Sermon for Pentecost.

 Acts 2,1-21; Romans 8, 22-27; John 15, 26&27, &16, 4b-15

I wonder if you’ve noticed how swimming pools have changed. When I was a child, they were fairly quiet places. Maybe the fact that a lot of them were in the open air had something to do with it: only the hardy went swimming in them, unless it was as warm as it’s been the last week. It was fairly easy to find a time when you could swim out into the centre of the pool, and just relax, let the water hold you up, and drift with its support.

Modern swimming pools are quite different. The great draws nowadays are wave machines, flumes or water chutes, and swimming pools are places of noise and activity, screams and rushing water. Even if they don’t have all these extras, you will usually find lanes marked out for different speeds of swimming, as people go there to keep fit. If you tried to float quietly in the middle of most modern pools, you wouldn’t be very popular!

This contrast came into my mind recently when I was reading some words of John Wesley, describing the experience of the Holy Spirit, in a letter to Mary Cooke (1785) She was worried that she didn’t have an overwhelming experience of the Holy Spirit at her conversion, as others had.

Wesley  said “There is an irreconcilable variability in the operations of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men, more especially as to the manner of justification. Many find him rushing upon them like a torrent, when they experience ‘the overwhelming power of saving grace’… This has been the experience of many.  But in others he works in a very different way: ‘He deigns his influence to infuse, sweet refreshing as the dews’ and it is not improbable he will continue working in a gentle, almost insensible manner.”

Anyone hearing the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit from the Book of Acts, as we did this morning, could be forgiven for thinking that her activity is always full of noise and action, like a modern swimming pool. The commentary in Friday’s Church Times spoke about ‘God’s noisy life bursting on the scene’. But if you read about the Holy Spirit in other parts of the New Testament, and particularly in the Gospel of John, as we also did this morning, then another picture of the Spirit’s action emerges – one in which her activity is much more like the calm supporting strength of my quiet swimming pool.

Christian history has shown that the Spirit has continued to reveal herself in both forms – as an overwhelming force, which turns everything upside down; and as the quiet, sustaining strength, giving invisible support. But, as with swimming pools, sometimes one sort of action of the Holy Spirit is more fashionable than the other.

For a long time, the quiet, supporting mode of the Holy Spirit was in favour, especially with those who ran the churches, for they could then claim that they controlled, or were the channel for such activity. You could only receive the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of the church, particularly baptism, confirmation and ordination.

Nowadays, the wheel of fashion has turned, and we live in world where activity is favoured over passivity, and individuality over organisations. Now, some people seem to be claiming that the only authentic activity of the Holy Spirit is the dramatic form, which results in speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, prophecies, words of knowledge, sudden conversion, and all those experiences which go under the general label of ‘charismatic’. Sometimes, people who haven’t had such a dramatic experience of the Holy Spirit seem to be regarded as ‘not proper Christians’.

We need to beware of having our ideas restricted by fashion, in the church even more so than in the secular world. The Holy Spirit, the ‘bird of heaven’ as Sidney Carter referred to him in his less well-known hymn, is not to be confined to one mode of operation. As John Wesley concluded his letter: “Let him take his own way. He is wiser than you; he will do all things well. Do not reason against him, but let the prayer of your heart be ‘Mould as thou wilt thy passive clay’.

It may be that our characters make us more receptive to one mode of influence by the Holy Spirit than another. Or that our experience demands either a gentle growth or a sudden transformation as her way of converting us to a deeper faith.

It is not up to us to judge, nor to demand that the Holy Spirit works in us in one way rather than another. What we do have to judge, however, is whether the spiritual influences we obey come from the Holy Spirit, or from somewhere else.

Jean Pierre de Caussade (who wrote ‘The Sacrament of the Present Moment’) gave a simple rule of thumb for such judgements:

“The masters of the spiritual life lay down this principle to distinguish the true inspirations of God from those that emanate from the devil; that the former are always sweet and peaceful, inducing to confidence and humility, while the latter are intense, restless and violent, leading to discouragement  and mistrust, or else to presumption and self-will”.

We all pray, especially at this season of Pentecost, for the Holy Spirit to come upon us in greater power, to inspire us, to strengthen us and to renew us. But even when we think our prayer has been answered, we still need to exercise the discernment of which de Caussade spoke, and to check constantly that what we do and say in the name of the Holy Spirit does indeed bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in love and joy, peace and long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness and self control.

