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Sermon and Liturgy for The Third Sunday In Lent - Year A
Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-42
"The Woman At The Well"


READING:  Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-42
SERMON :  "The Woman At The Well"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le03sm 657
                   
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

     Certain prayers and litanies are modified from John
     Maynard's weekly posting for this Sunday of 1999 to  to
     "PRCL List" at prcl-l@ulkyvm.louisville.edu.   Portions of
     the Eucharistic Prayer are from the "Book of Alternative
     Services" (Anglican Church of Canada, 1985).  Sermon
     sources as noted.  The liturgy suggests a deeper
     concentration upon the passage from Exodus than is given
     in the current text of the sermon - which is  loosely
     based on the gospel at this time.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)

                     
* CALL TO WORSHIP:
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  I sought the Lord, and He answered me.
P  He delivered me from all my fears.
L  Look to Him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be
   ashamed.
P  The Lord hears our cry and saves in our troubles.
L  Many are our afflictions and troubles.
P  But the Lord delivers us through them all.


* INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1)                - VU 315 


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Almighty and everlasting God - we find in you the deepest love
that we can imagine.  From you comes the water that wells up to
eternal life.   You watch over and protect you people.  As we
come before you this day help us to let go of all our fears and
our worries and to take upon ourselves the  mind that you want us
to have.  Grant that our prayer may rise to thee even as Christ
comes down into our hearts.  Lead us God and, by your grace,  we
shall follow and praise your name both now and forevermore. 
Amen.
                 

* HYMN:  "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah"                - VU 651


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS


INTROIT For The Word of God (please stay seated):
  Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!  (VU 371 v.2 & refrain)



A READING FROM EXODUS 17:1-7
   (NRSV)  From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of
   the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. 
   They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the
   people to drink. {2} The people quarreled with Moses, and
   said, "Give us water to drink."  Moses said to them, "Why do
   you quarrel with me?  Why do you test the Lord?" {3} But the
   people thirsted there for water; and the people complained
   against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt,
   to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" {4}
   So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this
   people?  They are almost ready to stone me." {5} The LORD
   said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of
   the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff
   with which you struck the Nile, and go. {6} I will be
   standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb.  Strike
   the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people
   may drink."  Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of
   Israel. {7} He called the place Massah and Meribah, because
   the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is
   the Lord among us or not?"

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Abundant Love"
Object:   Small Glass, Large Bowl, Pitcher of Water
Theme:    God's Love Overflowing
Source:   Children's Sermon Service Plus - Cycle A - March,
          April May 1996 - Vol 26. no 2.

Good Morning...  God loves you - and God loves me.  That's a
wonderful thing.  When I think of God's love for me - and how
much love he has - I get a picture in my mind - I think of how
God uses water as a symbol of his love - and I think of myself as
a cup or glass.

We all need love - just like we need water.  God pours his love
into me -- God fills me with love -- he refreshes me and makes me
feel good -- it's a wonderful thing - and I am thankful to have
God's love. 

But do you know something - God doesn't stop filling me with his
love.  God keeps on pouring and pouring (let it run over into the
bowl).  He never stops pouring out his love.  Why do you think
that God keeps on pouring out his love anyway???  Why does God
give me more than enough love???

God gives me more love than I can handle so that I may use that
extra love to love others with.  That's  why I love you so much
and love others as well.  God has filled me with so much love
that I can't use it all myself. 

(Take the bowl of water and show it).  What do you think we could
do with all this extra water?  What uses could we put it too???  

So it is with God's love - that's why we talk about all the time
-- God's love for us never runs out - there is always more than
enough - so that we can love others just the way God loves us -
with his  love.

   LET US PRAY  "We thank you God -- for life and love --
   poured out so richly upon us.  -- Grant that we may always
   share -- the things you have given us -- and make the
   world better every day.  Amen".


