This Week’s News Here

Sermon: Enmity or Embrace?

15th March 2020
Bible Readings
Psalm 95
John 4:5-42
In NZ this corona virus has us all concerned.
Imagine being in Italy right now?
The word concerned would not even begin to cover how they are feeling.
With a govt imposing rules that no one can be closer than a metre to each other and that you are only allowed to leave your area for food, medical aid or essential supplies.
The word concerned must surely have now escalated to many others.
This virus through the measures taken to prevent it is creating societal isolation in order to slow its spread and help with treatment.
It is an odd day in the world indeed where we look at being isolated as a good thing.
And yet here we are.
One really hopeful idea that came out of our presbytery gathering yesterday was from Rev. Jill Macdonald who is setting up a cluster group approach to Coviid 19 
So that neighbours get to know each other before the potential illness hits and that way can look after each other during the self isolation phase.
And I think Jill has thought of something extremely important here.
She has found a way for community and relationship to continue during isolation.
And that’s important because if you know your neighbour and those who live around you, you are going to want to look out for them.
Together we can then look after each other.
Like taking the trash in and out for each other, getting medicine from the pharmacy for them, or dropping round food etc.
Now if you didn’t know your neighbours would you be so inclined to help out?
Would you be willing to risk helping someone you don’t even know when the chance of catching the corona virus is involved?
Many of us would hesitate about putting ourselves at risk for a stranger but wouldn’t think twice for a friend.
And so Jill has created a proactive approach that helps communities stick together and help each other through this virus.
And it all begins with knowing each other.
It enables us as the Church to continue to be that supportive and healing presence in a time of crisis. 
And sadly as we commemorate the tragedy of last years shootings in Christchurch we understand the need for support and healing.
NZ has come a long way in a year and now with the corona virus as well we are faced with another threat to community well being.
And it seems to me a hopeful answer to the challenge of division and isolation is conveyed in our readings this morning.
The psalm which reminds us of the God we follow and the power of redemption 
And the Gospel of John which shows us how far Jesus goes to bridge gaps of culture and religion.
Reconciliation and Relationships is what will help us through the challenging times of division and isolation.
Psalm 95 speaks of worship and of a God whose power is beyond comprehension.
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
And the start of the hymn begins with worship.
come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Our relationship with God always begins with worship.
Because when we come to God we are recognising that God is so much more than us.
And that God wants to be in relationship and reconciled to us.
Thus worship becomes a sacred and spiritual response of immense love.
So when worship is interrupted by outside forces we can see how incredibly hurtful that is.
It breaks apart our communion with God.
In April 2019 in Sri Lanka there were three bombings of Churches during Easter service.
On arguably the most important day of worship in the Christian faith 250 people were killed and many more injured because a violent attack interrupted their worship.
If there is a thing we would call evil and wrong in this world then the killing of people trying to peacefully commune and relate to God surely fits that label.
Worship was violently cut off, forcibly stopped, oppressively ended.
We can see how this is anathema to our relationship with God.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
And yet on that day, those people could not listen to God’s voice.
Their worship was cut short in bloody violence.
So it is with absolute conviction that I can understand how wrong it was in March 2019 that such violence was also visited on our Muslim Brothers and sisters in Chch.
Not that I needed the Sri Lankan Bombings to show me that,
They are simply another example of the evil done by human hands towards those in worship
I want to stand clearly in solidarity with the muslim community and say that no one ever should have to be sacred or fear for their safety when they are trying to commune with God, trying to pray, trying to worship.
We are indeed living in a sick and broken world where people who are bowed down on a floor are mercilessly shot like cattle or blown apart by others.
So today when we remember and commemorate the tragedy of the mosque shootings in Christchurch we also look forward to healing and changing the sickness and brokenness that creates such violent hate.
NZ already has done a lot to mend and reconcile the hurt caused by the shooting 
And we need to continue to do more to ensure this kind of hate is not a part of our lives and society.
And Jesus shows us that we as Christinas are called to be at the forefront of this healing and reconciliation.
Now the reading from John is a long one and I tried to cut bits out so it wouldn’t be so long.