For whether the water comes upon you as a rushing torrent, or as a gentle flow, its effects in cleansing and nurturing the inner life should be the same: to produce in us the image of God, revealed to us in the life and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Melt me, mould me, fill me, use me,

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Witnesses

April 24, 2012

Luke 24, 36b-48 Service of  Baptism in Eucharist

During the baptism of S. his parents and godparents will promise that they will encourage him, as he grows up, to learn to know God, to follow Jesus Christ in the life of faith and to serve their neighbour following the example of Jesus. In other words, they will encourage him to witness to his faith.

Our Gospel today describes how the risen Christ told his disciples that they must be witnesses to the whole world of what they saw in his life, his death and his resurrection.  S’s parents and godparents are promising today that he will grow up to be a disciple of Christ; but the task that Jesus gave to his disciples after the resurrection seems a bit of a heavy load to give to such a small child.

It would have seemed an impossible job to the original disciples too – a small group of rather frightened, not very well educated, not at all wealthy men and women in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire. But they did it! And today, 2000 years later, there are about  2.1 billion followers of Christ throughout the world.

Sometimes they spoke to large crowds, and lots of people accepted the Christian faith at one time. But, most of the time, it happened one or two people at a time, with someone who was already a Christian telling two more, and each of them witnessing to two more, and each of them converting two more- and the mathematically mined among you will know how quickly very small numbers become very big numbers when that happens.

That’s not a difficult thing for anyone of any age to do.

A more difficult question, especially as we get older, is HOW we are to witness to our faith.

Some people think it’s all about talking to people about Christ and the Bible and Church – that is important, but it’s not the most important thing – and the best witnesses are not always those who talk a lot, but those who silently observe and say just the right thing.

Some people think it’s important to wear something to show you are a Christian. That can be a very important way of quietly witnessing who you follow, whose commands you obey.

But it is actually more important to LIVE the cross than to wear a cross. The baptism commission that will be read to S’s parents and godparents sets out what that means in everyday life: a life of love and service to our family, our neighbours and especially to those who are different from us and even those who hate us and wish us ill. A life in which we struggle against anything that brings pain or division into our communities, against anything that brings conflict into our neighbourhoods, and against anything that perpetuates injustice and inequality in our world. A life which in which we constantly examine what we do, and repent of anything that falls short of the standards which God expects of us. It is a call to embody in our own lives the message and mission of Christ.

The cross  in oil and water which will be made on S’s forehead will soon be invisible. But we pray that he will so live the cross that he will grow  into a shining witness for Christ through his whole life.

Amen

Do not be Afraid.

August 7, 2011

(1 Kings 19, 9-18; Romans 10, 5-15; Matthew 14, 22-33)

I spent all of the early part of my childhood living near the sea. My mother was also brought up at the sea side, and we spent our holidays with my grandmother and my aunt – who both lived by the coast – so I was always at ease in the water. I can’t remember learning to swim – I just always could, and in those days I did things I’d never dream of doing now. When we lived at Dover, I used to jump off the breakwaters into the sea; when I look at them now, as we go through Dover to join a cruise ship, I wonder how I ever had the nerve.

I swam and played in the water with confidence only because my mother was nearby, and I was sure she would not let me get into difficulties and would rescue me if I did. But coming from a family with seafarers in my ancestry, and spending so much time near the sea taught me a respect for the power of the water, especially when it was rough weather.  That means I would never have dreamt of doing anything as stupid as getting out of a boat into a rough sea, as Peter is shown as doing in our Gospel reading.

But we are not meant to take this story literally. As the Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John, pointed out in his book “The Meaning in the Miracles”, trying to find out what actually happened when these incidents took place – or even if they did – is pointless. What is important is what the Gospel writers are trying to tell us through the miracle story.

First of all, the miracle is telling us about Jesus. There is a strand of the Old Testament that sees the sea as the place of chaos, inhabited by sea monsters who cause storms and the deaths of seafarers. But one strand of the creation myths, echoes of which are found in the Psalms and Job, tells how Yahweh defeated the sea monsters to form the earth. So, when Jesus calms the storm, the text is telling us that God is present. There are also passages in the psalms which talk of God walking on the surface of the sea. So when Jesus walks on the water, the story again is telling us that God is present in him. And just to confirm it, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, I am” ( using the name of God given to Moses in Exodus).

