A Sermon Illuminating a Stained Glass Window
November 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
As some of you know I have begun my foray into preaching. This is my first sermon from this summer that is illuminating the meaning of one of the stained glass windows at the Church that I go to in Toronto: Epiphany and Saint Mark. I have provided a link to a Soundcloud site where you can listen to it. Or if you’d rather I have provided the full text below for your reading pleasure.
I have struggled to get the SoundCloud working, but this morning fought it out and made it work. I’ll be posting in the next couple of days the sermon that I preached yesterday which, even though it does not refer directly to the tragedy the struck Paris on Friday evening, it does speak directly to it; but there is a little more to say about that when we get there.
Alas, since this is my first sermon, and it’s a rather pleasant one, I figured I would start at the beginning and make my usual turn signal-less veering off from there.
The text which the window is based, the story of the Woman at the Well, on is in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John and can be found here.
And Right Here is where you’ll find the link to hear the sermon on SoundCloud.
And Below is the full text for the sermon if you’d rather read it.
I hope you enjoy!
May only Truth be Spoken and only Truth Received,
Good Morning Everyone,
First of al,l I’d like to express my thanks for being invited up here to share the pulpit with such extraordinary preachers and people such as Father Stephen, and the rest of the clergy team, along with all of the priests and preachers of this place that I have heard quite a lot about.
I quick word about myself just so you know a little bit about me and have some of my context. First of all you’ve seen me around, mostly attached to your beautiful music director, sometimes playing trumpet although not for a while, and recently doing some of the liturgical dance up at the altar. Rachel and I have joined you here at Epiphany and St Mark’s because I am in school doing a masters of divinity degree at Trinity college. I was raised up a good catholic, left church for 8-9 years, came back to a Jamaican Apostolic church for about two years, and finally settled in a thriving Anglican congregation in Winnipeg around 9 years ago… and now, I am blessed to be here. All of that being said Stephen has asked me to preach on a couple of the windows in our summer window series.
This morning, we are turning our attention to one of my favorite stories in all of the gospel: the Woman at the Well. The scripture reading this morning tells us the whole of this story. From Jesus making by His way to the well, straight through to when the woman runs off to tell the world Christ has come. However, the window that lights our sanctuary highlights one particular moment of this story. It’s one we all have a connection to week in a week out: Standing for the Gospel
Why We Stand for the Gospel
Does anyone know why we stand as the gospel is being read each week? We stand and turn as it is coming down the aisle, and turn ourselves towards it to witness the Word of God being uttered by a reader. Is it something a kin to standing up when someone of higher rank than us walks into a room as to show respect? I mean, what more than the very Word of God deserves it?
This, however, as you may have already guessed, is not exactly the opinion I find most convincing. At my church in Winnipeg our priest would, about once a year or so, depending on when he thought the congregation needed a little reminder, preach a sermon called ‘why we do what we do.’ It went through each action and song of the liturgy and illuminated its history, meaning, and significance. My priest in Winnipeg’s interpretation of our standing is a little bit more dynamic than standing at attention for rank or royalty. He hold’s that we stand so that if the Word of God, the Gospel, grips one of us, we will be ready to move, literally move, to run out of the church and do the bidding of the Holy Spirit.
A recap of the story of the Woman at the well: a woman meets Jesus, listens to His words, after a moment of dialog and misunderstanding, everything clicks, and she runs off to spread the Good news. It is the moment of *this woman’s misunderstanding and then her revelation* that lights our sanctuary.
Again, with a little more detail: In the midst of her daily grind a Samaritan woman walks up to a well… day in and day out she comes here to draw water that she might drink and give drink. To cook and to clean. Feed her family and her animals… All of a sudden a man who she’s never met before offers her a gift: a quite unbelievable gift. Might I just set the stage of how this offer could have sounded to this particular woman … a woman who had already had five husbands. “Hey pretty lady, I’ve got something you don’t have and I know you’ll love it. I’ll make you my queen, I’ll shower you with riches, I’ll make your life perfect, I’ll make it so you never want for anything ever again.” Chances are good that she might’ve heard something like this before.
