Andrew Tucker, Radford, VA
Have you ever had a sibling rivalry or a family feud? What was that like? If it resolved, how did that happen?
This isn’t new news, though it may be news to you. Before World War II, Adidas and Puma were the same shoe company, run by brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler. Yet, the power of sibling rivalry and the fog of war led to a split between not just the companies, but the brothers. While Rudolph and his wife were hiding in a bomb
shelter during an air raid, he remarked, “The dirty !#$!@%*& are back again,” almost certainly in reference to the Allied squadrons. Yet, he said it just as Adolf and his wife were climbing into the bunker. Stress already existed between the brothers, who shared a home despite a sour relationship between their wives. Hearing this remark, Adolf was convinced that his brother referred to him and his bride and not to the B17s overhead. By 1948, the businesses had split from one another, following the separation that already existed within the Dassler family. It’s fabled that the brothers never spoke again after the division. While they were buried in the same cemetery, the separation remains visible: they demanded to be buried at opposite ends of the graveyard.
Yet, the feud didn’t end with the brothers’ deaths in the 1970s. Adidas and Puma had antipathy toward one another for nearly forty years, and with headquarters in the same town, that anger bled over into the social loyalties for the townsfolk. In 2009, workers from both companies played a friendly soccer match, though residents of Herzogenaurach still suspect tension between the two companies. It’s incredibly difficult to bury fifty years of antipathy.
Of course, this isn’t the only story of such rivalry within business. For instance, another German family feud led to the development of Aldi and Trader Joe’s in the U.S., known in Germany as Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord, respectively. What makes the story of Adidas and Puma so powerful is that, even under threat of death from another enemy, the vanity of the Dassler brothers rivalry played such a prominent role to shape the future of their families, businesses, and industries for decades to come.
- What about the story surprised you?
- What parts, if any, do you identify with? Why is that?
- Imagine a world where the Dassler brothers reconciled. What would have changed for them? For their companies? For the town of Herzogenaurach?
- What’s the power of a grudge?
Third Sunday in Lent
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
There are a number of the potential controversies within this story that relate to our lives today. For instance, much is made of the woman’s questionable marital status and the number of husbands that she’s had in the past. Others devote attention instead to the fact that this is a public encounter between an unrelated man and woman, which may seem normal to us but was a cultural taboo with intimate undertones to people in 1st century Israel. Both details deserve attention.
But the most interesting part for our day is that this conversation happens on the stage of Samaria. This is not just a man, but a Jew, and a rabbi at that. Nor is this just a woman, but a Samaritan woman who, either through terrible luck or infidelity (not necessarily her own infidelity, mind you), has been given such a bad reputation that she’s getting water in the middle of the day. Perhaps this doesn’t seem surprising at first, except most people sought water in the morning or the evening to avoid the heat of the day. It seems likely that she’s avoiding the side-eye of her neighbors, trying to save face by seeing as few faces as possible. And then she runs into not just a man, but a Jewish man, and he’s a rabbi to boot. In this day and age, Samaritans didn’t associate with Jews, and yet here we are.
There’s one more important detail to note about the matrix of this interaction. Jews and Samaritans are ethnic and religions cousins. All of the nastiness that you hear in the Scripture about Samaritans isn’t about just some random tribe, but about people who share a common lineage, who also claim Abraham, Isaac, and even the well’s namesake, Jacob, as their forebears. While we’re at it, let’s also remember Abraham’s wife Sarah, Isaac’s wife Rebekah, and Jacob’s two wives Rachel and Leah were prominent players in the story of these nations. The Samaritan woman’s surprise that this Jewish rabbi offers her a drink is quite genuine, for as the passage says, Jews don’t associate with Samaritans, even though they’re family (4:9).
The antipathy between the two groups has its roots in Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE. Many of the elites were taken out of the land. Those who remained in Israel made the best lives they could in a land wasted by war, which meant they intermarried with people other than Jews and developed different social and religious customs, including worshipping on Mt. Gerizim instead of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They became known as Samaritans.
The Southern Kingdom fell in 587 to Babylon and again the elites were taken into exile. After the Exile (a period of about 50 years) those who returned to resettle Israel had developed their own set of traditions which focused on the Jerusalem Temple and strong preferences for marrying other Jews. They did this to keep a strong religious and cultural identity in a foreign land. Yet, Jews and Samaritans worshiped the same God, kept remarkably similar sacrifices, and shared a common family tree. The reasons Samaritans and Jews didn’t associate with one another was because each felt like they carried on the proper traditions of their ancestors. Each identified as God’s truly chosen people. It’s incredibly difficult to bury fifty years of antipathy between the Dassler brothers, it pales in comparison to the nearly six centuries of division between Jews and Samaritans before Jesus meets this woman at Jacob’s well.
Into this hurricane of social discomfort Jesus brings the message of salvation to the Samaritan woman, and through her, to her entire town. This points to Jesus’ desire to bridge the chasm between Samaria and Israel, bringing fulfillment of God’s promises to all descendants of Jacob and not just one side of the family tree. What’s incredible here isn’t just that Jesus opens salvation to a woman considered a sinner by people’s court, but that Jesus makes her an evangelist for God to Samaria, just as he and his companions preach good news to the Jews. Jesus makes a Samaritan woman a disciple of the God of Israel, who is also the God of Samaria, who is also the God of all creation. Through her, the neighbors who once scorned her past and presence now praise her for her role in bringing them into the joy of Jesus. The power of God isn’t just personal salvation, though it certainly is that, but the mending of ancient hatred for unified and abundant life in God’s kingdom.
- Reflection is one of the practices of Lent. How do race and religious practices build walls between us and our human cousins which are similar to those we see between Jews and Samaritans in John 4?
- Repentance is another Lenten practice. What divisions do we need to confess to God?
- Redemption and restoration are the great hopes of Lent. How can you live in ways that, like the Samaritan woman, anticipate God’s restoration?
- “Sardines” highlights the kind of power of Jesus’ movement to overcome the divisions in our lives, even those that work hard to separate us from others. The work of one welcomes us to participate in a family unified in our diversity. For sardines, one person counts while others hide throughout the building (be sure to denote spaces that are out of bounds, like bathrooms). As that person finds the hiders, they in turn join the mission to discover every last person who remains apart from the group. The last person found becomes the new seeker.
- Work together as a group to repair something broken, out of order, or in disrepair. This could be something at the church, for someone in need, or items that each person brings and wants to see restored. Perhaps not everything will get fixed, but that provides for helpful conversation around the difficulty of restoration.
Lord God, we often allow the divisions in our world and in our families to make us believe that you love us more than others. Purge that lie from our lives. We repent of the walls that we’ve built. Send your Spirit to help us to build bridges across the artificial divides which prevent us from seeing your divine image in others. As we continue this Lenten journey, keep showing up in the Samarias of our lives, in the places where we least expect you, so that we might find your salvation even beyond the ends of the earth. We pray this all in the name of Jesus. Amen.