Beacon United Church – June 25, 2023
Welcome, Announcements and Celebrations
Introit – MV#92 Like a Rock
Like a rock, like a rock, God is under our feet.
Like the starry night sky God is over our head.
Like the sun on the horizon God is ever before.
Like the river runs to the ocean,
our home is in God evermore.
©Linnea Good 1999 Borealis Music used with permission OneLicense #A723756
Acknowledging the Territory
We are gathered for worship on the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. We give thanks to the Mi’kmaq people who have walked on this land for many years. Their relationship with the land is at the centre of their lives and spirituality. We acknowledge their stewardship and care of this land.
Acknowledging the territory where we gather and the people who have traditionally called it home for thousands of years is only one way to continue to live out the United Church’s Apologies to the First Peoples of North America. May we, as a local congregation and a national church, seek other ways to work toward right relations, and move towards becoming the community that God calls us to be together.
Lighting the Christ Candle –
Jesus promises us a deep well of life-giving water. He says that if we choose to drink this water, we will never be thirsty again. We light this candle to remind us that Jesus offers us that life-giving water and that we will never thirst again if we drink from that well.
Call to Worship
One: Worship the Lord and sing God’s praises.
All: We come into God’s presence with songs of thanksgiving.
One: Make a joyful noise for the rock of our salvation.
All: We rejoice in our time together.
One: Drink of Christ’s living water.
All: We thirst for God’s love!
Holy God, we yearn to draw near to you as we arrive in this place. We come to calm our hearts, soothe our fears, and deepen our faith. As the Samaritan woman before us, help us draw cool water from the well of your love, and help us leave with the living water of belief, through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn – MV #87 Water Flowing from the Mountains
Prayer of Confession
Giver of Life, we know we have shortcomings. In the depth of our hearts, we struggle to leave our failures behind. Teach us that trouble brings endurance, that endurance produces character, and that character brings hope. With your grace undergirding our lives, grant us the patience and persistence to claim a place in your holy Kin-dom. May we become your living water in the wilderness of this world, creating space for your hope and faith. Amen.
Words of Assurance
Like the Israelites in the wilderness, and the woman at the well, living water is within reach. We need not thirst for eternal life ever again, for the well of God’s blessing is full and God’s love is poured out for all.
Introduction to the Scriptures
In the passage from Exodus, Moses strikes the rock to deliver water in the wilderness, giving life to the wandering Israelites. Water appears again in the story of the woman at the well, whose thoughtful questions help Jesus begin to spread God’s love through living water.
Prayer of Illumination
Source of Living Water, we pray that as we read and listen to your Word this morning, we will understand more about your unending love and know what we need to do to achieve your peace on this earth. Amen.
Celebrating the Word:
Hebrew Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7
The whole Israelite community left the desert of Sin, moving from one place to another at the command of the Lord. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there to drink. They complained to Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses answered, “Why are you complaining? Why are you putting the Lord to the test?”
But the people were very thirsty and continued to complain to Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? To kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
Moses prayed earnestly to the Lord and said, “What can I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The Lord said to Moses, “Take some of the leaders of Israel with you, and go on ahead of the people. Take along the stick with which you struck the Nile. I will stand before you on a rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” Moses did so in the presence of the leaders of Israel.
The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites complained and put the Lord to the test when they asked, “Is the Lord with us or not?”
Gospel Reading: John 4:5-42In Samaria he came to a town named Sychar, which was not far from the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by the trip, sat down by the well. It was about noon.A Samaritan woman came to draw some water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.)The woman answered, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan—so how can you ask me for a drink?” (Jews will not use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans use.) Jesus answered, “If you only knew what God gives and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you life-giving water.”“Sir,” the woman said, “you don’t have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where would you get that life-giving water? It was our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well; he and his children and his flocks all drank from it. You don’t claim to be greater than Jacob, do you?”Jesus answered, “Those who drink this water will get thirsty again, but those who drink the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life.”“Sir,” the woman said, “give me that water! Then I will never be thirsty again, nor will I have to come here to draw water.”
“Go and call your husband,” Jesus told her, “and come back.”
“I don’t have a husband,” she answered.
