12th March 2023 10.30am – Third Sunday of Lent Eucharist

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23 03 12 The Third Sunday of Lent Eucharist

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The Readings

Exodus 17.1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

John 4.5-42

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered 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.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but 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.’ The 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.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Kath B, a Reader at St. Mary's

Well here we are on the third Sunday of Lent already and if you have chosen to do anything to mark it I hope you’re finding it a meaningful experience. Traditionally Lent was perhaps more precisely and widely observed as a time for fasting from certain things such as particular foods like meat and fish, a time for prayer and focusing on Jesus’ life and work, and a time for reflection about our own sins and how, as Christians, we can live out our values better. Although all these elements still hold true today I think it would be fair to say that many of us tend to decide for ourselves how we want to observe Lent and often there is a more contemporary twist to our choices such as attending study groups or giving up or limiting use of our favourite tech items or social media if we’re into that. While for Christians the primary intention is to focus on our faith it can also be beneficial to see how our life choices are affecting us and even some non religious people use Lent as a prompt to do this because they worry about whether they are too attached or even addicted to some of the many delights so easily available in our modern world and how our part-taking of them can have implications for our nearest and dearest too. Ignoring them in favour of Facebook or Twitter or TikTok is perhaps not the most positive signal to send. One of my friends found Lent a good opportunity for “keeping the NO muscles in trim” as she put it and that’s probably a good thing to do from time to time.
However, I have to admit that I gave up “giving things up” for Lent years ago because apart from being a test of my willpower I didn’t find it did anything useful for me. I already know what I can be self disciplined about and what I’m not so good at. It’s still a work in progress and probably always will be. For a few years I went with the suggestion to “take things on” instead as a more positive approach to Lent but after a while they just became additional “things to do” when I’d already got more than enough on my plate so at times this made me feel a bit resentful which is sad because it rather defeated the initial intended purpose. Personally what I now find more meaningful is the idea of using the Lenten period as a time to look at my thoughts, beliefs and attitudes a bit more critically and to see whether they really are in line with the values my faith journey has instilled in me. It can be easy to become fixed or hardened in our attitudes if we don’t periodically examine them or allow anything to challenge them. When you think about it, if we’re unwilling to to do this how can we or anything else ever change or develop or grow? Being willing to change is not a weakness or a watering down of faith, it’s quite the reverse.
Our Gospel story this morning is, I think, a very good example of how willingness to look afresh and to break with a society’s attitudes can be so transformational. In our society the word Samaritan is associated with doing good. The organisation The Samaritans, through its volunteers who staff telephone helplines has helped and saved countless people who are in distress and feeling alone in their troubles and who may be harming themselves or even contemplating ending their lives. How could we view this work as anything but good, but in Jesus’ day Samaritans were very much looked down on by Jews who would go to great lengths, literally not travelling through Samaria, to avoid coming into contact with them. Jews and Samaritans hated each other which is why the story of the “Good Samaritan” that we’re so familiar with and Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman in our story today are so remarkable.
The question I’d like us all as individuals to consider privately is “who are our Samaritans”? By this I mean who are the people we might, for whatever reason, find it difficult to regard in a positive light. There are all sorts of issues that divide people so that they can’t or choose not to see each other positively. The USA is a prime example of how polarising this can become and how difficult it is to undo. It may be differences about politics, class, cast, ethnicity, colour, culture, gender, sexuality, education, financial status, employment status, job title, rank or privilege and of course religion that we don’t always see eye to eye on and this list, though long, is by no means comprehensive. We are all of course entitled to our opinions and attitudes and often they have grown out of very good reasons but in our modern world where we see so much intolerance, impatience, rudeness and sometimes aggression, vitriol and even violence displayed by some towards others with whom they disagree, it can be hard to resist getting drawn into this way of responding. In the face of a lowering of standards of behaviour in both public and private life it can be hard to hold onto our values and trying to live by them can sometimes feel like a losing battle. What’s the point in trying when selfishness, “me first” and shouting others down so often seem to get the best results. It can be depressing and disheartening at times.
One of the things that keeps me going when I’m feeling like this is reading or listening to the stories of inspiring people who have found ways to keep going in the face of difficulties, who have overcome the bad things that have happened to them and decided not to give in to hatred or blaming or a desire for revenge. They have found ways to look at their situations and break with the usual ways of reacting to them just as Jesus did in today’s Gospel story. He broke with the way his society expected him behave by talking with the Samaritan woman and staying with her people as their guest. Breaking rules and taboos about how to treat people was something he did a lot, not because he wanted notoriety but because those ways were wrong and he wanted people, especially people in positions of authority to look at what they were doing, to understand why they were wrong and to change their ways.
If we only see others as this or that, a particular religion or race or party or gender etc and refuse to see anything else about them we dehumanise them and in so doing we diminish our own humanity. For me, being a Christian is about having standards and values inspired by Jesus and the way he lived and I try my best to live by them rather than adhering to a set of hard and fast rules that must be obeyed to the letter. I respect that others in all sincerity think and feel differently but for me, when rules, tenets, beliefs and attitudes get in the way of humanity then they at least need to be re-examined and re-evaluated and maybe changed. Surely the ultimate yardstick by which to measure what we think and say and do should be “What would Jesus make of this”? “What would he make of me”?

The Prayers
Prepared by Oli.

Lord God, like the water that came from rock, help us to be open to witnessing and celebrating the miracles we encounter in our lives - whether that be childbirth, wild flowers blooming or
through an experience revealed only to us.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

Lord God, grant us the awareness of our neighbour in need. Help us to respond in love to those who sleep on our streets and those we see who are hungry and impoverished.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

Lord God, for the strangers, migrants, foreigners and travelers like the one encountered by the Samaritan woman at the well, help us to be welcoming. Help us to be the thirst quencher, the
warm home provider, the friend in the wilderness. In our country and within our community, may we freely open our arms to those escaping conflict who have already had to survive the most extreme of trials.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

Lord God, during our fasting and ‘giving up’ in lent, help our bodies focus on your spiritual food, allowing us to be filled with a clearer sense of our vocation or where God may be sending
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

Lord God, help us to appreciate what has already been sown. We thank you for your unconditional gifts that we reap and we are sorry for when we fail to gather your harvest which sits on our
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

We close the prayers with the words of a taize chant: Let all who are thirsty come, let all who wish receive the water of life freely, come lord Jesus.

Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers,
for the sake of your son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.