Welcome to the Church
Welcome to online worship everyone. Today is the third and final service of a series of three in which we will watch a pre-recorded zoom service. In this service you will hear Rev. Ian Robinson speak about Christian witness. Many of you know Ian and his wife Marg because they regularly attended Carlingford Uniting Church while Ian was working at the Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta. I have summarised my chat with Ian, and I hope reading the text or watching the video makes you wonder about your own life of witness to Christ. Ian has also kindly written out the main points of learning from the chat as a reference guide, and I will send that out to all you via email. If you are not on the church email list please contact me via the minister drop tab down on this website and I will gladly send it to you.
Call to Worship:
Come to the One who offers us living water,
and never be thirsty again.
Come to worship God,
in spirit and truth.
Come to the Saviour of the world,
for in Him we receive life,
gushing and bubbling over in abundance.
Hymn: Tis 693 Come as you are.
Loving Eternal God,
as spring rains saturate the earth,
we give thanks for signs of new growth,
for the abundance of new life
and for green and lush foliage.
The wonders of your creation are everywhere to be seen,
and we praise you for your goodness.
As creatures and plants respond to the rain,
we respond to the living water.
The fountain of new beginnings and wellspring of life
offered to us by your Son.
We praise you Lord Jesus for reaching out to us in love,
for finding the lost and the broken
and making all people whole.
Prayer of Confession
We confess that we often take for granted
the wonders of your love.
We confess a hesitancy to invite others
to come and see, to tell, to witness,
and to share the beauty and peace
that is only found in relationship with you.
We ask in this moment of silence,
for your Spirit
to search us and show us our hidden shortcomings.
For our lack of gratitude and thankfulness,
Lord, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy.
For our failure to love you as you have loved us,
Lord, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy.
For our lack of faith in your gift of life,
Lord, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy.
Lord you reach out to us with the gracious gift
of living water, the fountain of abundant and eternal life.
In your grace we hear you say to us,
Your sins are forgiven,
Thanks be to God.
John 4:7-30, 39-42
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 worshiped 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 worshipers 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.
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.”
Interview with Ian Robinson
The story of Jesus and the Woman at the Well is Ian’s favourite bible passage. I asked Ian the following question: In the story about Jesus and the Woman at the Well, we see the woman become a witness to the way Jesus can transform lives. We know that she rushes off full of enthusiasm to tell everyone about him because the scripture tells us she leaves her water jar behind. In contrast to her enthusiasm most of us rarely speak to anyone about our Christian faith. Why do think we are so hesitant?
Ian said that each of us needs to consider our own hesitation, a good question for us to ask ourselves is “why am I so hesitant to speak to others about my faith?” We need to be mindful about coming across as “preachy” in the way we share our faith and our perspectives because that is more about us than the other person. Ian stated that we can only share our faith through personal, respectful conversations that avoid the “well this is what I think, and whatever you think is wrong; people can’t hear us, unless we actually meet as people. This happens when our heart meets the other’s heart. Another reason we hesitate to speak to others about our faith is the fear that people will ask us one of the big questions, like, If God is so good why is there so much suffering? Why didn’t God answer my prayers? and If Christians are so good why is so there so much hypocrisy?
Jesus in this passage make himself vulnerable. He is in enemy territory; he could have been stoned at any time and he has no water with him, he must wait for someone to give him a drink from the well. We also need to be vulnerable in our conversations with people. Another reason why we are hesitant to share our Christian beliefs is “because the church is a bit on the nose in the public arena”. We need to be authentic about our faith and why we value it. In order to express this, questions we can ask ourselves include, “why am I still a Christian?”, “what hope for christianity do I have?” or “what is about my experience of Christ that my community can’t do without”. We need to sound our own depths so that our conversations about our faith come from a place of gentleness and truth.
Ian spoke about the difference in the way people think about faith today compared to the way people did several decades ago. In our current context young people (generation z and millennials) are more suspicious and anxious about life. Today most of the work of the gospel will take place, not in church, not through the church but through Christian people in their own world. Eighty to ninety percent of the work is done there, the welcome is only about ten per cent. Carlingford is great at being a welcoming church but there is more to be followed through with and learnt about witnessing to the community.
