Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 15 March 2020.
• Old Testament: Exodus 17: 1-7 (Strike the rock and water will come)
• Epistle: Romans 5: 1-11 (Justified by faith: peace with God through Jesus)
• Gospel: John 4: 5-42 ( Spring of living water gushing up to eternal life)
Some years ago I went to see an exhibition on the work of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which was being held at Kelvingrove. As a town planner I was interested in seeing how he had interpreted his sites to produce the remarkable buildings that were built, and so I expected to see displays of what his buildings were and how they worked.
I expected to see plans of the sites and their layouts, and how they related to any on site constraints to development.
What I did see were artistic interpretations of how the sites looked and what the interiors were like. It was all about what they looked and felt like and not about what they were and how they worked.
There was plenty about the decorative fabrics and the cutlery and crockery. And so I left disappointed.
What should have been interesting and stimulating was reduced to the routine and even banal. It was more about what was familiar to people and within the comfort zones of their understanding and knowledge.
But then there can be something of this as we follow our faith. Routine takes the place of discovery and instead of leading us into deeper understanding and commitment, our liturgy becomes a means of constraining and restricting our faith.
But our lessons are leading us in a different direction, as the children of Israel first encountered their thirst in the wilderness. This was indeed a test of faith, both in Moses and in God.
And yet God led Moses into a new kind of discovery of faith. Instead of an oasis or a burn or stream, he was led to the rockface, there to strike it and so bring forth water.
And this was water that flowed out rather than a stagnant pool with tepid water in it. This was fresh, cool and bursting forth. It was a complete supply for the whole people who would quench their thirst and water their flocks.
It was a new dimension of faith as if the plagues in Egypt and deliverance from Egypt were not signs enough.
But then there is what Paul has to say to the Romans, and again we are being led from the routine of same-old, same-old to the discovery of a new dimension of life.
And Paul uses a simple argument. What Jesus had done on the cross was to atone for the sins of the whole of humanity. It was to release them from the bondage to sin and self and to the mediocre. It was to bring them into a new kind of life reconciled with God, in union with Jesus Christ.
The starting point was the death of Jesus for us as sinners, and our reconciliation with God.
But that was not the only aspect of it.
Just as baptism is the rite of initiation into the church, new members of the church are not expected to live only around the font and to proceed no further.
There is always the expectation that they will proceed into the church pews and into fellowship with other churchfolk.
And more than that they are also expected to approach the altar there to receive communion.
But if they only stay fixed to the font then there can be no personal growth in fellowship or faith or understanding or commitment or discipleship.
The font is traditionally placed at the back of the church for a good reason, for this is a starting point and not a final goal.
If the death and resurrection of Jesus secured the salvation of the people from spiritual death, then how much more were the same people going to flourish from His life?
We were never expected to finish our spiritual lives in the death of Jesus when the fullness of His life was also there to be entered.
That is what the Holy Spirit is about, and so when Jesus spoke to the woman at Samaria it was the ongoing life in Him from then on that mattered.
To die to self in Jesus Christ is one thing, but then to live in Him is something far greater, far more glorious and far more dynamic. Hence His promise of living water, giving life and refreshment, growth and renewal.