Jesus replied, “You are right when you say you don’t have a husband. You have been married to five men, and the man you live with now is not really your husband. You have told me the truth.”
“I see you are a prophet, sir,” the woman said. “My Samaritan ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where we should worship God.”
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time will come when people will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans do not really know whom you worship; but we Jews know whom we worship, because it is from the Jews that salvation comes. But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.”
The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah will come, and when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus answered, “I am he, I who am talking with you.”
At that moment Jesus’ disciples returned, and they were greatly surprised to find him talking with a woman. But none of them said to her, “What do you want?” or asked him, “Why are you talking with her?”
Then the woman left her water jar, went back to the town, and said to the people there, “Come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done. Could he be the Messiah?” So they left the town and went to Jesus.
In the meantime the disciples were begging Jesus, “Teacher, have something to eat!”
But he answered, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
So the disciples started asking among themselves, “Could somebody have brought him food?”
“My food,” Jesus said to them, “is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do. You have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest.’ But I tell you, take a good look at the fields; the crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested! The one who reaps the harvest is being paid and gathers the crops for eternal life; so the one who plants and the one who reaps will be glad together. For the saying is true, ‘Someone plants, someone else reaps.’ I have sent you to reap a harvest in a field where you did not work; others worked there, and you profit from their work.”Many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days.
Many more believed because of his message, and they told the woman, “We believe now, not because of what you said, but because we ourselves have heard him, and we know that he really is the Savior of the world.”
Favourite Hymn Request – A Place in the Choir
Hangry and ThirstingWhen my second daughter was young, she used to have terrible temper tantrums. She could be very obstinate and was a force to be reckoned with. She would certainly try our patience. However now, as an adult, that strong will has taken her far in life. We discovered that often when she became angry and difficult to deal with, she needed something to eat. If she ate something, she would often settle down. Food was either a distraction or it helped a chemical balance in her body. In fact, she told me that she still carries around a snack in her purse in case she feels this feeling come over her. It has been proven that food can help with moods and academic performance. This premise has been one of the main arguments for providing breakfast and lunch programs for children in schools. The term ‘hangry’ is used to describe a person who is angry or difficult due to lack of food. It is the result of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. The term ‘hangry’ was reportedly first used in a novel in the 1920’s and then appeared in a psychology journal in the mid-1950s. It was added to the dictionary in 2015. The concept of hangry became more widely known through a series of commercials for the Snickers candy bar even though, I don’t think, they used the word. A tough-looking, angry celebrity would be invited by friends to eat a Snickers and then the person would turn into a milder celebrity.
In our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, this morning, we heard about the Israelites in the desert. I’m sure many of you have had experiences traveling for long periods of time. On a long trip, people get tired and sometimes when things get really bad, tempers flare. In this story from Exodus, the Israelites have been travelling for a long time. Moses has led them out of Egypt and they are travelling in the desert. One can sense the frustration as the author of Exodus tells the story. The people begin to turn on Moses, their leader. It is said that one can go for about 100 hours without water under normal temperatures and conditions. We must remember that the Israelites were exerting themselves as they walked through the desert. The exertion and the heat would reduce the amount of time that they could survive without water. They certainly seem to be at the breaking point. Moses accused them of testing God with their complaints. After the people continued to complain, Moses, feeling the pressure and fearing for his life, turns to God, in prayer, and asks for help. God tells Moses to take some of the leaders of Israel with him and strike a rock on Mount Sinai with a stick that had been in the Nile River. Moses does this and water springs from the rock.
Sometimes our spiritual journey can often be described as a journey of inward reflection. It is a time to reflect on our own lives, what we have, what we want and what we don’t need. It has often been compared to a journey in the wilderness. Time in the wilderness is a theme throughout the Old Testament and certainly plays an important role in Jesus’ spiritual journey. Stephen Milton, a United Church of Canada minister, often posts historical information on the United Church of Canada Facebook page. In one post, he talked about a group of women called the Desert Mothers in the 4th century. He says, ‘These women decided to emulate Christ’s 40 days in the desert. They entered the Egyptian and Palestinian desert, and they sought utter solitude in caves and small huts so they could cleanse themselves of all sinful desires and thoughts, and draw closer to God. They ate little, often fasting all day until evening, and then just consuming bread and water. They were freed from the demands of raising children, and caring for husbands at home. It seemed like the perfect way to find their bliss, free of all distractions, alone in a desert cave or hut. Paradoxically, even though they had left everything behind, they found that their desires and problems had come with them, like stowaways.’