Ian suggested a good exercise for all of us to do, is to start thinking and writing down the ten things we most admire/ value about Jesus. I will remind you all about that and I think it could be a great foundation for a Sunday service. In regard to being a good witness this kind of exercise can build our confidence. At the same time having a bit of fear or timidity when we approach others with the gospel means that we come with sensitivity and avoid coming across as domineering or “preachy’. The problem with fear is that sometimes it is the only thing we have. We need to overcome this with a renewed sense of confidence, awareness, and sensitivity.
We also need to be aware of people who are hostile to the gospel message, well known examples are atheists, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. Many times people with hostile reactions have had bad and or traumatic experiences brought on by the hypocritical religious attitudes and actions of the church. When we hear these hostile reactions or arguments we need to be gentle with our response and simply listen, we go beyond the hostility and wonder, ‘where their view is coming from?’ Fortunately these hostile reactions are rare. I mentioned recent research from the NCLS team who note that the majority of people are very interested in hearing others speak about faith and spirituality.
I remarked to Ian that when the Samaritan woman rushed off to tell the people of her village about Jesus she faced a potentially hostile reaction. Ian stated that the woman is confident in one thing, the main thing, her newfound relationship with Jesus. She doesn’t have all the answers, she is simply witnessing to “what this guy (Jesus) did by reaching into her life and bringing a word of hope into a life that has been terrible. In conclusion to my first question Ian said the important thing in witnessing is to stand “gently firm” in the face of any and all reactions (1 Peter 3:15-17).
My second question to Ian was “why is there a need to witness in the first place? Why witness?”
Ian explained that we are already witnessing to things and representing our views in everyday life, in everyday conversations and actions. The “question is are we Christian in the way we live our life, the way we live our lives is an act of worship” (romans ?) Do we cover our christianity up and represent something else? If so we are living a masked live. The word in Biblical Greek for someone wearing a mask, ypokritis, gives us the modern day word, hypocrite. So are we being our true selves, whole and beautiful (like the transformed Samaritan woman) or are we dumbing down our faith and wearing a mask, are we being hypocrites, so we fit in? Ian summed this up in saying, “we should not think, oh!, I now have to be a witness, we are already witnesses it’s just a question of what we are witnessing to!” We do not need the full truth, or a theological doctorate to witness to the wonder of knowing Jesus.
Ian went on to say, “Socially there are consequence for our silence. We must join in the chorus of voices competing for people’s attention in society today.” Because God came to us in Christ we know what to say; we don’t have to muddle around in anxiety. We can just let our joy bubble over because we are all enthusiastic about something, we can use that enthusiasm for witnessing if we do it with Jesus; just keep in mind the ten things you most admire/love about Jesus.
God has come to us in fleshy form, and therefore when God says I am with you it is a promise fulfilled. Jesus invites us to join the shalom of God, a cosmic peace, an enormous harmony that God is eternally working towards. It is easier to tell others about this beautiful expression of our faith and hope than answer every theological question about the meaning of life, death, and suffering. Ian has written a wonderful short study called First Love that makes it easy to walk people through the beauty of our faith. Ian suggested that we think pathway, that is to take one step at a time with people. Focusing on the shalom and the kingdom of God we can think about events we can invite people too, so that we can help them step a little bit closer to the transforming love of God. This may become a step toward discipleship.
At the conclusion of our chat Ian graciously offered to be on call for a Q&A session to answer any questions that may arise from this zoom chat, or any other questions you might have for him. I hope you can follow that gracious invitation up sometime in the near future.
A short reflection on the interview and the proclamation of the Good News
There is so much wisdom and instruction in Ian’s words and I am very glad I have summarised it in written text for future reference. In this brief reflection of the discussion I will draw out the wonders of knowing Jesus as holy friend and Saviour, because when we stand as a witness to Christ, we are witnessing to wonderfulness.