The miracle is also telling us that Jesus is at hand to help, even when he appears to be far off. Perhaps the church for whom the Gospel was written was going through a time of troubles, when they thought their very survival was in question; and as their troubles continued, they felt that God in Jesus had deserted them. Everything, represented by the waves and the contrary wind, was against them. The story tells them, and us that on the contrary, though unseen, Jesus is keeping watch from far off, and will come when they really need him – and that when he is there, the storms will be stilled, and they will reach their  safe harbour quickly. In this, the miracle story echoes our Old Testament story. Elijah, too, thinks God has deserted him, and sinks into depression and despair; but it is only when he has reached this lowest point that he is able to hear the ‘still, small voice’ of God, commissioning him to undertake the impossible in God’s name.

Secondly, the miracle of walking on the water is telling us something about the life of the Christian disciple.  It is telling us to trust in God’s care and presence, even if we cannot feel him close. It is telling us to trust that his help will be there when the storms and troubles are at their worst, when we most need it. It is telling us to keep our eyes upon Jesus if we want to succeed in following him.

Peter, the story tells us, was able to walk on water so long as he kept looking at Jesus. It was when he looked down, and let his trust be overwhelmed by fear, that he began to sink. In the same way we need to keep Christ at the centre of our thoughts as we live out our discipleship, and to trust in the way of love and acceptance he showed us, however difficult it may seem. We follow the path of discipleship not in our own strength, but in the strength we get from Christ. That is why being part of the Body of Christ, the Christian fellowship, is so important for us. If we try to do God’s work in our own strength, through our own limited resources, we will not succeed. This is also the message of Paul in our passage from the letter to the Romans. It is through our faith in Jesus that we will be saved, not through our own actions, however righteous.

But this miracle story also tells us that sometimes God in Christ will call us to get out of the boat, and do something amazing for him. Too many of us live our lives firmly sat down in the safety of the boat, firmly enclosed in our own comfort zone. In our church life, in our daily lives, we are not willing to take risks for God. But sometimes Jesus asks us to metaphorically get out, and  into dangerous waters to meet him – because Jesus is not often to be found sitting where it’s comfortable and safe!  So, the story is saying, be ready to leave your comfort zone if Jesus calls, and willing to do things you would not normally do – you will never walk on water until you do.

Of course we will sometimes fail; but that should not deter us from making the attempt. What people tend to remember about Peter is that he sank – they forget he was the only one of the disciples to be courageous enough to make the attempt. Just as they remember that he denied Jesus – and not that he was the only one  of the Twelve who came out of hiding and followed Jesus to the High Priest’s house.

Taking risks and failing is as important as succeeding. We cannot live our lives without risk. Our present day society tries to minimise risks, especially with children – and as a consequence we are raising a generation who don’t know how to judge when a situation is really dangerous, or how to cope when things get difficult, or how to judge who to trust. With our children, and with ourselves, we have, sometimes, to face difficult situations in faith, even if we fail.

The story reassures us that, when we do try, and when we sometimes fail, God in Jesus will be there to catch hold of us and keep us safe. If we keep trusting in God, he will not let us go under.

The final and most important message to Christian disciples from this miracle is contained in Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid”. As Bishop Gene Robinson said in his sermon at Putney before the last Lambeth Conference, we live in a world and in a church which is paralysed by fear. Much of it is unrealistic, a fear of things and situations that are not really so much of a threat as they seem. But whether the fear is realistic or not, the effect of being afraid is to prevent us from loving, and loving is what we are commanded to do in Christ’s name.

“Do not be afraid. I am” said Jesus. And the storm ceased and the wind dropped.

When I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, I was sent a prayer in the Celtic style, one of a collection by David Adams. I found it a great help in keeping me calm and unafraid when things were difficult. Perhaps it will help you to stay confident in the midst of the storm, and even to walk on the water, if Jesus calls you to do so:

Circle me O God.

Keep peace within.

Keep turmoil out.

Circle me O God.

Keep calm within.

Keep storms without

Circle me O God.

Keep strength within.

Keep weakness out.

