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The Parish of Christchurch. Christchurch Priory, St George at Jumpers, St John at Purewell

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

Last updated Tuesday, 24 March, 2020

St George’s Sung Eucharist. Sunday 15th March 2019. Lent 3.John 4. 5 – 42.

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria.

This morning’s gospel reading is one of the longest set to be read at the Eucharist in the entire three year cycle for common worship services. It focusses primarily on the interaction that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and I dare say that over the years, this one text has produced well over a dozen different sermon themes, so full as it is with messages of hope. But this morning, possibly together with other preachers across the world, I want to consider it from a brand new perspective that of the corona virus and its impending effects to us all in our daily lives, that surely all of us here at St George’s this morning know are coming, and are coming quickly.

There can be little doubt that this meeting at Jacob’s well was the last thing that the woman was expecting, after all, Jews did not share things in common with Samaritans, but as a result of this oh so simple encounter, her whole life was to be turned upside down and by the end of the reading, the whole community of which she was a part knew the true identity of Jesus and his power to save. She went through the complete set of human emotions, fear, doubt, anxiety, disbelief, worry, and then joy, inner peace, contentment, enlightenment and certainty.

As each day goes by and the enormity of what faces each one of us over the coming weeks and months becomes more apparent and very real, there is a temptation for us to say that this virus and its impact was the very last thing that we thought possible in the 21st century developed world, in a society where we expect to find answers and solutions to everything, and where nothing ever throws us from the path of our comfortable and stable daily lives, or to pick up the thoughts of the Samaritan woman, we share nothing in common with such diseases which only really affect other parts of the less developed world.

But now it has done just that and in just one week the power of the virus and its closing in presence is surely something all of us have been thinking more and more about as we slowly perhaps, but also surely take it in, and as we do that emotions such as fear, panic, anxiety, disbelief, despair have come to the fore in our individual lives and within national and local communities alike. The same as those of the Samaritan woman at the start of her encounter with Jesus, but in our case, lacking the other feelings of inner peace, joy and certainty that she went on to experience. In fact we can be excused for feeling precisely the opposite this morning.

So just what is to be done. Almost certainly next week we will not be permitted to hold public services, and even if we can, those over 70 years of age and others, with underlying health concerns, may be told to self- isolate and not to come to gatherings, including Church services, and in the not too distant future this will surely apply to everyone as the country goes into, using the media term, lockdown. This is all about being part of a responsible, loving and caring church and community and tempting, perhaps even inevitable as it is that panic will follow, we must heed the guidance and instructions that we will receive, and do so in full for the good of us all.

I want to leave you with two points from that gospel reading, points full of hope for us to reflect upon and to take inner strength from. Jesus told the Samaritan woman and tells us this morning in the same way that those who drink of the water that he offers, will never be thirsty. Translated for us, when we are able to be Christ centred in prayer we will never be alone and that such worry and panic can and will lead to the other emotions that the Samaritan woman experienced, inner peace and a knowledge that all will be well. Secondly, Jesus told his disciples in that passage that his food was to do the will of the father. That is our food as well today, to do the will of the father, to live out with all meaning and understanding what it really means to do the father’s will, and that of course is the central calling to love our neighbour, to love them not in word and prayer alone, important as that always is, but now to do so in practical and loving ways. To do the shopping for those isolated, to phone members of the church who are alone and to neighbours in the same position, to form prayer chains for those suffering from the virus or the effects of social isolation, and to do all this in the name of our Lord and Saviour who will always be with us as we do so.

You are not being abandoned in these tasks, whatever happens you can always phone me or other clergy across the parish, our numbers and emails are all in the CPN on the inside cover, The St George’s phone contact sheet will also be invaluable to us all. We will also update the parish website regularly and I am sure Bob and others will email news and we can post such updates to those without email. You might even receive a sermon or two in the same way as well!

My message therefore is this and if you take nothing else away from Church today, please do hold fast to this. You are not alone, you will not be abandoned to your own devises by your Church. And I want you to promise me one other thing, if you feel isolated and alone, phone me, you will only have to call once as I will ensure personally that others will stay in touch with you from that point onwards.

May God be with us all and may we feel that love in new and affirming ways this day and always. Amen.