The Samaritan women in today’s reading witnesses to her community in a simple yet profoundly beautiful way. She does not need to convince anyone or explain the meaning of life, she says very simply, “Come and see”. Ian put it this way, she rushed off to tell the others “what this guy (Jesus) did by reaching into her life and bringing a word of hope into a life that had been terrible.” The good news is that Jesus is always there reaching out to us, reaching into our lives to bring hope, joy, meaning, freedom from self, freedom from selfishness, freedom from fear and above all to flood us with the certainty that we are loved beyond measure by our creator God. In fact today’s story can be described as “an enacted parable about God’s love for us.
A couple of the sentences in the chat summary struck me as the good news, the gospel, in a ‘nutshell’. Ian stated that, “because God came to us in Christ we know what to say; we don’t have to muddle around in anxiety.” In light of today’s gospel story, Ian was referring to the anxiety we may feel around witnessing to others however this is an umbrella statement. Because God came to us in Jesus we don’t need to muddle around in anxiety, full stop. God has come to us in fleshly form, and therefore when God says I am with you it is a promise fulfilled. Jesus then invites us to join the shalom of God, a cosmic peace, an enormous harmony that God is eternally working towards. How wonderful is that!
The beauty of today’s story is that we see the love and grace of God through Jesus reach into our broken lives and transform them. We are no longer lost and muddling about in darkness and uncertainty. When we surrender to this great love we are empowered to love others because only those who know great love can show great love. May this great love empower us in service and in witness and may Christ be with is and in us as we reach out to the broken and the lost with words of hope and the heartfelt invitation to come and see.
Hymn: Come and see
Blessed are you, Lord God our Father;
through your goodness we have these gifts to share.
Accept and use our offerings for your glory
and for the service of your kingdom.
Prayers of Intercession
Almighty God, who welcomes all in love, we pray for the good of the church, the nations, and all those in need.
We pray for peace and justice in the world, especially in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Ethiopia, Myanmar and West Papua. May those who are damaged by war and trauma know welcome, healing and justice.
May there be wisdom for the leaders of the world on climate change action as they meet in Glasgow from 9th-19th November. Help them make decisions that will protect the future of creation.
As we mark the anniversary of the National Apology to survivors of institutional childhood sexual abuse on the 22nd October, we pray for all survivors to find healing, justice and good support.
We pray for all those affected by Covid-19 and we ask you to comfort and strengthen those who grieve because they have lost loved ones or jobs, and those who have mental health issues. May you restore all people to wholeness. We pray that the vaccine rollout will be speeded up for people with disabilities, First Nations people, Papua New Guinea and other developing countries.
We ask for safety for teachers and students as they return to classroom teaching and we ask for wisdom for churches as they return to face-to-face worship, that all might feel welcome and safe.
We pray for guidance for the future of the Uniting Church as they focus on young people, First Nations people, and rural people as well as the impact of the pandemic, and we pray for guidance for the National Consultation of Presbytery ministers on the 22 October and the 5th November as they focus on the future ministry and mission of the church.
We pray for your blessing on Rev Mark Kickett, National Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, as he leads them to pursue justice, healing and reconciliation.
At Carlingford we pray for Gail and Trish, the Church Council, the pastoral partners and all those in the congregation. We pray for guidance in the discussions between the Carlingford and West Epping representatives, so that they discern your will for us as we continue to share the hope and compassion of Jesus Christ with the world.
We pray for comfort and healing for all who are troubled and for those who are sick or having treatment and we ask your blessing on Audrey, Luke, Pat and Sheila.
We pray that we will become witnesses to your love in a world of fear, and witnesses to the hope we have through Jesus Christ that you will always be with us.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ who taught us to pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen
Closing Hymn Jesus calls us here to meet him
Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
May you feel the softly drenching water of life.
May it fill you and replenish you.
May it bubble up within you,
to become a spring of water, gushing up to eternal life.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Next Week: 24 October, 2021
Theme: “What do you want me to do for you?”
Readings: Job 42:1-6, 10-17 & Mark 10:46-52
Job 42:1-6,10-17 Ps 34:1-8,(19-22)
Heb 7:23-28 Mk 10:46-52