Sermon Sunday 15 March 2020

In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN

With a rubric Mother Church invites us to pray the Ash Wednesday Collect repeatedly throughout these 40 days of Lent: This Collect is to be read every day in Lent.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And indeed it is worth invoking repeatedly. Not that God needs to hear it; ( Matthew 6:7 ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.) It is worth invoking repeatedly, because we need to hear it.  It needs to permeate us, infiltrate our resistance. Because we don’t believe it. We don’t believe that God doesn’t hate. Rather we are invested in God hating too!
You can’t be married because you are homosexual.You can’t be a bishop because you are homosexual.You can’t be a priest because you are a woman.
You can’t be president because you are a woman.You can’t vote because you are a woman.(…& there are lots of things women & fags can’t do because of who they are!…)
You can’t be human because you are African & therefore can be treated inhumanely as a commodity.You can’t be human because you are Indigenous savages.
You can’t be human & ought to be exterminated because you are a Jew.You can’t be human & ought to be exterminated because you are Rohingya
You can’t be American because you are Muslim.You can’t be Indian citizen if you are immigrant Muslim.
You can’t be American because you are a socialist.You can’t be American because you are Communist.
You aren’t welcome here because you are a refugee.
You can’t live here because you are Palestinian.
You are wrong because you are Shia, or alternatively Sunni.You are wrong because you are Protestant, or alternatively Catholic.You aren’t even truly a Christian if you don’t belong to my denomination.You aren’t even truly a Christian if you don’t agree with my theological position.
Only we have a monopoly on the unadulterated Truth & everybody else is wrong.We will keep you out, in a Ghetto, segregated, apartheid, “Build a wall!”
They are the bad guys (ipso facto we are the good guys!)
They are evil.They are “the axis of evil”.
“The Spanish Flu” (only because it was freely reported uncensored there
tho’ it likely originated in Kansas!)”The German Measles””The Wuhan Virus””the foreign virus”
God hates.God hates our enemies.
(“God bless America!”)
( Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse;)Deacon Steve reminded us only last Sunday.The Bible is full of such:

Imprecatory Psalms, are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God. Major imprecatory Psalms include Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, while Psalms 561112353740525456575859798394137139, and 143 are also considered imprecatory. As a sample, Psalm 69:24 states toward God, “Pour out Your indignation on them, and let Your burning anger overtake them.”God hates fags!
(& therefore its ok to kill them). 
(Remember only a few weeks ago we heard Jesus say Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 5:22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.)
Today’s Gospel is about a “Samaritan” (hear all the vehemence of the above rhetoric).
Her fault was, she wasn’t Jewish!She didn’t believe the requisite correct “Jewish” content.
She wasn’t orthodox! (4:20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”)
She wasn’t us, she was them.& strike two she was “she”,
she was a woman! & therefore ipso facto contaminated (Leviticus 15:19)
& it only gets worse because she has a reputation! (4:17&18) She avoids coming to the well to fetch water in the cool of the day when the other women usually gather (4:6). Yet Jesus purposely, intentionally detours through this foreign territory (4:3&4) & dallies shockingly without chaperones (4:8,27)!explicitly to engage specifically her.& she, not some male (4:16-18), nor  religious leader (3:1) nor Jewish disciple (4:27,31-34), is the one who “gets it!”Precisely because she is female/contaminated, outcast, the least expected.She (like the blind: John 9, & the dead: John 11 ) encapsulates & illustrates the radical inclusion of the mission of the prophet Jesus.(Because such as she is included & welcomed such as you or I might be too!)
She is thirsty.
She imbibes deeply.She drinks Jesus in.
& becomes an evangelist, an instrument, a catalyst of conversion for others (4:28-30 & 39-42).”we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.”Because it is so like the God whom Jesus announces to disturb, challenge & up end our narrow expectations & choose the least expected & despised to achieve His Divine purposes.Like a tribe of oppressed, wandering Hebrews, like women, homosexuals, Muslims, refugees,
like a young Galilean rabbi on a cross.-from whose pierced side living water flowed… (19:34)
Perhaps you’ve noticed: four of the five Sundays in Lent in “the year of Matthew” are made up of passages from John’s gospel. It began last Sunday (with the Nicodemus episode in chapter 3), & continues right through the 5th Sunday in Lent (…with today’s Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well chapter 4, then the man born blind chapter 9 & culminates with the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11). “Inexplicably” suggested one source. But allow me to suggest an explanation. The Church is Sunday by Sunday in this Lent inviting us into St. John’s dynamic relating of the story that will conclude in the Passion according to St. John that we invariably hear each Good Friday & the invariable first choice option for Easter Sunday (John 20:1-18). Each encounter also propels the plot as Jesus reveals himself and listeners venture toward his inevitable arrest, passion, and glorification.
Today’s pattern is repeated for our resistance & density over & over again. Next Sunday we will hear again,  9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 9:2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Obviously God hates the disabled too else they wouldn’t be so obviously flawed. Yet it is the blind man & him alone again, not his parents (because of course, as he has a disability, he need be treated as unreliably incompetent) , nor the tradition entrenched religious establishment, who “gets it”, believes & appropriately worships (9:35-38). & becomes the whistle-blower in exposing who is really blind(ed).

Nor does it end there either! Two Sundays hence we will hear it over yet again; The same favoured Johannine pattern repeated for us.  It is unexpectedly, Lazarus, the contaminated (Leviticus 5:2 & Numbers 19:3), corrupted dead, who is the catalyst effecting belief; John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’ 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! 50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
(This) Lent is (our God given) opportunity to be converted afresh, to believe that “God hates nothing God has made”! To believe that, God “the Creator of Heaven & Earth & of all things visible & invisible” who we confess is, as another oft repeated (for our sake) & well known collect declares, constitutively mercy (“Lord, whose property it is always to have mercy” BAS page 246). That God is not hate, but the clean contrary, that GOD IS LOVE. As we have so recently heard (3:16) & the overwhelming witness of the whole of scripture testify. & that fortunately for us, as today’s readings proclaim, this God who is constitutively (hesed) love, loves his enemies too. This is GOOD NEWS for us! (Romans 5:6-11) But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. God loved the world who hated him. (John 1:10 & 15:18,24 & 17:14).  God “inexplicably” loves, those who are hostile & alien to him (“the world”). This is good news for us because it means God could even love such as each of us, with all our inadequacies, weaknesses & foibles. That it is the character of the revolutionary God of Jesus to choose precisely what we find inconceivable; a woman, someone from an alien foreign tribe, with incorrect flawed theology, the blind & disabled, even the dead, to accomplish our conversion.
And “inexplicably” this witness is corroborated by another familiar Lazarus story, from another source:  Luke 16:27 He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 29 Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” 30 He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31 He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’
a last word:

It is an absolute moral imperative that our response — …as a society, …and as individuals — meets the enormity of this crisis.

As people work from home and are directed to self-quarantine, it will be easy to feel like we are in this alone, or that we must only worry about ourselves and let everyone else fend for themselves.

That is a very dangerous mistake. First and foremost, we must remember that we are in this together.

Now is the time for solidarity. We must fight with love and compassion for those most vulnerable to the effects of this pandemic.

If our neighbour or co-worker gets sick, we have the potential to get sick. If our neighbours lose their jobs, then our local economies suffer, and we may lose our jobs. If doctors and nurses do not have the equipment and staffing capacity they need now, people we know and love may die.

Now is the time for solidarity, Now is the time to come together with love and compassion for all, including the most vulnerable people in our society.”

In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN