depressed and anxious. The more technology connects to technology the more we’re disconnected from each other.

I’m sure ALL of you here have experienced loneliness or anxiety because it’s installed into us.

Since the Garden of Eden, none of us can escape His judgement of the disease called sin. A virus planted deep in our hard drives. A brutal reminder of our choice. Isolation from our true Father. The ultimate loneliness.

There is a cure for loneliness. The cure is to be alone with Jesus. I’ll get back to that.

Let’s look back at some of Jesus’ dealings with Samaritan people and see how it all leads us up to today’s Gospel.

FYI – Generally, the Jewish attitude toward Samaritans was hateful. The Samaritan people were seen as “animals,” “beasts.” The Jews referred to them as “dogs.”

Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. This is a story that breaks many barriers and traditions. For starters, a Rabbi does not meet and greet strange women in public. In John chapter 4, Jesus says He is obligated to go to Samaria. He needs to get there. He goes to Jacob’s well around noon time. At noon, no one draws water. That’s done first thing in the morning while it is still cool. The Samaritan woman comes to the well. Probably hesitantly since someone is there and that someone is a man and she obviously is looking to avoid people. She was alone with Jesus. They talk about water. Water quenches our thirst. What about our spiritual and emotional thirst? Our heart and soul can thirst. She thought she could quench her thirst with relationships. Many lonely people believe this. BUT a relationship is not LOVE, let alone ETERNAL LOVE. She was married 5 times and now lived with a man. We don’t know the details. Widowed? Divorced? We know her heart is still empty. She drank from 6 relationships and was still thirsty for love. 

We all can fool ourselves into thinking we need one thing when, in reality, we need something else. We think we can fill our spiritual void with a trip, a vacation, technology, a fling, drugs, alcohol. That’s not how it works. Jesus is speaking of ETERNAL LOVE. This only thing that can fill that bottomless pit of eternal isolation.

Jesus says if we believe in Him, He will become a well inside of us. Living water springing up to everlasting life. If you’re left alone with Jesus, you better bring your swimmies!

Jesus is patient with this woman. She gestures toward her bucket and asks for that living water. She doesn’t see past her human needs. She doesn’t see past the physical. Just like us. Jesus tells her to get her husband. She says she has no husband. 

Here’s where we get a glimpse of God’s heart. Jesus answers her, you have “well said” that you have no husband. The translation of what He tells her is that it was perfectly said as if it were a line from a beautiful song.

He compliments her answer. Imagine that!

Jesus patiently explains her situation to her. Her current relationship. Her past relationships. And then commends her honesty! Another compliment. He helps the humble, lifts the lonely and raises up the sinner. Wow! 

Luke chapter 4 – We have Jesus giving a sermon in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth.  Jesus stops at a particular point of His reading of Isaiah at the synagogue. Jesus finishing the reading after the acceptable Year of the Lord. The year of Jubilee. He then tells them He is the Messiah. They don’t know what to make of that. They’re confused.

He then explains to them, when Elisha healed Naaman, it took place in the vicinity of Samaria. Naaman was a foreigner and a leper, who washed in the Jordan river and was made clean. None in Israel were healed. This is the same river where Christ was baptized. Where the sins of this Samaritan are washed away, Jesus takes up our sins. In other words, right from the beginning, Jesus said and shows His ministry was going to include the lost, the lonely, the foreigners. Even our enemies. Jesus claims to be the Messiah who releases ALL the prisoners! Who forgives All debts! BUT not only that. God’s wrath against sin is appeased and ALL SIN has been released. NOT just the sins or the Israelites as they all understood it, ALL SINS of ALL PEOPLES! EVEN THEIR ENEMIES! EVEN THE SAMARITANS! And what did his homies think of that? They didn’t like it.

They were not just angry but filled with wrath! The whole congregation was about to be caught up in a crime of passion. They forcibly dragged Him from the synagogue (over a mile) on the Sabbath (a day they should be merciful as well as resting) to the edge of a cliff (beautiful view of the Jezreel valley, also known as Megiddo, a 1000 feet below). That was the point where Jesus stopped them and left. He passed right through them.