Sometimes it is difficult to get away from our problems, even when we are by ourselves. Sometimes our physical needs, like hunger and thirst, get in the way of us dealing with our spiritual needs. Like the Hebrews in the desert, our physical and spiritual needs collide. Humans complaining to God is not a new concept. As our Scriptures tell us, the themes of journeying, longing for a better life and blaming God when it doesn’t come quickly or as expected are old themes. Last week we talked about the importance of telling our stories to new generations. This is why is it so important to become familiar with these old stories. They can provide us with a template or examples of how to deal with situations and problems in the present day. Some may argue that we’ve progressed, moved on and we cannot be doing things in old-fashioned ways. However, there is inherent wisdom in the stories of the Bible that provide us with the foundation of our Christian faith and other major religions. We need to pay attention to the essence of this wisdom.
In our reading from Exodus, this morning, we learned that it is okay to cry and complain to God. We know that God will respond. God may not respond in a way that we want but we need to listen for a response and recognize it as a response when it comes. When we feel like we are in a wilderness, God will meet us there. We do not have to wait to get out to a clearing before we can ask or receive help. Sometimes God provides us with what we need in places we would least expect God to provide it. The Israelites were not condemned for asking for water. They were chastised for asking for proof of God’s existence and authority. The place where Moses struck the rock to produce water was named Massah and Meribah. These words mean “divine test”. A popular way of thinking in our scientifically oriented world is that seeing is believing. If we can see something or can prove something, then we know it to be true. God invites us to think in a different way. If we believe, then we will see – believing is seeing. As we read Scripture, pray and develop a more intimate relationship with God, we come to see things differently.
Our Gospel reading this morning talks about water as well. It tells us of an encounter that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at a well. In a history dominated by patriarchal thought, the Samaritan woman has not fared well. She has faced the prejudices that many women face today as well as being a foreigner and the biases that often are placed on that designation. Those who think poorly of her are missing the point that Jesus accepts her as she is and where she is and engages her in conversation. The conversation that Jesus has with this woman is the longest conversation recorded in any of the Gospels.
This story in the Gospel of John is full of symbolism but also with tension. Jesus meets the woman (unnamed in the story) at the well. The well is a symbolic meeting place for men and women in the Old Testament. Jacob and Rachel, as well as Isaac and Rebekah met at wells. The well in this story is called Jacob’s Well because it is located in the town of Sychar near a field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s reputation was impeccable which sets the scene for Jesus to meet a woman who has been made out to be less than impeccable.
The woman is aware of what people would be thinking about her and imagines that Jesus thinks this way too. She is aware of her place as a woman in society at that time and the fact that she is a Samaritan and Jesus is a Jew. John points out to us that Jews and Samaritans were not allowed to use the same cups and bowls. All of this seems irrelevant to Jesus as he engages her in conversation and asks for a drink of water. Jesus, as in many other Bible stories, did not seem to care about social norms or protocol. Jesus was physically thirsty and wanted a drink.
As the conversation progresses, Jesus goes into teaching mode. He sees a person and a teachable moment and begins to talk about living water. Living water, in a literal sense to people at that time, was moving water that is found in rivers and oceans. Water in a well was not considered living water. This sets up more tension in the story. But Jesus is not talking about living, moving water. Jesus is talking in symbolism as he often did. John’s Gospel is the only gospel that records the “I am” statements of Jesus. Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life; the light of the world; the door; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth and the life; and the true vine.’ These seven statements have been the roots of many sermons and theological discussions. However, one may wonder why ‘living water’ is not included in this list. This is because Jesus does not say that he is the living water. Jesus offers living or life-giving water. The word of God is the living water. Jesus tells us that with this kind of living water, we will never thirst again. The woman was very quick to recognize Jesus as a prophet and runs back to town to tell other Samaritans. She could be credited with the growth of the Christian church among the Samaritans because they were looking for a Messiah and came to see what it was that this woman saw in this man Jesus. The woman at the well approached this situation with an open mind. If we are open to what is happening around us, we too may find Jesus teaching us in unexpected places.
