St. John's Episcopal Church

Dear People of St. John's:
     I deeply regret that we are not able to meet together today to worship in community. I will miss seeing all of you. But it is in the interests of keeping the most vulnerable of us safe from the virus that we need to not meet together where the virus could spread. I appreciate the understanding and patience of all of you and hope that we will be able to return to public worship soon. I am hopeful that we will be able to live stream our service next Sunday. Please be aware that Bishop Curry will be live streaming a service this morning at 11:00 AM, possibly from the National Cathedral. The link was in my last email. Please know that you are in my prayers as we deal with the disruptions that are affecting us all. When we all work together, pray to God for strength and courage, and help each other out, we will get through this. If anyone needs rides to medical appointments or to have groceries delivered, please let me know. One of our parishioners has graciously offered to help out, if necessary. Take care of yourselves and pray for those most affected by this virus. Hope to see you soon.

The Rev. Carol Hancock

The readings for the Third Sunday in Lent are:

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42 

St. John's, Centreville
March 15, 2020
John 4:5-42
3 Lent A

     O God, meet us where we are on our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
     Most of us like the status quo. We like things, usually, the way they are. We don't like change because that often means we have to change. And change is uncomfortable. But Jesus is known throughout the gospel stories to disrupt the status quo. He changed people's way of thinking. He talked to people he was supposed to shun. He touched people he wasn't supposed to touch. He loved people he wasn't supposed to love.
     We have just read the longest recorded conversation Jesus had with anyone, and it was with a woman from Samaria. This is significant because Jews and Samaritans were arch enemies. They despised each other. Most Jewish travelers went out of their way to take the long way around Samaria rather than to walk through it. But not Jesus.
     Men were not supposed to talk in public to women they did not know. It was a cultural thing. It just doesn't happen. But Jesus did.
     This Samaritan woman was an outcast even among her own people. It is said that she had five husbands and the one she was living with now was not her husband. We are not told if the previous husbands died, or divorced her or deserted her. But any way you look at it, this woman had had a hard life. But her own people just saw the scandal of having so many husbands and they rejected her. That is why she was at the well at noon, the hottest part of the day, when presumably no one else would be there. She would have to subject herself to their silence or their taunts or their ridicule if she went when the other women did, in the cool of the early morning. It was hard to carry the water jars back home in the heat of the day, but she would rather do that then be judged by her neighbors.
     But Jesus didn't care about her background. He knew she had had five husbands but that didn't seem to matter. By talking to her - a Samaritan woman with a sketchy past - Jesus disrupted the status quo. He didn't judge her, he didn't degrade her. He spoke to her with dignity and respect.
     And she is not afraid to ask this strange man some questions. First of all, why are you even talking to me, a woman from Samaria? Jesus wants a drink of water but he has no bucket and the well is deep. Surely, he couldn't be asking her to share her bucket and ladle. That, too, would break social norms. Jesus replies that he has living water that he could give her. "How can I get this living water so I won't have to keep coming to this well to draw water," she asks. He is talking theologically and she is talking practicality.
     Then comes the problem of where to worship. The Jews say that one must worship in Jerusalem. The Samaritans say worship should be done on Mt. Gerizim. But Jesus replies that it does not matter where one worships geographically. True worship is characterized by the total giving of one's life to God, worshipping God in spirit and in truth. One by one, Jesus is breaking down barriers.
     The woman knows that at some point, the Messiah will come and will proclaim all things. Jesus replies that he is the one, he is the Messiah. With that, the woman leaves her water jar at the well and runs into town to tell everyone she meets that they need to come and meet this Jesus who told her everything she has ever done (a bit of exaggeration). She tells even those who have treated her badly. Come and see for yourself and make your own decision. Could this really be the Messiah?
     Many Samaritans came to see Jesus at the well and they believed he was the Messiah. They came to believe at first because of the woman's testimony, although she was the one they had shunned for so long. And because they believed, they invited Jesus to stay with them, and he stayed for two days.
     This woman's life was changed, was transformed, by the presence of Jesus. Perhaps she could be more accepted by her neighbors. Perhaps they could stop judging her for her past and remember that she was the one that led them to Jesus. She was the evangelist. She brought these other Samaritans to believe. Maybe she wouldn't have to come to the well at noon, in the hottest part of the day, but rather could come early in the morning when it was cool and socialize with the other women who were drawing their water from the well. Maybe she wouldn't feel so ostracized, so rejected. Jesus had changed her life. He had changed the status quo.
     What part of our status quo needs to be changed? How can Jesus transform our lives? Perhaps we can be more accepting of people who are different from us. Perhaps we could stop being the judge of other people and leave that job to God. Sometimes the status quo is not morally right and is an affront to God. Perhaps we could look at different ways we have always done things, or the ways we have always treated our neighbors and see if there might be a better, more loving way. Lent is a good time for that introspection, to shine a mirror into the darkest corners of our lives. How can we change? How can we be better disciples of Christ? How can we tell others about God and God's love for us?
     Jesus breaks down barriers of culture, gender, religion and ethnicity. He treats the woman at the well with dignity and respect, enabling her to be transformed and find a new identity as a child of God. The good news is available to anyone who responds in faith. It is not up to us to keep score and decide who is in and who is out. No one is outside the bounds of God's love. No one.
     With Jesus' help, this woman moves from outsider to witness, from a nobody people ignored or disdained, to a somebody who encountered the Messiah and goes to tell everyone that he is sitting there at the well. Jesus uses this sinful Samaritan woman to bring the gospel message to this group of Samaritans. It doesn't matter that Jesus is a Jew and she is a Samaritan. It doesn't matter that she is a woman he doesn't know. It doesn't matter that she has a checkered past. Jesus tells her, and others from the city, about living water, about the gospel message, so they will never be thirsty again.
     May we question the status quo that we live by and search for ways that constructively disrupts those ways that are not the ways of God. Amen.

