This year we have a unique lent experience because we have had to cancel worshiping together to protect ourselves and the community from the spread of the coronavirus. Here are the sermons from that times starting March 15, 2020 for your inspiration.

Mar. 15  Third Sun. in Lent   Refreshment in the Wilderness

I invite you to join me in prayer this morning or whenever you read this sermon.  – Pastor June Fothergill

Gracious God, we come to you this morning seeking your living water for our lives. In the midst of our thirsty and wilderness times, we need your refreshing spirit. Thank you for your gifts of water and renewal as we open our hearts to you this Lenten season. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

I invite you to read aloud the scriptures: Exodus 17: 1-7  and John 4: 5-42.  Enjoy the dialogue in each passage.

Sermon:

    This is a new kind of sermon for me.  One that I expect people to read rather than hear.  Of course this is because we are suspending public worship for a couple weeks to try to slow down the Coronavirus which is infecting our community.  Most of us who get the virus will only have a mild case but it is very contagious so we want help reduce its spread especially to more vulnerable people .   So we are staying home this  Sunday and worshipping God at home. This sermon is a way we can stay connected  during this strange time.   I also invite people to stay in contact through phone and email ,etc.   If you have prayer concerns please feel free to call me 541 603 806 or send an email at juneafothergill@gmail.com.

    My theme this week is how God brings us refreshment in the wilderness times of our lives.  As we deal with this infectious disease emergency, we are challenged to find refreshment from God.  If we are used to receiving this refreshment through weekly worship and fellowship, what other ways can we discover or renew?

    A travelor to a remote island remarked on how healthy the locals looked. “ Yes, it’s the island,” said an attractive resident. “ When I first arrive I was bald and toothless. I was so weak I couldn’t even walk . And look at me now!”

“ That’s amazing ,” said the traveler. “ so where are you from?”

“ I was born here.” Said the man.   ( AARP Bulletin March 2016 p. 54)

      One thing that renews me is laughter.   I invited you to read the two stories aloud. Did you find some humor in them?  Certainly the story about Moses and the people in the wilderness has this element.  Poor Moses.  He finds a place for the people to camp but it doesn’t have ready water.  They complain and threaten to head back to Egypt instead to looking for water!   Moses turns to God in exasperation!  “Help God. These folks are about to stone me! “   

    God is not so worried about the situation and tells Moses to settle down.  “ All will be well. I can show you where the water is located. “   Then God gives Moses some good political advice, “ and bring along all the elders.”   Get others involved, Moses.  So he does and God tells him to strike a certain rock and the water flows.   Yeah! God!  All is well again.

      I have always wondered whether Moses, having spent much time in the wilderness might have known that the rocks could hold moisture.   He just needed to be reassured by God.   What God ‘s presence often does is to help us settle down and remember or rediscover our resources and abilities.   To settle down so we can focus and problem solve.   The story is rather funny because the people get in a panic and blame Moses. They have just received the manna, food from heaven but they don’t think to ask God for help with the water problem!  The desert wilderness has overwhelmed them. Moses on the other hand knows to take the problem to God.

    So one of the ways we find refreshment in the desert times is to take the problem to God.    Like Moses, we may at first pray in a whiny, complaining, desperate mode. But that‘s the thing about prayer. We can tell God what’s on our hearts and minds. God understands. And the process of doing this often helps us settle down and wonder- now what?  Then God can show us the way to the water or whatever else we need.   

  For example, in this season of social distancing because of the cornonavirus some of us may get lonely.  We will miss the connection with others we are used to enjoying.  Perhaps in prayer we can take this concern and feeling to God and God will help us remember other ways we can connect and who might enjoy a phone call or card or other kind of connection with us.

   So the first source of refreshment we can discover in the wilderness is honest prayer, talking to God about whatever troubles us.

    The story of the woman at the well also gives us some ideas for finding refreshment in the wilderness.  If you would like to read a story I wrote about this woman at the well, check out the sermon for Lent 2017 one of the website posts.  

      Her story says to me that Jesus knows us and loves us. Christ wants to refresh our thirsty, dirty lives.  Imagine this woman.  There she was in the heat of the day, alone.    At least that is what she expected. She didn’t feel welcome anymore in the community of women who usually went to the well in the morning for the daily water supply. She waited because she was ashamed of her life and her reputation.  So she expected to be alone, but a surprise awaited her.  Jesus, a stranger and a Jew was there waiting. And even more surprising he asked her to help him, to give him a drink of water.   This was very unexpected because Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along and had few interactions. In addition, it was not proper for a man to address a woman he did not know.  We can imagine her shock.

   I noticed that we never hear whether she gave him a drink. What she did give him was a spiritual conversation. He tells her that she can ask him for living water, water that will give eternal life.  She is eager to receive this water and thinks that it will make it so she is never again thirst.   Jesus then gently asks her about her life-“ Go call your husband and come back”  When she says she doesn’t have a husband her, he reveals that he knows all about her history and present situation.   She realizes that he is a prophet and perhaps to change the subject, asks him about the controversy of their day.  Where must one worship?   Jesus honors her question and tells her about true worship.  She shares her hope for the Messiah to come and give them the truth.  Jesus then declares himself to her.  “ I am he, the one who is speaking to you!”   Wow!

    So, imagine her ( and Jesus’) disappointment when the disciples return and interrupt this remarkable encounter!  Imagine all the questions she wanted to ask Jesus- the messiah! 

      What she did do was to leave her water jar, her old life behind and start a new one. She went back to her village and told them about her encounter.  She suggested that he just could be the messiah because he knew all about her!  He knew all about her, yet he still had a conversation with her, still revealed himself to her.  The relationship with her community changed. Based upon her story the Samaritans invited Jesus and his disciples to stay in their village and many believed.   Thus through Jesus willingness to reach out to a disgraced, Samaritan women woman the mission with the Samaritans began. Clearly Jesus didn’t worry about the history of animosity between them.    Into the wilderness of social differences and social shame, Jesus brought the living water of the Spirit and new connections across the social divides.        

     Sometimes all the divisions in our society today may seem insurmountable.  More and more we are associating only with “ people like us”.   Yet, Jesus invites us to a different kind of community.  In the wilderness of division and animosity, Jesus shows us the water of respectful conversation, of giving and receiving hospitality across divides.   Simply by asking a Samaritan woman for a drink of water,  he and his disciples start a whole new relationship with the Samaritan community. 

      Jesus shows us to look first for the gifts of other- the woman could supply him with water.  And also to accept people even when society has shamed them or treated them as outcast or worthless.  By accepting this woman in all her shame, he gained opportunity for meaningful conversation and an expanded ministry.   What a difference it makes in our lives when someone treats us with respect as whole persons rather than judge us for our sins and foibles.   Have you ever had someone see your potential when you couldn’t see it?   It is truly water in the wilderness when we listen to and treat one another with respect.

    Is there someone that you can reach out to with a listening ear and respect for their ideas even if they differ from yours?  Is there some you can encourage to know their worth and potential through your attentive listening?   Is there someone who is different from you that God is nudging you to take the time to get to know and have a meaningful conversation?  These kind of interactions can open up the flow of Christ’s living water in our world.

    So as we live through this time of social distancing to hold back the spread of a disease, maybe we can find some refreshment in this wilderness.

  Like Moses we can take our concerns, fears, frustrations to God and let God’s presence settle us down and see ways to meet our needs.  And like Jesus showed the Samaritan woman we can trust that God loves us no matter what and invites us to reach out to someone different from ourselves in respect.  When we do we just may receive the refreshment of a living water conversation.

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