We are all adjusting to our “new normal” of living with a world pandemic. For me this last Sunday that meant throwing away the sermon I had written 2 days before and sharing instead some thoughts with the congregation.This is what I said:
Yesterday we gathered to remember the anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings and as we gathered we heard the news that the large Remembrance service in Christchurch was cancelled. Then as we left the service news of the travel ban was being announced and of course news from overseas of the measures in the US and Europe.
It all feels quite heavy doesn’t it; quite scary and uncertain.
I was thinking during our Vigil for Christchurch as we spoke of hope and coming together – “we are one” – of how the other word on people’s lips is isolation – how many are self isolating.
In church we are not shaking hands, not joining in the common cup; just when we need more than ever to come together we are being pulled into our own separate places of isolation. All for good reason of course, all for our own safety but it is hard to be community when we are wary of catching something.
And yet people around the world are managing – people in Italy and singing from their balconies – together, street by street and churches are broadcasting online services, and daily prayer.
At St Matthew’s we are formulating plans for how we will manage if public gatherings can no longer happen. We have had a pastoral care meeting and talked about those in our community who will be more vulnerable and at risk and so be staying home; how we could do visits and telephone calls. We are starting to work on ideas for gathering for worship via our computers – aware that a handful of people do not have computer access but most do.
I think the most important thing we can offer each other is support in quelling our fears. Reminding each other that as people of faith, fear is not what we are about; we are about hope and knowing that God walks with us wherever we are, whatever might happen.
On Saturday night on the TV news the surgeons from Christchurch Hospital talked about how calm the mosque shooting victims were; despite the great horrors they were calm in the face of possible death and great pain; their faith sustained them in a really visible way.
Barbara Brown Taylor has a book called “Holy Envy” – holy envy is when you want something another faith has. I want that calm.
The key I think to finding that calm is to always be seeking for God; always thirsty like Jesus at the well in John’s gospel (chapter 4) and thirsty like the unnamed Samaritan woman who draws water for him.
She comes alone in the noonday sun to draw water – she comes alone instead of in the cool of the morning like the other women because she wants to avoid them; she is not welcome; she is an outsider in her own community.
Jesus offers her water that will never dry up – of course she has no idea what he means but she keeps talking – keeps looking and finally goes to get her village – despite what they think of her – to tell them what she has seen.
We could take the Samaritan Woman as our model – be thirsty for the depths of God’s love – so thirsty that we will overcome fear and barriers to find it; and always ready to invite others to come and see.
In the weeks ahead we may or may not be able to gather for worship; but that does not mean we have to be disconnected as a community.
You may or may not be able to go to work and school and community activities; there will be financial pressures; many people will struggle; we will be keeping in touch with the City Mission to see if we can help in the continuing of their services.
Lots of us will be feeling despondent as we cannot make planned trips or go to our usual activities.
We will continue to offer worship on a Sunday until the Ministry of Health says we can’t; we understand if some people will stop coming before that.
Today we sit with Jesus at the well and watch the unnamed woman of Samaria realise that Jesus has water to offer that quenches our thirst and never dries up. Drink deeply.