 

“You have no Bucket”

March 27, 2011

( John 4, 5-42)

It’s one of those situations you dread, isn’t it? You pop out on a domestic errand, in a hurry, perhaps, or feeling low, so you deliberately choose a time when nobody much is about – and some stranger starts talking to you. It starts off relatively innocuously, with pleasantries, but, before you know it you’re into the really deep stuff – discussion about the ultimate questions – what ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ calls the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

 

That’s what happened to the Samaritan woman who went to draw water at Jacob’s well at Sychar. We don’t know why she went to the well at noon. Most women went early, while it was still cool; and they went in a group, for safety, because the well was about a mile out of town. So, the woman was putting herself at risk by going alone in the middle of the day. Perhaps her marital history gives some clue as to why: as a much married woman, living with someone out of wedlock, she would rather run the gauntlet of strangers and wild animals rather than face the hostility of her more respectable sisters.

And when she gets to the well, she finds someone already there. An unknown man, who starts up a conversation with her. And from his accent, she knows he is a Jew. She has got herself into a situation where she could be in real trouble. And so begins an encounter that will change her life.

 

We hear of this encounter only in John’s Gospel. We don’t know why John includes it. Perhaps because his community included Samaritans and Gentiles as well as Jews, and other Jewish Christians disapproved; perhaps because his community allowed women to act as missionaries to both men and women, as other communities did not; perhaps because his community had the reputation of welcoming people with doubtful pasts, and were criticized for it. We don’t know.

 

The encounter  between Jesus and the woman is obstructed by misunderstandings, as are many of the conversations recorded in John’s Gospel. In part that is a literary device, the way in which the author of John presents the teaching of Jesus. In part it is because the conversation is full of ‘double entendres’ – not of the rude kind, but because it is being carried on at two levels, the spiritual as well as the practical.

 

But the encounter is also obstructed by the preconceptions and prejudices the woman brings to the situation. We don’t know the full details of the woman’s past, but it is clear she has not had an easy life. She has had 5 husbands already. This doesn’t mean she was immoral; life expectancy was short, particularly for young males in an occupied country, and few women could exist on their own, so remarriage was necessary for survival; but even if she had been widowed 5 times rather than divorced, she would be regarded by others, and would regard herself as unlucky. Now she couldn’t find anyone else willing to risk marriage to her, so she was in an extramarital relationship. No wonder she was wary of men.

 

And this man was a Jew. She knew the longstanding hostility between Jews and Samaritans, so she probably went into the encounter expecting problems. Perhaps, if she had thought, she might have realised this man was different. Most Jews would not have travelled from Judaea to Galilee through Samaritan territory. They would have taken the long way round, along the Jordan valley, to avoid even getting Samaritan dust on their feet.  Jews would not have taken the three day journey through Samaria, because they would have had to buy food on the way – and observant Jews would not eat Samaritan food, or drink Samaritan water, or use crockery touched by a Samaritan. But Jesus had come into the area, and sent his disciples to buy food in her village. Perhaps the woman had passed them (and been ignored by them ) on her way to the well. She should have realised even before he spoke to her, that this man was different.

 

Most Jewish men, particularly not respectable rabbis, would not have spoken to a strange woman, let alone asked for help from them. Yet Jesus treated the woman with courtesy, and opened the conversation by asking for her help. The woman should have realised from the way he treated her that this was no ordinary man.

 

But the woman is so hidebound by her own lack of self-esteem and her own preconceptions that she answers his polite request with a rude question of her own “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” Perhaps she thinks it is a trick question. Perhaps she is waiting for the put down that will follow.

 

But Jesus moves the conversation onto a new level, by saying if she knew who was talking to her, she could ask him for living water. This is one of those moments when the conversation is on two levels; Jesus could just mean running water, like that from the mountain streams in his native Galilee; but on another level, he is talking about spiritual water, the water of life.

 

The woman however, is stuck in the practicalities. “You don’t have a bucket’ she objects, ‘and the well is deep. How can you get water without the right equipment? Are you greater than our common ancestor, Jacob, who had this well dug for us?”

What can we learn from this encounter?

 

We can learn first of all from Jesus, from the fact that he approached the woman at all, and from the courteous way he treated her. She was three times over an unsuitable companion for him – a woman, a Samaritan, of doubtful reputation. Who are the outcasts of our society? Do we, as Christians, always approach such outcasts of our society with a similar courtesy? Jesus began by asking the woman for help, before attempting to give his teaching. Do we approach those we wish to evangelise in that way? Would we consider it dangerous, or beneath our dignity, to speak, let alone to ask for help from, a person of another faith, or with a dodgy past? If our Lord, who was and is truth could ask for help before rushing in with his message, why can’t we?

