"Consider this ...."

Sunday March 19th. 3rd Sunday in Lent

Collect

Merciful Lord,
Grant your people grace to withstand the temptations

of the world, the flesh and the devil
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Exodus 17: 1–7

Psalm 95

Romans 5: 1–11

John 4: 5–42

Post Communion Prayer
Lord our God,
you feed us in this life with bread from heaven,
the pledge and foreshadowing of future glory.
Grant that the working of this sacrament within us
may bear fruit in our daily lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 If I’m honest, which I sometimes am, I have to admit to feeling uneasy about today’s Gospel reading. It reminds me too much of one of those street evangelists who try to engage you in discussion about your reprobate soul when you’re on your way to pay your credit card bill or get a sandwich. Those encounters always feel like an intrusion: I know I’m a reprobate- I don’t need a second opinion from a complete stranger!

 Here we have Jesus accosting a woman to request a drink of water in the heat of the day. From there things very quickly get quite heavy with talk of Living Water, soul thirst, the essence of the divine, the messianic hope- and all in a few dozen verses (if only preachers could get the point over with such brevity, I hear you say!) Of course it sounds weird- it is weird! Like a spring of water bursting from a desert rock, or like someone who actually boasts in their weakness because they’ve come to experience ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’, and don’t care anymore about worldly status.

But through the verbal sparring and the cryptic to-and-fro there is a movement in which the woman’s worldview is challenged by Jesus and shifted in such a way that she becomes able to see things with greater clarity and hope.

 And that’s the point. In Christ we encounter God in a way that makes us question our deeply held beliefs about humanity and divinity, existence and identity. At times that questioning can be a long, protracted and quite difficult process, where our most cherished values seem to be under siege. At times it will feel like a sudden dawn, or a fresh gust of air in the musty cavern of our soul. But, by God’s grace, the end result should always be one of liberation, reassurance, belonging, peace. Not disquiet, self-condemnation and fear.

 Jesus didn’t engage the woman with talk of eternal damnation and her sinful soul. The next time you meet a zealous evangelist keen to acquaint you with the flames of hell tell them to go and read John 4 and focus more on Living Water than Fire and Brimstone!

Rev Canon Mark Niblock

Sunday March 12. 2nd Sunday in Lent

COLLECT

Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
Grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ's religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things
as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ

READINGS

First reading: Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Second reading: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Gospel: John 3:1-17

POST COMMUNION PRAYER

Creator of heaven and earth,
we thank you for these holy mysteries
given us by our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which we receive your grace
and are assured of your love,
which is through him now and for ever. 

I have a friend, who a number of years ago had a good job, with excellent prospects and a guaranteed pension. Then she read the story of God calling Abraham which forms our Old Testament reading. As she read it she felt that God was speaking to her, telling her to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” After much prayer and heart searching she gave in her notice, and went to college to train as a mission partner before going overseas.

She went to Africa and spent 23 years working there.  She has now returned to this country but she has not attempted to return to a well paid job, instead she is training at the theological institute in Dublin in preparation for ordination and future ministry here at home.

I tell her story because it is a reminder that God still calls people today in the same way as he called Abraham. God’s call will be different for each person – some will be called to leave home and all that is familiar and secure and go to another country. Others will be called to take on some form of Christian service while staying in the same place and the same job.

But whatever form God’s call takes, however great the challenge it poses, God will always give us the strength to follow that call. This was Abraham’s experience, it has been my friends experience, and the experience of many who, through the years, have heard the call of God and obeyed.

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will. 
(Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

Rev. Janice Elsdon