Samantha Johnson, Jacksonville, NC

Warm-up Question

Have you ever made a surprising connection with a stranger? 

Unlikely Friendship

When Detroit Police Officer Marcus Harris II got a call to check in on an individual sleeping at an abandoned gas station, he found far more than he ever expected. 

At first, Corporal Harris went through the motions, offering the man, Adrian Hugh, a bus ticket back to California. Offering one-way bus tickets is a common strategy that cities use to cut down on the number of homeless people living on the streets. 

But after taking time to talk and get to know one another, Corporal Harris and Hugh realized that there was more they could do together than apart. Hugh explained that before Corporal Harris came into his life, he was at his lowest point, ready to give up. But Corporal Harris went above and beyond, helping Hugh get the services he needed right there in Detroit, including replacing his stolen ID cards, finding emergency shelter, applying for housing, writing a resume, and even finding a job.

They found an unlikely friendship in one another, restoring hope for both men. 

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever learned something new from a police officer or a person experiencing homelessness? 
  • It is easy to list the ways that Hugh benefited from his friendship with Corporal Harris. What do you think Corporal Harris might have gained from his friendship with Hugh?

Third Sunday in Lent

Exodus 17:1-7

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-42

(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 A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

I think it’s safe to assume that both Jesus and the Samaritan felt unsure about how their interaction would go when they first encountered one another. 

Many of us who have heard this story before, come to it with some assumptions about the Samaritan woman. John Piper, a popular preacher and prolific author, describes her as “a worldly, sensually-minded, unspiritual harlot from Samaria.” However, a careful look at the text in its cultural context reveals that these are not among the assumptions Jesus makes. 

It is more likely, therefore, that her five husbands came and went due to factors outside of her control. Perhaps she was a widow, or maybe her husbands divorced her for being infertile. It is even possible that her husbands divorced her to marry someone else. Maybe her many marriages were the result of a combination of these possibilities. The truth is that we aren’t given an explanation for why she was married so many times, but it’s more likely that she was a victim than a harlot. 

With this fresh perspective on the woman, we can see that what Jesus recognizes in her is not a sinful past in need of redeeming. Instead, Jesus recognizes in her is a kindred openness to God’s word, determination to discover the truth, and boldness to proclaim the gospel to all who will listen.

The woman never would have found the freedom of the gospel if Jesus had maintained the status quo. But the gospel never would have reached so many Samaritan saints if the woman had not been open to Jesus’ invitation. Their unlikely friendship changed the lives of all those involved and continues to inspire us even today. 

Discussion Questions

  • How do you think Jesus expected the conversation to go? Do you think it went as he expected or do you think he was surprised by the unlikely friendships he found among the woman and the people of the city?
  • The woman learned about the freedom and everlasting life that Jesus promises his followers. What do you think Jesus gained from his friendship with the woman? 
  • Assumptions keep us apart but conversations driven by curiosity draw us together. Whether it is a specific person or a type of person, who are you feeling called to engage in curious conversation? 

Activity Suggestions

Homelessness carries a great deal of stigma. Many people, even Christians, assume people who are experiencing homelessness are lazy or deserve to be on the streets. Challenge yourself to play this game to learn more about the difficult and risky choices people in poverty are facing every day.  

Closing Prayer

Jesus our friend, you came among us out of love in order to know us more, show us your way, and bless us with your love and grace. Empowered by your spirit, send us out with open minds and softened hearts so that we may bless others with that same love and grace you have shown us. Amen.