Jesus offered her the gift of the spring of water welling up to eternal life. He tells her that if she drinks of the water that He is offering- she shall never thirst again. (This is the scripture that we find below the image) This is over and above anything she would have heard before. It had to have been, it sound like one of those things you just can’t make up. It’s no wonder that she misses the point.
John 4:15 “The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
(let me repeat that past part) Nor come here to draw? Apparently, she thinks that if she drinks the water that Jesus has to offer it will quench her physical thirst. On top of that, she will not have to make her sojourn to Jacob’s well everyday that she might be able to wash her dishes… to water her animals… to bathe… talk about adventures in missing the point. “You shall never thirst again, ” said Jesus… and all of a sudden the dishes are doing themselves.
She… we… must misinterpret this. We just don’t have the ability to comprehend.
And so, what else could she have done but engage? after all she hadn’t got her water yet so she couldn’t just leave… In what manner she did so was irrelevant, sarcastically, piously, scornfully… there was no best way then, and no best way now. That we do, engage, is all that matters. When we engage with The Word, it will always respond in one way or another, and it will always ask the very same question… do you love me?
In this case, that question sounded like: “Go call your husband and come here.”
Not sounding like a question at first, this statement pierced right to very core of her. The whole of her. It was a was not a question from Jesus to the woman, but rather an exposure so keen to her essence that she saw herself in a way she had never seen before. And now that it was laid so bare in front of her, she was forced to ask herself if that is who she wanted to be… It would seem that what she saw revealed at the moment shook her enough that it caused a change inside of her.
Here we find the fork in the road, [per say] How many people did Jesus talk to that did not turn to follow Him in the same way? I’ll be honest, I didn’t count, nor did I do a google search, but I know it’s at least a few… Why is it that those people did not end up turning in the same way as the woman at the well? Were Jesus’ questions any less piercing or revealing? I should think not, He could then be accused of favoritism if He had… and we’re all, every last one of us, His very favourite so that simply can’t be the case.
So why didn’t they turn? We simply cannot know. There could be any number of reasons, all of which are well beyond our speculative abilities, so best not to speculate. All I do know is that when this woman was pieced by The Gospel: it changed her.
This is the moment we see in our window. We see the moment of her change.(let take a closer look at it) Jesus is the one talking, she is intently listening without any hint of skepticism, and most importantly her left hand is holding up her dress so to uncover her feet. Why in the world is she doing that? Did the artist just want to give a little more detail to the image? No, I don’t think so… Ladies… look at how long her skirt is. Can you imagine running in that dress for one moment? Ok, were you running like you would go for a jog, with a water bottle in one hand and a clenched fist going back and forth? Of course not… you would have fallen flat on your face after 3 steps. You were holding the dress up with both hands to give your feet some room to move. That’s what happening here, she has been animated and is ready to run and tell the Good News to all the people in the nearby town!
This is the moment of her understanding, she gets it, and as soon as she gets it she is animated, she’s ready to move, she’s preparing to run, she’s prepared to work. And so we have moved from the scripture below the image into the image itself. The window tells the whole of her transformation!
Now what? Am I suppose to tell you “be like her and run and tell the world about Christ. Get out there and do His work with all the fervor of this woman who had this incredible conversion experience with the very Christ?” Yes of course. But we are going to wait one moment and bask the beauty of the moment represented in this window. Understanding, clarity, unconscious animation of the Gospel. Not searched and found by ourselves, but revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. And then, like the woman at the well, we just won’t be able to help ourselves, but that’s for another time.
We stand at a bit of an advantage, kind of, to the woman at the well. Everything has been revealed to us. We know who God is, we know what He has done, we know what He can do, we even know what He plans on doing. It is, for this reason, we stand while we listen to the Gospel. We’re in anticipation for the moment when The Word will jump off the page and pierce us. We need to be ready to move when the Holy Spirit animates us.
This window lights one of our many jobs as Christians. This one, simply put, is to listen to the Gospel and let it change us. To listen actively and openly, just like the woman at the well. And from that… everything else will come.