The Samaritan woman was also willing to move beyond her expected circumstance. She approached a man sitting beside the well. Jesus, ignoring all social norms and protocols, engaged in conversation with her and together they grew to understand each other. Sometimes in life, we tend to build walls when we fear difference. These walls often leave us thirsting for something more in life. Like the Israelites, if we are willing to journey to unknown or unfamiliar places, God will be there to provide us with living water. We need to break down the barriers that keep us in our comfortable places and prevent us from experiencing something new, something different. Like the Samaritan woman, we need to venture into the world to experience Jesus and to truly taste the living water that he provides. Remember the words from last week’s Bermuda-Nova Scotia Annual Meeting report – Go, Tell, Invite!
It is important to engage in conversations with people who seem different than us. True and honest dialogue is the way to help us understand each other. This past Wednesday, we marked National Indigenous Persons Day. In the next few months, the General Council is asking all congregations within the United Church of Canada to engage in the process of a remit. This remit has to do with the Indigenous Church and their role within the United Church of Canada. It will require a lot of listening and dialogue on all sides. We will have to closely consider what each other is truly saying and feeling. This remit is in response to the United Church’s Apologies to the First Peoples of North America (as mentioned in the Acknowledgement of Territory at the beginning of this service). Like Jesus and the woman at the well, we will need to think about how our conversations can bring blessing and reconciliation to all.
In Psalm 95, the psalmist describes God as the rock of our salvation. From that rock, we receive living water. We will find ourselves as individuals and as the church in the wilderness from time to time. Sometimes it feels like we are wandering aimlessly, however, we need to remember that we can cry out to God. It is alright to be hangry in the desert. It is okay to admit that we have lost our way. But we need to listen for the voice and the direction of God in this instance. In that way, we will be fed.
Perhaps as we reflect on the stories this morning, we can think about where we are in those stories. Placing ourselves in the stories helps them become real and meaningful for us. Are you like an Israelite wandering in a desert, hungry or hangry and thirsting for spiritual sustenance? Or, maybe you are like Moses that has a stick (a talent) that will provide sustenance for people. Maybe you can help quench spiritual thirst by offering the word of God as living water to those in this world who seem so thirsty to hear it. Perhaps you are like one of the Israelite leaders who accompanied Moses to Mount Sinai and witnessed water coming from the rock. Do you keep that information to yourself or do you share the miracles that you have seen? Wherever you fit in the story, keep the conversation going. Do not be afraid of barriers that are arbitrarily put up in your way. Speak truth and you will reap the harvest. Jesus said, “Take a good look at the fields; the crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested! The one who reaps the harvest is being paid and gathers the crops for eternal life; so the one who plants and the one who reaps will be glad together.” When we plant the seeds and reap the harvest together, then the world will be fed and no one will be left hungry, hangry or thirsting. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymn – MV #117 By the Well, a Thirsty Woman (Tune: VU #635)
We Offer Our Gifts
God led Moses to get water from a rock. We bring our gifts that they may be transformed to bring food to the hungry and water to the thirsty. May our giving help others see that Jesus can provide life-giving water to thirsting world. Our offerings will now be brought forward.
Offertory Response – MV#191 What Can I Do?
What can I do? What can I bring?
What can I say? What can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy. I’ll say a prayer.
I’ll bring my love. I’ll do my share.
Copyright 1988 Abington Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission. OneLicense #A723756
Protecting God, we hear your voice beckoning us to be your hands and your feet in the world. Show us a way through the wilderness of life with knapsacks filled with blessings and vessels of living water for a hurting world. Receive these offerings, that they may be for others the blessings we have received from your hand. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
Minute for Mission – Your Gifts Help to Restore Lost Languages
These days, most of us have access to technology that allows us to learn the world’s common languages. But countless languages—including many Indigenous languages—can only be learned from their few remaining speakers.
Revitalizing a lost language, as one of our partners in Nunavut is doing, is an important way to preserve not just the language but also the culture that surrounds it.
