Readings (John 4:1-8, 19-26)
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptising more disciples than John – although in fact it was not Jesus who baptised, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’
‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’
The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you – I am he.’
For the past twenty-five years all the cars that I have owned have been automatics. This means that they are controlled using only two pedals (one for go and one for stop) both of which are operated by your right foot, your left foot has nothing to do. You can’t stall an automatic car and you can’t roll backwards in it either. I bought our most recent car back in 2009 when it was just 14 months old and it had 7500 miles on the clock. It is now 13 years old and has done over 130 000 miles. When I drive it I don’t have to think about what my feet are doing or where my hands go, it is second nature to me.
However, the time has come to change the car and last week we got our new car. In many ways it is very similar to the old car; it is the same make, same size and has many of the same features, and it’s even blue like the old one was. It’s not as old as the other car and it has not done so many miles, but the real difference is that it is a manual car, it’s not an automatic. This means that I have got to learn to change gear all over again. Overnight I have gone from someone who was a very happy, confident driver to someone who has to think really hard all the time about what I am doing. What are my feet doing? What gear am I in? What gear should I be in?
A couple of weeks ago I lead the Sunday morning service at Scaldwell using the red service book. For many of us the service book is something that we are very familiar with. We have used it many times and for many years, so much so that the words come to us without even thinking much about them. It is easy for us to say them without any real thought about what we are doing. The familiarity of the words can mean that we almost forget what we are saying. Leading a service was for me very different to being part of the congregation. It was like changing the car, I had to think much harder about what I was doing. I spent time before the service reading the words that we use more carefully than I might otherwise have done. I had to decide which prayers to use and which version of the creed and the confession to share together. It made me think about the whole service and see it in a new light.
When you are forced into a new or different situation it can make you think more carefully about things that are familiar. We have all had to do things differently over the last year and for many it has made us re-evaluate experiences that we had taken for granted, like seeing people, shaking hands, singing together or sharing the peace with each other. As we look forward to regaining the freedoms that we previously took for granted, let us remember to look afresh at the familiar so that we can appreciate the richness of what we have.
Prayer (The Prayer of Preparation from the red service book page 2)
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.