 

But we can also learn from the woman. She came into the encounter blinded by her own prejudices and trapped in her own sense of failure and lack of worth. Because of this, she was unable at first to receive the grace that Jesus was offering to her.

 

The Catholic writer, Gerard Hughes, suggests that we all have our well moments, and our bucket questions. We are constantly laying down criteria for God to measure up to if we are going to listen to his voice. Jesus found this constantly, not just in Samaria, but also in Judaea, and even among his own people in Galilee. Can anything good come from Nazareth? Isn’t this a carpenter? Isn’t this just the son of Joseph – or even (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) of Mary! No way can he be acceptable as a messenger of God. So often, if the reality doesn’t fit our mental filing system, we ignore it.

 

Hughes suggests we make a list of all the ‘You have no bucket’ phrases we employ to avoid hearing God’s word to us when it comes from unexpected quarters. How about, ‘How can a gay person be a minister of the Church?’ ‘Why should I accept teaching from a woman?’ ‘How can any sensible person be a Roman Catholic?’ ‘Or a fundamentalist?’ ‘What have we got to learn about faith from Muslims, or Jews, or Hindus?’.

Then, says Hughes, we should pray to be delivered from the prejudice, bigotry, snobbishness, the attachments to religious traditions and personal preferences which blind us to the gifts God is offering to us, and makes us reject the people he chooses as messengers.

 

We need to do this, both as individuals and as churches. So many of the  unnecessary disputes between churches come because we categorise people as unacceptable ministers or members for some reason. This encounter warns us against doing this in Jesus’ name – because it is not something that seemed to bother him.

 

But we can also learn from the woman about how not to receive God’s free gift of grace. On the outside, she was a strong and feisty woman. She engaged in witty chat with this stranger, and replied to his mysterious pronouncements with a ready answer. But she was hiding behind strong defences; when he started to get personal, and talked about her marital situation, she quickly changed the subject and started a conversation about the relative merits of the Jerusalem Temple and the Samaritan Temple on their holy mountain. It didn’t matter how gentle and gracious Jesus was; she had been hurt too much in the past to risk going down that path.

 

We very often hide behind our defences and refuse to accept the gracious forgiveness and unconditional love that God offers us in Christ.

There are no preconditions to an encounter with the Living Word, no price on the reception of the Water of Life. It is offered to us through Christ in love, and we receive it in faith, and allow it to do its healing and inspiring and transforming work in us. Once we let down our defences, the Living Water which Christ offers us will become part of our very selves, and as it bubbles up  out of us will bring life and salvation to others.

 

We can prevent this happening by our own defences. But we can also get in the way of it happening to others by the way we receive them in Christ’s name. The woman had such strong defences because she had been bruised in her encounters with those around her, who judged her because of her marital history. The Christian Church has a sad history of passing adverse judgements on people because of their gender, or sexuality or marital misfortunes, denying them their dignity as children of God and their place in the redeemed community. Many such people have been deeply hurt by the judgements – spoken and unspoken – which church tradition and authorities has passed on them. I read of a Christian leader who was giving advice on a TV show, and was asked by a man whether he should marry a woman who had been married 4 times before. The Christian answered, “No. Steer clear of her. She is a 4 times loser”.

Can you hear Jesus speaking of a person in such terms? On the contrary, his encounter with the woman at the well shows us him asking for help from a 5 or 6 times loser, and using her as his messenger to the people of her village. She came to the well a battered and guilt-ridden outcast; she went back  the first woman evangelist charged with telling of her encounter with the long-awaited Messiah. God will not be happy with us if our attitudes prevent others whom he wishes to use as his messengers from coming close and hearing his words of grace.

 

The final section of the woman’s meeting with Jesus is a conversation about worship. And here again, Jesus invites us to break lose from our preconceptions. The Samaritans worshipped God on in a Temple on Mount Gerazim, the Jews in Jerusalem – but both temples are about to become redundant. The only way to worship God after an encounter with his Messiah is in spirit and in truth.

Where doesn’t matter. Samaritan Temple or Jewish; plain chapel or ornate cathedral, ancient holy place or modern school hall, it’s just simply irrelevant, so long as we are open to the Holy Spirit. How doesn’t matter – Common Worship or BCP, modern worship songs or Gregorian chant, robes or ordinary clothes – it doesn’t matter so long as they are used to convey the truth which came to us in Jesus Christ.

