Sunday Worship 12th March 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Hymns & Psalms (HP) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Wilsden Trinity Church, and led by Martin Bashforth, one of our Circuit Local Preachers.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

Call to worship

Grant us O Lord, ears to hear your voice, eyes to see your beauty
And hearts to love your name, so that, hearing, seeing and loving,
we may come at last to the joys of your kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Song – H&P 31 Come, let us all unite and sing “God is love”

Opening prayers
God, our loving heavenly Father, we thank you that we can join together, with people who share our beliefs and our love for you, to celebrate your loving-kindness. Whether at church, or in our own home, we are united through this act of worship. You are a generous God, who made us and have loved us since even before we were born. Of your generosity, you provide for our every need, and indeed for the needs of every member of your lovingly-made creation. And so we say a heartfelt: Thank You!
But the most wonderful expression of your love, Father God, was in sending Jesus into the world to be its Saviour. He opened our eyes to the truth of your nature; to the depth of your grace; and he took upon himself the sins of the world, as he died a painful death on the cross. And, Lord, we rejoice that, in glorious victory, he rose from the dead on Easter Day and gained, once and for all, a powerful victory over sin and death. He opened the door to forgiveness and eternal life, which is your promise to all who believe in his name. Grant us the help of your Holy Spirit, as we journey through Lent, fully to appreciate the price Jesus paid for our salvation. And to respond in gratitude, by dedicating our lives to your service, now and for ever more.
We offer you this act of worship. May it bring glory to your holy name. In the name of Christ. Amen.


John 4:5–15 Jesus asks for a drink; talk of living water

The set lesson for today, from John’s gospel, it exceedingly long. So I have decided to do things slightly differently this morning. To avoid giving you indigestion, I have split the reading into four sections, and I am going to give a short reflection on each one, rather than preach a single sermon. You have heard of a hymn sandwich? This is going to be a hymn and scripture sandwich!
One day, a lady criticized D. L. Moody, the great American evangelist, for his methods in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?” The lady replied, “I don’t do it.” Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”
The story we are reading is an example of how Jesus went about evangelism, and as such, it is a good model of how we might go about it. We are, after all, called to follow in our Master’s footsteps. Jesus came to bring salvation to the world. Here, he brings it to one woman. And it teaches us such a lot.
Let’s set the scene: Jesus was on his way back to Galilee from Jerusalem. In the previous chapter of John’s gospel, we read the account of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus – you know, when Jesus told him “You must be born again”. That took place in Jerusalem. Shortly afterwards, Jesus went about the province of Judea, preaching, healing and baptising people. News of his activities got back to the Pharisees, who, as we know, were seeking to plot against Jesus, so Jesus decided it was time for him to move back to Galilee for a time. Now, the direct route from Judea to Galilee passed through Samaria, so, although it was not his mission to preach to the Samaritans, Jesus took the direct route and so came to the town of Sychar, which is halfway between Jerusalem and Nazareth. And there, he had a chance meeting with a woman at the well. Or was it a chance meeting? Actually, I don’t believe it was a chance meeting. I believe it was a God appointment. (These things happen from time to time, and when they do, we usually know.) Salvation came to the woman through the meeting, and I believe it was a consequence of what is called: prevenient grace. Meaning: ’Grace which ‘comes before’. John Wesley believed that God’s prevenient grace is with us from birth, preparing us for new life in Christ. He believed that God places a little spark of divine grace within us, that enables us to recognize and accept God’s justifying grace. This means that God is active in our lives, before we know anything about him. In the Old Testament, God said to Jeremiah: “I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born, I selected you to be a prophet to the nations.” So, though she did not know it, I believe that God had been preparing this Samaritan woman for this encounter. Why, otherwise, would she just ‘happen’ to be at the well at high noon, when sensible people would be relaxing in the shade? When there was no-one else around to hear their conversation? Did Jesus just ‘happen’ to reach the well at the same time as she did? I don’t think so. I believe that this was a meeting which God had arranged – on the one hand, so that the woman might be saved, (which shows how much he cares for each person as an individual) and on the other hand, so that her story might be told, to bless future generations, including us.
So – given this opportunity to offer salvation to the woman, how does Jesus begin? Well, he speaks to her. About something which is very topical. “Give me a drink of water.” Nothing threatening, nothing unusual, except……… she was a woman and she was a Samaritan. In those days, men did not speak to women in public. It was taboo. But even more taboo was interaction between Jews and Samaritans. In setting aside these prejudices, Jesus let the woman know that, to him, race did not matter and he viewed women as equal with men and worthy of attention. To him, she was valued as a person.
That is the first lesson for us to learn about evangelism: Jesus died for all. Salvation is for all. For outcasts and sinners, as much as for those whom we, in our foolishness, might deem to be deserving. We must never allow any instinctive prejudice against drug addicts or drop-outs or homeless street people, to prevent us from showing God’s love to them. We must never dismiss such people, by assuming that they are responsible for their own downfall. How do we know? And in any case, if they are, they are not beyond the reach of God’s redemption. Jesus was open to the woman. We must imitate his openness. So, he asked for a drink of water.
Having got her attention, Jesus then brings up the subject of ‘life-giving water’. She doesn’t know what he is talking about, so he expands: “All those who drink this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I will give him, will never be thirsty again…(it) will become in him a spring which will provide him with life-giving water and give him eternal life.” She is still thinking in physical terms, as she responds: “Sir, give me that water! Then I will never be thirsty again, nor will I have to come here to draw water.” She hasn’t grasped what he is on about. I am tempted to say (but I won’t) that you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink (Oh, there I did say it!)….Jesus had introduced her to eternal truth, but it had gone right over her head.
What about you? Do you have living water springing up within you, like a never-failing stream?

