Revd. Heather
Sunday, March 15, 2020 - 9:30am

Exodus 17:1-7

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-42

We all find ourselves facing uncertainty in our lives at various points. We’re unsure whether the trains will be running to schedule and we’ll make that connection. We may be uncertain about how a job application has gone. We may be uncertain about health symptoms and what they might indicate. 

The Israelites in our Old Testament reading this morning were facing a lot of uncertainty. They had left their familiar surroundings – they were formerly slaves in Egypt, and were now free as they journeyed across the desert. Their life looked different. Their surroundings were changing as they moved. Their routine had changed. They we’re really sure how long their journey would take. And in today’s passage they are uncertain where they will be able to find water. All this uncertainty makes them anxious, and they get angry – and direct their anger at their leader – why did you every bring us out of slavery? and doubted whether God was really with them. 

Their memory is short. God has always been with them. It was God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt; God who parted the Red Sea so that they could safely cross; God who provided them with manna each day for food; God who had guided them through the desert with a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night. When life was good, they could see God’s presence with them. But their situation has changed again, their life is feeling tough; they are thirsting – and losing trust in God. Yet God is still with them, and God provides for the anxious Israelites in a miraculous manner, when Moses strikes the rock with his staff. God offers water to quench their thirst. God provides water. God is with them, and in their time of need they can trust in God. 

Already, and over the coming weeks, we will find ourselves wandering through uncertain times. None of us are quite old enough to remember the flu pandemic of 1918. But what is beginning to emerge is that life could look quite different over the coming months. Our freedom of movement may be restricted, our opportunities to gather together to worship may become more restricted – as we are already seeing in parts of the USA and continental Europe. God will still be with us, but the way we live out our faith, our life of prayer and worship and pastoral care, may look a little different.

Yet even if we find ourselves a dispersed community we will continue to trust in God and encounter God in our daily lives. Indeed each week we do exactly that – though we gather here on a Sunday to share in faith and fellowship, and be renewed for the coming week, George Herbert famously reminds us in his poem Praise ‘seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee.’ We are called as Christians throughout the week to continue to nurture our life of prayer and service, alone or with others. During the week, we are used to praying alone and with others. 

If we find that we are isolating and unable to gather on a Sunday, there are prayer sheets available on our website – and copies by the door -  so that we can continue to pray and be united as a community despite the distance. 

For while Jesus tells us wherever 2 or 3 are gathered, I am with you, He also demonstrates through his life that he meets with people one to one.  Our Gospel reading this morning is a great example of that. A reading which tells of a woman, a Samaritan woman, who has gone out on her own to collect water. It is there that she has this amazing encounter with Jesus. It is when the woman is on her own, by the well, seeking something that will refresh her for now, that Jesus offers her so much more. Jesus offers her an encounter with the Living Water, with God, with the one who will refresh and sustain her for ever. And through that encounter, Jesus promises her that she will always have that Living Water, God, with her. 

That promise is for us too. For all who thirst for God. That when we seek God, we will find God. And, when needs must, we find that it is possible to live out our faith at a distance. 

I mentioned earlier that not only our worship, but our pastoral care may look a little different too. It may well be that much of our pastoral care is conducted on the telephone. Indeed in the coming week, I hope that we can set up a telephone support network, so that any who are feeling isolated have someone to talk to. 

And so this Lent, whether we find ourselves in church, at home, or out in creation, may we in the uncertainty of life seek God’s presence with us; and may we know God’s living water sustaining us in our life of prayer and worship and care for others. For God is faithful, and wherever we are, God is with us. Amen.