* HYMN:  "Come, Let Us Sing To The Lord"                 - VU 222


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 95 (Voices United, page 814) and Sung Refrain


PRAYER OF CONFESSION:
L  Loving God, 
   we recall how Israel murmured in the wilderness against you,
   doubting your promises 
   and questioning your intentions towards them.
P  We confess, O Lord that we too have doubts,
   that in our need and our fear we question your goodness
   and wonder if you will be true to us.
L  We confess, O Lord, that we often seek that which does not
   truly satisfy, that we exhaust ourselves labouring for that
   which does not endure.
P  Help us remember that as you opened the Red Sea for Israel, 
   so you have provided a way for us to a new and abundant life;
   opening the door to your kingdom by giving us your only Son.
L  We confess that we have hesitated on the threshold,
   that even while we glimpse the glory that you offer us,
   and experience your love and protection,
   we are not always sure what it is that we want.
P  O God, forgive us for our wandering and our murmuring,
   pardon us for our hesitation and our doubt,
   and help us to commit ourselves fully to your ways.
      .............. (silent prayer) ...............
L  Have mercy on us, O God, according to your steadfast love,
P  Sustain in us a willing spirit.
L  Help us enter fully into your kingdom.
P  Restore to us the joy of our salvation.
   We ask it in Christ's name.  Amen

   SUNG RESPONSE (VU 948):     
   O Lord, hear my prayer.  O Lord, hear my prayer; 
   when I call answer me.  
   O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer; 
   come and listen to me.


ASSURANCE OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS
   Hear the Good News!    "God so loved the world that he gave
   his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not
   perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send
   the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order
   that the world might be saved through him."        (John 3.16-17)

   Praise be to God for His Love and His Mercy.  Amen


CHOIR ANTHEM:


A READING FROM JOHN 4:5-42                          - Bob Barbour
   (NRSV)  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near
   the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
   {6} Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his
   journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. {7} A
   Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her,
   "Give me a drink." {8} (His disciples had gone to the city to
   buy food.) {9} The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it
   that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" 
   (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) {10}
   Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it
   is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have
   asked him, and he would have given you living water." {11}
   The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well
   is deep.  Where do you get that living water? {12} Are you
   greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and
   with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" {13} Jesus said
   to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty
   again, {14} but those who drink of the water that I will give
   them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will
   become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
   {15} The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that
   I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw
   water." {16} Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and
   come back." {17} The woman answered him, "I have no husband." 
   Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no
   husband'; {18} for you have had five husbands, and the one
   you have now is not your husband. What you have said is
   true!" {19} The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a
   prophet. {20} Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but
   you say that the place where people must worship is in
   Jerusalem." {21} Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the
   hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on
   this mountain nor in Jerusalem. {22} You worship what you do
   not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the
   Jews. {23} But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the
   true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,
   for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. {24} God
   is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit
   and truth." {25} The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah
   is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will
   proclaim all things to us." {26} Jesus said to her, "I am he,
   the one who is speaking to you." {27} Just then his disciples
   came.  They were astonished that he was speaking with a
   woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you
   speaking with her?" {28} Then the woman left her water jar
   and went back to the city.  She said to the people, {29}
   "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!
   He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" {30} They left the city
   and were on their way to him. {31} Meanwhile the disciples
   were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." {32} But he said to
   them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." {33}
   So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has
   brought him something to eat?" {34} Jesus said to them, "My
   food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his
   work. {35} Do 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. {36} The reaper is already
   receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so
   that sower and reaper may rejoice together. {37} For here the
   saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' {38} I sent
   you to reap that for which you did not labour.  Others have
   laboured, and you have entered into their labour." {39} Many
   Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the
   woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done."
   {40} So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to
   stay with them; and he stayed there two days. {41} And many
   more believed because of his word. {42} They said to the
   woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we
   believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that
   this is truly the Saviour of the world."

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say"                - VU 626


SERMON:   The Woman At The Well

   "Gracious God - bless now the words of my lips and the
   meditations of our hearts.  Breath your Spirit into us and
   grant that we may hear and in hearing be led in the way
   you  want us to go.  Amen.

Recently a Newspaper  ran a little item which I would like to
share with you.  It was titled: "In Times of Stress, Just Call on
Rover".  It goes like this:

   When it comes to times of stress, the most reassuring
   companion isn't your sweetheart - it's your schnauzer.  