Song – H&P 528 Jesu, lover of my soul Note verse 4 “Thou of life the fountain art………”


John 4: 16-26 Personal details of the woman’s life; God is spirit

Jesus changes his tack. He tries a different approach, seeking to engage the woman in real-life issues. “Go and call your husband” “I haven’t got a husband,” the woman replies. Was she lying? Of course, we know she was. Now, it occurs to me that she may have said that, to make Jesus believe that she was single and therefore ‘available’. After all, wasn’t she a promiscuous woman? I guess she must have been, having had 5 husbands and now living with a man to whom she wasn’t married. But Jesus was not put off by her false answer. He revealed to her what he already knew about her personal circumstances. And it was then that she recognised that he was someone special. “I see you are a prophet, Sir,” she said.
The woman’s next comment seems to come out of the blue. Apropos of nothing. “My Samaritan ancestors worshipped God on this mountain (i.e., Mount Gerizim) but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where we should worship God.” William Barclay suggests that the woman brings this up, because she has suddenly been confronted with her own sinfulness. Barclay says “There are two revelations in Christianity: the revelation of God and the revelation of ourselves. No man ever really sees himself, until he sees himself in the presence of God. Or putting it another way: Christianity begins with a sense of sin. It begins with the sudden realisation that life as we are living it, will not do. We awaken to ourselves. And we awaken to our need of God.”
Having come to such a realisation, the woman wants to put herself right with God, which – to her understanding – means making a sacrifice. “But where can she find God?” is what she is asking Jesus. And his answer to her, is a truth, not just for her, but for people in all ages to come. She does not need to offer a sacrifice in some special place. True worship finds God in every place. God is spirit, and those who worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Such spiritual wisdom appears to convince her that Jesus is even more than a prophet. She says “I know that the Messiah will come, and when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Here was this man, essentially telling her everything. Jesus seals the conversation, when he replies: “I am he. I who am talking with you.” Such a confession was rare. Jesus did not often admit to those outside his inner circle, that he was the Messiah. The woman was privileged indeed. She knew she had met the Lord.

Prayers of Intercession

Begin your prayers, by thanking God for the blessings of the past week.
Then offer to God your own prayers, on behalf of the needs of the world, which you are aware of.
These may include some of the following, or more recent, issues in the news:
The war in Ukraine
Scenes of recent natural disasters (e.g. Turkey and Syria, New Zealand)
Those affected by the train crash in Greece
People in UK forced to attend foodbanks, to feed their family
People in UK who are struggling to pay their energy bills
The ongoing series of strikes by public service workers, NHS, transport and teachers.
Conclude by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.