The Inuinnaqtun language is the cultural foundation of the Inuinnait people, who live in the central Canadian Arctic. The literal meaning of the word Inuinnaqtun is “to be like an Inuinnaq (a person).” Today, fewer than 600 people can still speak Inuinnaqtun fluently. Many lost the language when they were removed from their communities and sent to residential schools.
Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is working hard to keep Inuinnaqtun alive. One-on-one language immersion sessions with mentors inspire reconnection. Through everyday conversations at home and on the land, mentorship is helping to heal the wounds of systemic oppression.
In partnership with Mission & Service, Inuinnaqtun language mentors get resources to allow them to spend 300 hours a year working with their apprentices to begin to restore the language.
Your gifts to Mission & Service help partners continue to restore language and culture. Thank you.
Prayers of the People
This past week, on June 21, we marked National Indigenous Peoples Day. The United Church of Canada shared on its Facebook page an Indigenous Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes it is good to get out of our routines and see things in different ways. As we seek reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, I invite you to join in the Indigenous Lord’s Prayer which will be printed on the screen following the Prayers of the People. Let us pray:
God of living water, we come before you this morning in awe of all the beauty of the earth. We give thanks for the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams that flow in ceaseless praise of your majesty. We thank you for the seasons and the joys and challenges that each one brings. As summer begins, we give thanks that what seems to have been dormant, and is rising to new life. Enable us to be good stewards of all the beauty and the resources that this earth provides.
O God, who calls us to journey, help us see our place in your story along with all of our ancestors and peoples of this earth. We are all fellow travellers on the road. Take us out of our comfort zones and guide us along the paths that we should travel. Help us to respectful of traditions, of space and of differences. Grant us patience as we learn from one another and help to start new inclusive practices, become closer to one another and discover similarities.
O God, we hunger and thirst for a world where there is peace. We pray for countries that are at war with each other or with themselves. Help them to see that conversation is more powerful than bombs and ammunition. We pray for victims of violence. May they heal from their wounds, both physically, mentally and spiritually and may the perpetrators of their violence seek more peaceable ways to settle their conflicts. We also pray for neighbours and families in conflict. Teach us to talk to one another. Teach us to listen to one another. Help us to meet at the well of living water to receive what we need.
At this time, we give thanks to those who lead. We pray for our political leaders, our community leaders, teachers and mentors. Give them wisdom as they lead. Grant them humility as they do your work in this world.
We pray, this morning, for all those who are sick, as well as those who are dying and those experiencing grief. May they experience healing and peace in the days ahead. We pray for those struggling with mental illnesses. May they find peace and help in a difficult world.
We pray for our church here in Yarmouth and for all congregations in the United Church of Canada as we face joys and challenges together. We pray for our minister, Rev. Sharon Lohnes as she rests and restores her body and soul on vacation.
You, God, know the prayers deep within each and every one of us. Help us to listen to your guiding words and follow the example you gave us in your Son, Jesus Christ. And now, we will pray together as Jesus taught us saying An Indigenous Lord’s Prayer as printed on the screen:
An Indigenous Lord’s Prayer
Great Spirit, our Creator, who is in all places,
Sacred is your name.
May your wisdom guide us,
Your will be done in our lives, as it is throughout Creation.
Provide for us today the nourishment we need,
And forgive us our wrongs, as we forgive those who have wronged us.
Lead us on the path of understanding and respect,
And protect us from ignorance and harm.
For you are the source of all power, beauty, and love,
From generation to generation, forever and always.
Hymn – VU #626 I Heard the Voice of Jesus
May the God of the wilderness continue to share life-giving waters of hope, love, and faith in our lives. May we have the wisdom to seek Christ’s gifts – gifts of love, gifts of hope, gifts of diversity, and gifts of faith to serve others along the way. Go into this week in peace and with love. Go out to serve. Amen.
Choral Blessing– MV# 212 Sent Out in Jesus’ Name
Sent out in Jesus’ name, our hands are ready now
to make the world the place in which the kingdom comes.
The angels cannot change a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love, of justice and of peace.
The task is ours to do, to set it really free.
O, help us to obey, and carry out your will.
Copyright 1988 Abington Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission. OneLicense #A723756