 

And the most important message of this encounter is that ‘who’ doesn’t matter either – 5 times married woman or male disciple, they will both need to divest themselves of their prejudices and preconceptions in order to encounter Jesus and allow the Spirit to guide them into recognizing him as God’s Messiah and the one who brings us life and so will we.

 

Water of Life.

November 3, 2009

Notes for an address at Harvest Family Service 09

Readings: Exodus 2, 15b-21, John 4, 5-15

Can you tell me all the ways you can think of that you use water at home? What have you used water to do already today? What might you use water for later on?

 

Any other ways you use water?

 

Some of you may have used water this summer to grow your sunflower from the seed I gave you in June. Anyone brought sunflower back? Reward – bottle of clean water.

 

We can see water extremely important to us.

 

Was as important, if not more so, to the people who wrote our Bible.

 

If we run out of something – can go to the shops and get it. But people in Bible times grew their own food, raised animals for food and milk, not as pets. If could not get water they needed because rains failed or rivers and wells ran dry – no shops to provide. Crops wouldn’t grow so went hungry – and no seeds to plant for next year’s crop, so went on being hungry. If could not get water, animals died, so no food and no wealth. If could not get water – they died.

 

Our Bible readings show how important water was to people of Bible times. Jethro’s daughters could not water their animals if others opposed them. Jesus was thirsty – no shop to buy bottled water; had to ask woman to help him.

 

Water so important to people who wrote Bible that it became a symbol for abundant life. In one of the stories written about the creation that we find in Genesis, they imagined the perfect world in the beginning of time – and one story described a garden with a river running through it. (Gen 2.10) And when they imagined the perfect world there would be at the end of time, again they imagined a river, this time flowing out of the throne of God and flowing through the heavenly city of New Jerusalem. (Rev 22,1) Because water was so essential to life, that river was called ‘the water of life’ and in our second reading, that is what Jesus says he gives us – everything that is essential for living a rich, holy and fulfilled life.  Because water was so essential to life, the first Christians chose water to be the symbol of the new and eternal life that is promised to us through baptism.

 

If we want some water, we turn on a tap. Or we go down the road, and buy some bottled water from the supermarket. We can all afford to do that, and there is a plentiful supply of clean water.  And to water our gardens, we can collect water in water butts, because we live in a country where, most of the time, it rains a lot. But for many people in the world, life is not as easy as that.

 

I wonder what you would feel like if you had to carry all the water  you use from somewhere a long way away from your home. Average consumption of water in the UK is 150 litres per person per day. Can two small people volunteer to go and fetch water bottle from back of church. This is 5 litres. Was it heavy. You carried it a short way. How would you feel if you had to walk to the Harlequin Centre and back with it. What if you had to go to St Albans? And what if you had to do that ten times in a day. Think how many hours it would take you.

 

And what if it wasn’t along a road, with pavements and people and safe places to cross. What if it was along rough ground, through lonely places, where there might be wild animals or people who might want to hurt you?

What if there was nowhere to eat or drink on the way. What if the need to collect water meant you had no time to play or go to school?

 

And what if when you got there, the water was not clean and safe to drink, but was muddy and polluted by the droppings of animals?  What if it made you ill when you drank it?

The water we get from our taps is clean, safe, reliable, always there. We don’t have to spend long hours collecting it, and we don’t get ill when we drink it. We are so lucky. It really is ‘Water of Life’ for us.

 

The Bishop of St Albans has asked us to think about how lucky we are this Harvest time, and to give lots of money to help those people in some parts of Africa who don’t have access to clean water. In a little while you will hear the stories of two people who have been helped by Water Action, one of the many charities that is helping people in Ethiopia to have enough clean safe water to drink, to wash and to water their animals and irrigate their crops.  You can see pictures of some of those people on the leaflets you have been given and the posters around the church.

 

Clean water is only the beginning. It leads on to improved health, security, education and work prospects.

 

When we have heard those stories we will pray that God will help us to give as generously as possible to the appeal.

 

Jesus gives us Water of Life through our faith. And he expects that living water to flow through us to transform lives as ours have been transformed through him. We have the great privilege of sharing God’s work  to transform other people’s lives so that they are are as rich and healthy as ours. We pray that  many of the people we are thinking about will have Water for Life as well as the water of life after our service today.

 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord

 

 

Amen.