Lent 3 2017 ~ Come and See

March 19 2017
READINGS: Exodus 17: 1-7 – Romans 5: 1-11 – John 4: 5-42

Draw the circle wide. Draw it wider still. Let this be our song, no one stands alone, standing side by side, draw the circle wide.

That’s the chorus of a song that we sang a couple of weeks ago at our Lenten service at the United church. It’s in our hymn book, though I don’t think we’ve sung it here, yet. The words remind us that not only is God prone to colouring outside the lines,  but that we are called to draw our circle wide enough to make room for everyone.

In our fragmented reading of the gospels, its easy to miss the flow and connections between the stories; the bigger picture.   Last week we got to eaves-drop on the verbal exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus. This week we get to listen in on Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.

In the big picture of John’s gospel, these two stories are not disconnected.  Held side by side, they bear witness to the incredible diversity of people that Jesus invites into the story. Nicodemus is a well‑educated man, one of the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  He actively seeks out Jesus under cover of darkness. The woman at the well is a nameless, powerless, Samaritan who bumps into Jesus during the heat and light of day. Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman experience something of the mystery of God in Jesus.  Nicodemus appears to keep it to himself – for now.  But the woman is so excited that she runs back to her village and invites the others to come and see for themselves.

Come and see – These are the same words of invitation that Jesus speaks to Andrew, and Philip speaks to Nathaniel earlier in John’s gospel. Whether we intentionally seek out Jesus, like Nicodemus, or suddenly encounter him on the road, like the Samaritan woman, we are always invited to come and see – to check it out for ourselves – And then to invite others to do the same.

Bob Bassett has reminded us a few times since Synod of the Bishop’s challenge for us to invite people to church – to come and see for themselves. And I know there are all kinds of reasons why we shy away from this.

Maybe we are reluctant to speak of our faith or maybe we don’t think the church is ready for company: the music isn’t quite good enough right now or the preacher is a bit off or … whatever. But when we allow ourselves to think like that we forget that its never about the music or the preacher, it’s about the invitation to drink the living water available to us in the story of Jesus Christ.

We have a story to tell. Most of us are here because we‘ve tasted that living water. Wanting to share that gift, we invite others to come and see and taste for themselves.  Even as we journey by stages through the wilderness of change and transformation in this parish, the living water still flows in our midst and there are all sorts of opportunities to taste it.

Sunday morning may not appeal to everyone. Some quench their thirst during conversations at Open Table or EfM*. Some drink from one of the Centre for Creative Living practice circles and others at Be Still My Soul.
* Education for Ministry adult education classes

The Shine Our Light team is currently working on a way to make us all more aware of the many ministries that take place in and through St. Paul’s. It is everyone’s task to make sure that we are an open, warm and welcoming community; that we invite anyone and everyone who wants to sample the living water to come and see and taste for themselves. The story of the woman at the well is all about revelation and transformation.  It’s about making known the unconditional love of God and the gift of new life.

Last week we heard that God so loves the world that he sent us Jesus. Not for a chosen few but for everyone: Pharisees and Samaritans, male and female, stranger and friend. Over the next two weeks, we will see Jesus widening the circle by bringing living water to a blind man and then to his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

A church is like a house with a well where people of all stripes can come and taste the living water. As we continue adapting, evolving and being transformed, may we remember to drink deeply of the living water, to share it with all who come this way, and with those beyond our walls. That’s how we can worship God in Spirit and in truth right here in Almonte.

There is another song in More Voices United – that ends with

Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard, and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries of laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace; let this house proclaim from floor to rafter

All are welcome, all are welcome, all our welcome in this place.

 Pat Martin +