However the more I read it the more it spoke to me about how important reconciliation in all its aspects are.
I urge you today after you leave to read this passage again at home and think about all the hate and difference in the world.
And see the effect Jesus’ action in this passage had on it.
There is so much important detail in it.
Everything leads up to and plays a part in how we approach those who are different and how change can happen in the space of dialogue and love.
Jesus in this reading is addressing the division and hatred that the Jewish people had created within their own nation.
Jew and Samaritan both people who worship the same God, yet in different ways and fiercely opposed to the other interpretation.
Jews believed in the temple worship system in Jerusalem and the Samaritans believed worship could be in multiple high places around the country.
The division so fierce that Jew and Samaritan would not even walk through each others towns.
And so here is Jesus strolling through Samaria sitting down at Jacobs well talking to a lone woman who has had five husbands.
This is only the first few passages and there is so much detail happening here.
Jacobs well was a place where Jacob had worked and toiled for the hand of his wife and represented the life of the community because it still gave water.
Jesus who recognises Jacob as an ancestor provides living water which is even more life giving than that from the well.
And this to a woman who is not only a dreaded samaritan but also a woman, and one who has had five husbands and is now with someone else who is not her husband. 
Jesus is crossing all sorts of culture and religious barriers by simply sitting there having the conversation.
And what a conversation !
This woman is smart and wise and knows her stuff.
And she questions Jesus and clearly points out their religious differences.
19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
Jesus hears this and responds with his own points of view.
He expresses he is the living water and she goes away wondering if maybe Jesus does indeed fit into her world view as the messiah.
Not only this but she tells others of this Jesus who stepped across cultural barriers and talked with her.
And while this is happening the disciples come back and are worried about the practicalities of feeding Jesus.
Jesus replies I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 
34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do 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. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
Jesus’ reconciling encounter with this woman was food in abundance for him.
He had made a difference in the very world around him.
And this was more important at that moment than mere physical food.
This was a moment where living water had flowed out amongst people.
And because of it many more samaritans came to him and spoke with him and he stayed two more days and many more came to believe.
Jesus is involved in redemption and reconciliation across cultural and religious norms.
He sees that as more important than food itself.
How often do we seek to share living water across culture and religion?
How often do we speak to those who are different?
That is one of the reasons we have the Time of witness to show people God’s reconciling and redemptive action does happen in our community and to encourage each other to share their faith.
Because if we are to heal the sick and broken parts of our world then we are called to be involved in conversations at the wells of life.
To peacefully and lovingly engage and create conversations with those who are different.
To bring about mutual respect and through that relationship and reconciliation.
Jesus is all about sharing the good news of redemption.
Jesus loves the other
He does not isolate or leave them alone.
He journeys deliberately into the heart of the difference and seeks to relate and reconcile.
And this I believe is the power of love shown to be greater than the power of force.
Talking and communicating instead of violence and oppression.
With the tragic events of Chch and Sir Lanka 
The shooter or bomber wants to do away with the other
Where as 
The Christ follower wants to engage and be reconciled with the other.
If we have learned anything from these tragedies it is that violence and exclusion is no answer at all to the issue of difference.
And the other learning we hear from scripture today is that we, the followers of Christ are called to be present and in relationship with those who are different.
In this time and culture we cannot say it enough, know it enough or pray it enough.
We are the voice of God in this world.
And for there to be a voice it must make a sound, it must be heard.
I asked Tahir who woks at the mosque in Kilbirnie what we could do as a Christian Community to be a voice of  support today and he said prayer for us and come visit us at the mosque open day.
And so today we will pray and after Church we are going down to the mosque where they have a bouncy castle and are writing people names in Arabic as some fun activities.  - everyone is invited to join us.
We will show support that way.
Yet we also hear this morning that Jesu is also calling us to an ongoing action as well.
to talk to people who are different,
 to be in relationship with people who are different 
and to share the Gospel with people who are different.
Christians are not a people who live in isolation, 
the Good news of the Gospel is for the whole world, not to be self isolated within the walls of the Church.
So go forth and be the Good news of God.
Praise be to God