What follows is a set of notes as much as a text – apologies where it is unclear [or better, ‘even more unclear than usual!!’ 🙂 ]
Apologies but the recording did not work – I may be able to upload one at a future date
Sermon for Sunday March 23rd Lent Year A 2014
Jesus and the woman at the well
The seriousness of our Vocation
Last Sunday evening I spent some time reflecting on the Seriousness of our vocation as the Baptised people of God. That as Children of God it was a requirement to forgive everyone for everything – not something which we might choose – that in times past the church spent several years preparing baptism candidates for the seriousness of the life they were entering – that as that sense of seriousness fell away, all the training except in monastic settings fell upon priests and that, to be truthful scandalously, we are part of a church which does not even give time to training clergy prior to ordination. As part of what I said we thought for a moment about the significance of prayer
I wonder how important we understand our prayers to be?
‘Did you pray everyday for every member of your parish? If you didn’t, then the days they stumbled, you were implicated as well for they were depending on your prayers.’
Do we pray as if it really matters that we pray?? As if the salvation of our brothers and sisters was in some sense we cannot see dependent on it. As if all our lives were woven together in ways we cannot begin to comprehend, especially in this day and age?
I wonder how important you think what we are doing here is, this act of worship?? Do we understand that it is Vital indeed NEcessary for the Sustenance of the Cosmos? HOw might we approach it if we did see it that way? What might we forgo to be present at the Eucharist if we thought it was of ultimate significance
In our gospel – Jesus reveals the truth about the woman he meets at the well. Immediately she shifts the conversation to matters of worship . . . I wonder how we hear this? I’m going to return to the encounter of the woman with Jesus in a moment, but for now, just ask yourself what you think is going on here
One writer on this passage I remember saying she is dodging Jesus – and indeed we may well think so. After all this act of worship is – well just one thing amongst many, no? I mean the worship of our lives is what really matters in the long run, no? Jesus has revealed the truth about her life and so she shifts the conversation to seemingly obtuse matters about where we worship . . .
I wonder, how important you think what we are doing here today is? Think back to the prayer question . . .
Certainly our forebears in faith saw Worship Very differently . . . If I said ‘What we are doing here in this act of worship is maintain the cosmological order – the heavens and the Earth – the Creation – the angels – all of humanity depend on what is going on here this morning . . . that this act of worship was the point in the Created order where EVERYTHING was held together?
As I suspect we probably pray without recognising its significance (not its power – its significance) so also we probably didn’t come here this morning thinking I must be there for all of creation hinges on this act of worship – All through the history of the people of God, from the earliest times of the Jewish people – through the time of Jesus and for the first thousand years of the life of the church, this was Precisely the understanding of what we are doing – and most especially in The Eucharist – the Place where in Jesus Christ Earth is offered to Heaven and heaven to Earth . . .
And then something changed – people stopped looking at everything as if it was connected, started to understand it as if nothing is connected – humanity disconnected from the wider creation – how else can we despoil the Earth and pollute it if we see we are part of it? and humanity disconnected from each other – to a point where in Western society (educated by Scientific objectivity) there is an epidemic of loneliness and even where people occupy the same space, they are not present to each other but texting and surfing – lost in their solitariness. Where we are all solitary observers and nothing is connected to anything anymore . . . A lie of the Prince of this world
Let us return to Jesus and the woman at the well – She is VEry different from Nicodemus – night – day. He comes as the expert – she is there for she has utterly Failed in life and everyone knows it. Nicodemus comes in fear – the woman is utterly vulnerable – and so Jesus can approach her ‘Give me a drink’
She is shocked – I am a nobody compared to you . . .
Jesus gently pursues her – ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Jesus sees her thirst – she is has come for water – she who has no life is seeking life. Well as Nicodemus – you must be born -so the woman – but you have no bucket!! Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob??!! Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Go call your husband . . . Religious matters – I have no husband . . . and immediately Jesus responds you are telling the truth – for you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband – what you have said is true. The Truth about the woman Jesus draws out of her – she is in the light. Proud Nicodemus of course in the dark – has no further part in the conversation
And so begins the conversation on worship – The Samaritans worship on Mt Gerizim – You Jews worship at the Temple . . . and Jesus tells her “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Worship in Spirit and in Truth – Last week we reminded ourselves that this Gift of the Life that comes from God, the Life of the Spirit by which we are made his children through baptism – is GIFT. So we worship with the life that He has given to us – He is seeking those who offer that life back to him ‘in Spirit’
And worship in Truth – the woman in her vulnerability lays her life bare before Jesus. Thus she is healed, thus she receives life and thus if we read the story further – the whole community comes to life
She has nothing to lose, unlike Nicodemus who has much in terms of his respectability, his status as a teacher and more. This is why the gospel so readily takes root amongst those who’s public lives – who’s lives in the light are far from respectable. The woman at the well is truly poor in spirit – everyone knows it – that is why she must hide in the noon day sun
So she can receive the Spirit of Life – She is liberated as the truth about her is laid bare.
As we seek to grow into the fulness of our calling as the church – our lives must also be marked by such openness one to another. Walk in the light – these are the words of John the Evangelist. The community of faith is not one of moral respectability, it is one where who we are is brought into the healing light of Christ – where sins are forgiven. It is the life of the Spirit filled baptised children of God.
Formerly we have recognised the depth of the seriousness of our calling through three years of baptismal preparation – confession of sins – preparing our bodies to be vessels for the life of God – that forgiving everyone for everything is not second but our new nature – our first nature
But because we have failed to treat our vocation with any degree of seriousness, seen it as primarily about OUR salvation and not that of the whole world, the emphasis has switched and all that work which properly bleongs prior to Baptism, ends up as a curriculum with no date on it for completion after baptism. As I said last week – our problem is that we have forgotten who we are and our life together is in large part a shared amnesia – where we think nothing of not coming to worship – we think nothing of worship apart from the Sacramen. The spillage of this can be seen throughout creation. LIFE is known in the mutual Love of the believers – LIght ot the World. Rleaionships of Truth and Light, in the Spirit.
This Community of Light is the Vessel for the Life and Love of God into the world – we are called to be such vessels and as we gather for worship, in the presence of the One who Is Spirit and Truth – Christ is present in his body the church, offering the acceptable sacrifice to God the Father – so in the Sacrament, Christ is given back to the world for healing
How would we treat Sunday worship if we thought that through it the healing power of God flowed into the world?? Well it does
The Churches primary vocation is Worship and Prayer. It is why we exist. What we do here is of Ultimate significance – truly Heaven and Earth are woven together here for the sake of the whole world.
The Father is seeking – Jesus the good shepherd comes looking, for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth – for the sake of the whole world, and for his eternal glory.