John 4: 27-38 The woman goes home; the disciples return

So having discovered this wonderful man – the Messiah – the woman is bursting to share it with her family and friends. This is a usual consequence of responding to the call of God. As Barclay puts it: “The Christian life is based on the twin pillars of discovery and communication. No discovery is complete, until the desire to share it fills our heart. And we cannot communicate Christ to others, until we have discovered him for ourselves. First to find, then to tell, are the two great steps in the Christian life.” The very desire to tell others of her discovery, overcame in this woman her feeling of shame. She was without doubt an outcast. The very fact that she was drawing water from this distant well shows how she avoided her neighbours. But now she ran to tell them of her discovery. A person may have some trouble which they are embarrassed to mention, and which they try to keep a secret. But once they are cured, they are often so filled with wonder and gratitude, that they tell everyone about it. A man may hide his sin, but once he discovers Jesus Christ as Saviour, his first instinct is to say “Look at what I was, and look at what I am. This is what Christ has done for me.”
There is a parallel story going on here, and the disciples return with food from the nearby town. When they had left, Jesus had been tired and hungry, and so they encourage him to eat. His answer is strange “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Naturally, they thought that someone else must have brought him some food in the meantime. Not so – “My food,” said Jesus, “is to obey the will of him who sent me and to finish the work he sent me to do.” Jesus’ top priority was to save souls. He came: to seek and to save the lost. To engage with people, as he had done with this woman, was his meat and drink. And her positive response was as satisfying to him as any food could be.
As he spoke, Jesus noticed the crowds of people coming towards him, who had heard the woman’s story. He said to the disciples: “Take a good look at the fields; the crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested.” Or as it is translated in the New English Bible, “the fields are already whitefor harvest”. As I read Barclay, he quoted a proposition by another scholar, H V Morton, about the fields being white for the harvest. Apparently, Morton had, at some time, been sitting at this very spot near to Jacob’s well. As he sat, he saw people coming out of the village and start to climb the hill. They came in little batches, and they were wearing white robes, which stood out against the ground and the sky. And Morton fancied that Jesus had seen a similar sight, as he looked across the fields and saw people streaming towards him in white robes, and he said: “The fields are white unto harvest.” The white-robed crowd was the harvest which he was eager to reap for God.
Jesus was aware that response to the gospel message would not always occur so immediately and in such numbers. So he spoke to his disciples of one man sowing and another man reaping. There would be times when the disciples would work hard, with no apparent results, and other times when ground prepared by other people would bear fruit which they would witness. It was ever thus and ever will be thus. That must be our encouragement to work for the kingdom and sow the Good News.

Song – H&P 230 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy


John 4: 39-42 The Samaritans believe through her witness

Many Samaritans came to believe that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. There were three stages in the process, which we need to understand, if we are to engage in evangelism. First, there was the introduction. They were introduced to Jesus by the woman. She was the messenger. God needs messengers. Paul wrote to the Romans (10:14) “How can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?”
There is a verse which goes:
Christ has no hands but our hands to do his work today.
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in his way;
He has no voice but our voice to tell men how he died,
He has no help but our help to lead them to his side.
The introduction was made on the strength of personal witness. The woman was able to say “Look at what he has done to and for me.” When we have an experience of the power of Christ in our lives, then we are able to relate that experience to others.
The second stage was a growing knowledge. Having been introduced to Jesus, the Samaritans asked him to stay with them, that they might get to know him better. To live in the presence of Christ, is not something that anyone else can do for you. You must read and pray and follow Jesus’ example in your life, if you are to draw closer to him.
And the third stage is discovery and surrender. The discovery that Jesus is more than just a prophet. More than just an expert psychologist (although his dealings with the Samaritan woman showed that he was all of that!) He was not just an example of how God wants us to live. Jesus is the Saviour of the world. He rescues people from the evil and hopeless situations they find themselves in; he breaks the chains that bind people to the past and gives them power to meet the future. The Samaritan woman is a great example of his saving power. The town where she lived would no doubt have labelled her a character beyond reformation. She herself would no doubt have agreed that a respectable life was beyond her. But Jesus came and doubly rescued her. He enabled her to break away from her past. And he opened up to her a new future. He can do this for the vilest offender. This is his work. He is, without doubt, the Saviour of the world.
Maybe you do not see yourself as an evangelist. You have not been called to be a preacher. Nevertheless, you are Christ’s hands and feet and voice on earth. You have heard the Good News. And he calls you to share it. If you are not bursting, as the woman was, to tell others of your experiences, then ask God to give you more experiences, so that you will have something to share. It is a team effort: us and him. He has promised to fill us with his Holy Spirit. We have only to ask him!


Gracious God, you are the hope of our journey and the light on our way.
Accompany us as we step forward in faith.
Be close to us, as we seek to witness and serve.
When we flag, give us new energy.
When we are afraid, fresh courage.
When we feel overwhelmed, a sense of your enduring faithfulness.
And let our joy and delight in the gift of your love
Shine from us, to inspire hope in others. For Jesus’ sake. Amen

Song – H&P 767 Give me the faith which can remove


May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ,
The love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
Be amongst us, and remain with us,
Now and for ever more. Amen

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