   A study has found that people who were under stress showed
   the least amount of tension when accompanied by their dog. 
   The stress levels were highest when the people were with
   their husbands or wives.

   "I think that dogs are non-evaluative, and they love us",
   said Karen Allen, a research scientist at State University
   of New York at Buffalo's medical school.

This item caught my attention, not because of what it says about
   stress and our spouses -- I don't happen to find its
   assertion in this regard to be true in my experience of the 9
   years in which I have been married to Charlene.
NO, it caught my attention because of what asserts about how dogs
love us - and of the benefits that kind of love has.

There is something very biblical in the assertion made by Ms.
Allen that non-evaluative love, non-judgmental love, reduces
tension.

In fact the scriptures testify that this kind of love does far
more than reduce tension -
   it in fact gives life - it gives hope - it gives assurance -
   to all who receive it.

Non-judgmental - accepting - all embracing love is the essence of
the gospel message: it lies behind such statements as:
   "Do not judge others lest you be judged - for the judgement
   you give will be the judgement you receive"
and it is at the root of what has happened whenever we find Jesus
being criticized by the scribes and pharisees for the company
that he keeps.

Jesus accepts and embraces those whom others find wanting
He loves those who seem unlovable - to others - and to
themselves.

I'm not much of gardener, but one thing I do know is that every
plant needs water to grow.  

And I know this as well - the plants that are in the driest soil:
   - the ones that are struggling the hardest and beginning to
   wither
   - the ones whose leaves are being to curl and which look
   worse than the rest
need more water than those who are in damp ground and whose
leaves are rich and full of moisture.

And I know too that dry plants respond better to water than they
do to added heat -
   that they thrust down their roots to where they can find it
   or turn their leaves over so that they better receive it -
and receiving it - they change - they begin to look better - they
begin to grow - and at length - they produce the fruit that they
have been designed to produce.

We are the plants in God's garden -
placed here for a reason and a purpose -
and some of us are awfully dry - and some of us aren't.

But each one of us, whether we be dry or moist at this very
moment, needs the living water that Jesus says he has come to
give:  
- that water which wells up to eternal life, 
- that water which overflows and brings life to other plants near
to it.

I give thanks to God today for his love - for that love shown by
Christ - that love which was poured out me when I was withering
and perishing as a young man - alone in a large city
and which even now is poured out upon me -even though I am far
from perfect -

I give thanks for his love which has given me hope that I never
had, a peace that at one time I could only long for, and an
assurance that I thought I would never see at work in my life.

In giving thanks before you today I do what thousands, indeed
millions of people have done before me,  I do what the woman at
the well did after first encountering Jesus:
I point to the one who is the Saviour promised from long ago,
I point to the one who has accepted me 
- the one who calls me brother and does not hold my human
failings against me,
- the one who encourages me and challenges me and never - even
when I argue with him -  rejects or condemns me.

That is what Jesus did with the woman at the well.  He accepted
her.

He accepted her though she was a Samaritan and an enemy to his
people.

He spoke to her of God though she was a woman and not thought
worthy of such conversation.

He offered her his blessing - even though she debated with him
and questioned his statements.

He regards her as a dear sister - and gives her the same title of
endearment he gave Mary when he calls her woman in verse 21 and
asks her to believe his words concerning how the time is coming
when true worshippers will worship Father in Spirit and in Truth.

And that is why she sang his praises in her village.
Because of his acceptance - because of his love.

It was not just because  knew her past -
It was not just because he could tell her things that no stranger
should know that she spoke of him to her friends and neighbours.

It was because in knowing her --
In knowing her nationality
     her gender
         her religious attitudes
             And the mixed history of her marriages
he none-the-less treats her as if she was an equal, 
as if she was a person worthy of respect
worthy of affection -
worthy of love.

And that is where it is at.

When we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated
- when we can talk to kings and to beggars and not show any
preferences to the one and not the other,
- when we can debate with sinners and with saints - and have both
feel that you respect them
- when we can open our homes to both friends and strangers - and
have both feel welcomed
- when we can encounter people and not judge them - not put them
down - not patronize them -
then we know something of God's love
then we show something of God's love.