March 15, 2020 - The Third Sunday in Lent
The Prayers of the People for Rite I are found on page 328.
Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church and the world.
Almighty and everliving God, who in thy holy Word hast taught us to make prayers, and supplications, and to give thanks for all men: Receive these our prayers which we offer unto thy divine Majesty, beseeching thee to inspire continually the Universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord; and grant that all those who do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity and godly love.
Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all bishops, priests and other ministers especially Michael, our Presiding Bishop; Susan and Jennifer, our Bishops; and Carol, our Rector , that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments.
And to all thy people give thy heavenly grace, and especially to this congregation here present; that, with meek heart and due reverence, they may hear and receive thy holy Word, truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.
We beseech thee also so to rule the hearts of those who bear the authority of government in this and every land especially Donald, our President, Ralph our Governor and Kathy our Supervisor, that they may be led to wise decisions and right actions for the welfare and peace of the world.
In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, we pray for the Church of England.
In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we pray for the congregations and clergies of St. Philip's, Richmond; St. Peter's, Richmond; and St. Patrick's, Falls Church.
In our Parish Family Cycle of Prayer, we pray for Chris & Christine Ware; Jane & Michael Webber; and David Daniel Weir.
  Open, O Lord, the eyes of all people to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works, that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, they may honor thee with their substance, and be faithful stewards of thy bounty.
We give thanks for those having birthdays this week, especially: Mary Jo Kantor; Susie Pike; Chris Ware; Anne Yagerline; and Marie McDermott.
[Omit today] We give thanks for those having anniversaries this week, especially _____________________..
And we most humbly beseech thee, of thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succor:
Evelyn (pronounced EVE-lyn) Scott; Bev Milunec; Bob Faithful; Jacob Spear; Hyacinth McLean; Laura French; Jim Scott;
Lauren Vince;Annette Walsh; Robert Lo Presti; Vickie Hull;
Emmy Bierman; Philip McLean; Patricia McPherson; Hannah Hardin; Anne; Linda; Robin Kirkman; Bishop Susan Goff; Steve Head; Lynne Clover Wallace; Carol Simon Ebert; David Daniel Weir; and all those suffering from the coronavirus.
and all those who, in this transitory life, are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.
And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy
faith and fear, especially: Richard Kerry, Jr; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service; and to grant us grace so to follow the good examples of St. John and all thy saints, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.
Grant these our prayers, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our only Mediator and Advocate.

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