Luke chapter 10 – The parable of the Good Samaritan. We all know that one. The Priest and the Levite saw the dying Jew. He was stripped, beaten, robbed and left for dead. They should understand the law. To show mercy and love to their fellow man. Yet it is the Samaritan who more than saw the man. The Samaritan saw and had compassion. Gut-wrenching compassion. The same Greek word, splagchnizomai, is used in the parable of the Prodigal Son when his father sees him approaching. Gut-wrenching compassion at seeing his son starved, filthy and in rags! This word alludes to a form of torture. Your insides being twisted. It was torture for him to see a fellow human being left like roadkill. It was the Samaritan who lived the law! The Samaritan knew about that ETERNAL LOVE! ETERNAL JESUS LOVE!

Luke chapter 17 – Today, we hear about Jesus cleansing ten lepers and one says, “Thank you.” What is this lesson about? Manners? Gratitude? No. What is every Gospel story about? Hint: Jesus.

It starts out with the ten lepers who struggle to reach out to Jesus. They call out with their hoarse malfunctioning vocal cords weakened with respiratory distress. They know of Him. This man of God.

Jesus saw them. How does he see them? He sees lonely men who have lost their hopes and dreams. Husbands without their wives. Fathers without their children. 10 men lost, anxious and alone. He sees then with gut-wrenching compassion.

In Leprosy they were united. 10 men being there for each other during a horrible, tragic and lonely time in their lives. They were lonely but not alone in their physical pain.

This reminds me of another song. “Piano Man,” by Billy Joel when he says, “… they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness. But it’s better than drinking alone.”

Little children tend to wander away from bright sunlight. We are no different. We turn away from God’s glory and focus on our world in shadow. We stare at our devices and we focus on our own dark shadows instead of turning around to face God’s glory and finally realize that we’re never alone. We never were and we never will be.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from? Samaria, right? Just kidding. We started from Eden. We are born from our parents. We come from every country and continent on this planet. Oftentimes we only add to our loneliness. It’s easy. Just turn away from God, walk further into the shadow.

Back to our Gospel. The Jews did what they were told. Jesus told them to present themselves to the Priests so that they could be welcomed back to their society and families. They aren’t the ungrateful 9 that we may picture in our sinful heads. They’re healed. We can’t look at them as if they did anything wrong.

One was a Samaritan. Remember the “beasts” I mentioned earlier?

Once healed the Samaritan returned to his “dog” status. Not necessarily by these 9 who grew to know him. But he will be if he presents himself to the Jewish priests. The Jews embrace their people and their culture but would not share their God. 

The Samaritan had no priests to go to. He would have been rejected. BUT this foreigner, this Gentile got it! His faith brought him back to God. Alone with God. Facing that Glory. Being bathed in the light of Christ. Cleansed of his sins and standing before the living, walking breathing God. His leprous eyes healed. His sinful blindness cured. He sees past the human shell covering Jesus.

This brings me to another song. A sacred song. Psalm 34:5. “Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces will never be ashamed.” The Hebrew word for radiant can be translated “to flow toward and shine brightly.” Flowing in the Living Water! This was written by David. He was alone in a dark cave.

True grace heals far more than just the physical.

We can easily stick together in our sin. There are so many of us. We accept it as a natural state. We even embrace it as it works to reprogram us and entangle us in our little internet web while the spider-bots crawl over us injecting us with the poisons of anxiety, depression and more loneliness. The devil fooled us good by letting us create our own little plague of darkness. 

All the lonely people, where do they all belong? In 1984, Pat Benatar sang, “We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder.” Well, she was on the right track. We belong to the light, we belong to the Father, our true Father who art in Heaven, our Creator. We belong to Jesus! We are his. We have been blood-bought!

We are cleansed by the blood of Christ. Our leprosy is washed away! We need to turn to God and we just need to let Him hack back into us. Let Him restart our souls. 

A final thought to ponder: Our DNA holds ALL our instructions for our human life. Our DNA contains chemicals and proteins arranged in an intricate language. It is literally encoding information into an alphabetic form. Jesus is the Word of God. Trust me, the word of God knows our code and speaks our language. Turn your free will over to His just like a lonely Samaritan. Pray for God to rewrite you code. It’s so easy for Him, see He is the one who wrote the code in the first place. Amen.