Blessed be God, day by day.  Amen.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE: 
Gracious God - like a deer that longs for running streams, so our
souls yearn for the love that comes from you - the love that
wells up in us like streams of living water and brings life to us
and to those around us.  Help us to open our lives to you - to
put down our roots in your word - and to turn our hands both
upward and outward that we may receive and give your blessing...
Lord hear our prayer...

Grant, O God, that we may be a people who in speaking truth 
do not judge those of whom and to whom we speak.
Help us to reap the harvest which others have sown
and to sow so that others may reap.... Lord hear our prayer...

Father - hear our prayers for those of our brothers and sisters
whose names are upon our hearts at this time -- we remember them
and all those who are in need around our world this day before
you  at this time.....

God of holy love, thank you for the living and everlasting water
you pour out for us and for our world through Your son Jesus.  
Keep us close to Him, and loyal to His leading, we ask it in his
name.  Amen


MINUTE FOR MISSION


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all
stand for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow -
VU 541) and Prayer of Dedication

   We thank you God for accepting us - for showering your
   love upon us.  We ask you to receive our humble gifts in
   return - and to use them and us to bring your gospel to
   all around us - and indeed to every corner of the earth.  
   Amen.


SHARING THE PEACE: We greet those around us with a sign of peace
(handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the Lord be
with you".  This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to
the peace that God gives to those who hear and do his word.


* COMMUNION HYMN: All Who Hunger                         - VU 460


COMMUNION
L  The peace of the Lord be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.


The Eucharistic Prayer and Words of Institution
   It is indeed right that we should praise you, gracious God,
   for you created all things.  You formed us in your own image,
   male and female you created us.  When we turned away from you
   in sin, you did not cease to care for us, but opened a path
   of salvation for all people.  You made a covenant with
   Israel, and through you servants Abraham and Sarah gave the
   promise of a blessing to all nations.  Through Moses you led
   your people from bondage into freedom; through the prophets
   you renewed your promise of salvation.   In the fullness of
   time you sent your Son Jesus Christ to share our human
   nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you,
   the God and Father of all.  In all things he fulfilled your
   gracious will - and so granted unto us a spring of living
   water that wells up unto eternal life.

   So it is, we remember how on the night he freely gave
   himself to death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and when
   he had given thanks to you (as we now thank you O God for our
   daily bread), he broke it and gave it to his disciples,
   saying "Take , eat, this is my body, given for you"....  We
   recall too, how when the supper was over, Jesus took the cup,
   the cup of blessing, and after giving thanks to you - as we
   thank you Lord for the cup you give us to drink, he gave it
   to his disciples saying "Drink this, all of you; this is my
   blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and
   for many, for the forgiveness of sins......."  As often as
   you do this - do it in remembrance of me".

The Prayer For The Spirit
   Loving God, recalling his death, proclaiming his
   resurrection, and looking for his coming again in glory, we
   offer to you the bread and this cup.  Send your Holy Spirit
   upon us and upon these gifts that they may be for us the body
   and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and that being built up by
   this precious sacrament of his grace we may receive with him
   the gift of eternal life in your blessed kingdom.  We ask it
   in his name, singing together the prayer he taught us.... 
   The Lord's Prayer (Sung)


Sharing The Body and Blood of Christ (please coming forward up
   the centre aisle to receive by intinction {take bread from
   the first server and then dip it into the wine held by the
   second server}.  An appropriate response to the words of the
   servers "The body/blood of Christ broken/poured out for you"
   are "And also for you" or "Amen".)

                        
Departing Prayer
L  Let us Pray
P  Gracious God, we thank you for feeding us with the body and
   blood of your Son Jesus Christ.  May we, who share his body,
   live his risen life; we who drink his cup, bring life to
   others; we whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world.
L  Father, keep us firm in the hope you set before us, so that
   we and your children shall be free, and the whole earth live
   to praise your name, through Christ our Lord.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families"- VU 556


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people
   of God, the body of Christ.
                                 
                      
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace
and may God's love, and God's grace, and God's truth, be poured
out endlessly upon you,
may they well up in you like a stream 
and flow forth from you like a river
bringing abundant praise and glory to his everlasting name.


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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