February 4, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Woman at the Well Monologue
Woman at the Well (bench)
Woman at the Well (5)
Ashley Judd Nasty Woman
Working Preacher
Working Preacher
Circle Culture – Karen Hilman Millson

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn Spirit Dancing VU 388

Call to Worship

One: All who are thirsty for meaning,
All: All who are thirsty for love,
One: If you are looking for real relationships,
All: If you are looking for sacred moments,
One: Come and drink from this well.

Opening Prayer
Spirit dancing on the waters, as we search for your presence, we pray that our eyes will be opened to your presence around us in new and unexpected ways. May we find all that we need during this time of worship. Amen.

Hymn Water Flowing From the Mountains MV 87

Theme Conversation Connecting with Others
Hymn Jesus, Friend of Little Children VU 340

Readings Woman at the Well Monologue
John 4:5-42
Musical Response Jesus, Your Spirit in Us MV 102

Sermon Are you Connected?

Jesus’ popularity had grown so much that there was some cause for concern amongst the upper crust of Judea. So he did what many celebrities do when inundated. He headed home. On his way back to Galilee, he had to pass through Samaria. He stopped at a particular town in Samira near the land that Jacob had given his son Joseph. The town was home to Jacob’s Well. Jesus, weary from his journey, stopped at the well for a rest.
A local woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. Jesus was alone, as the disciples had gone off to purchase supplies. Jesus and the local Samaritan Woman have a conversation. During the course of this conversation, Jesus explains his dreams for the world: that people will be less worried about being right and more open and accepting of the diversity around them.
She drinks the Kool-Aid aka Living Water, and the disciple return shortly before she leaves. Jesus is somewhat euphoric: he has managed to plant a seed of hope in a town that he did not feel was accessible to him. The Woman at the Well has gone off and told many of the townspeople, who can see the value in the teachings of Jesus. Many of them believe, and bring others to hear the teachings of Jesus. Jesus had been popular amongst his own people. People who weren’t even Hebrew were beginning to follow his way.
Now, keep in mind that people from Samaria and the Hebrew people to whom Jesus belonged, did not usually associate. So both Jesus and the woman from Samaria needed to be willing partners in this conversation. And this conversation had to be more than just superficial, because the woman left the conversation a changed person.
This week, I had the privilege of being invited to join a network of church leaders who believe in facilitating in a particular way…a way that builds community and strengthens people. The point is to host “sacred conversations”, conversations that change the participants. The buzz word for this is “Circle Culture”.
Circle Culture has been around for a while…even if we haven’t been studying it. Summer camps operate in a circle culture. Small groups of children gather in a cabin, experience things together in their small group, gather as a large group to share other experiences, then return to the small group to share or build on the experience. If you ever had the opportunity, or your children had the opportunity to participate in intermediates at conference or youth forum, it’s the same idea. Small groups gather to get to know each other, check-in daily, and process all of the events of the weekend.
I was present at the general council where a motion was being presented to reduce funding to summer camps. The number of people lined up to speak against the proposal was the largest I’ve ever seen. Many of the people speaking introduced themselves as ministers who’d had a life or faith altering experience at a United Church run summer camp. Many of those who hadn’t had experiences at summer camps did have them at youth forum or intermediates. It became abundantly clear that these organizations that operated with a circle culture had a huge impact on the faith and life of so many people.
So how do you get to the point in these small groups where you can build an authentic relationship?
The presenter the Sacred Conversations network heard from on Wednesday, Karen Hilfman Millson, laid out 4 concepts that are present in Circle Culture, but in order for it to be successful, everyone who participates needs to be very intentional about the concepts being part of the process.
1. Show up, or choose to be present (which is connecting to the authentic self)
2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning (which is validating each other and expressing gratitude)
3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment. Karen quoted Margaret Wheatley: “It’s not our differences that divide us. It is our judgments about each other that do.”
4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome (letting go of what has been and opening to what is emerging)
All of these steps help to create Circle Culture and the potential of action that makes a difference.
So let’s look at these concepts as applied to the conversation between the Woman from Samaria and Jesus, or at least the parts of the conversation we know. Keep in mind, that what we have to work with has likely been distorted a bit between the oral culture of the time and translation.
1. Show up, or choose to be present – Both Jesus and the Samaritan woman chose to enter into conversation with each other when that wasn’t socially acceptable. Although we don’t know the exact words that were said, we do know that in order for the change to have happened to the woman as described, this was honest and deep conversation.
2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning – at the mid-point in the story, the Samaritan Woman says “I can see you are a prophet.” She validates what Jesus has told her. I’m sure Jesus validated or expressed gratitude to the Woman as well. As he tells the disciples a little later about having something metaphorical to eat and continues on to say that doing God’s work fulfills his hunger. He said this just after having his conversation with the Samaritan Woman.
3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment. – This one is somewhat obvious. Jesus doesn’t judge the woman for having 5 + husbands. For her part, the woman not only reveals this deep truth about herself, but she hears Jesus’ beliefs and dreams and actively becomes part of them. She didn’t laugh at his grand dreams of a better world for everyone.
4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – The Woman at the Well went out and told everyone of her time with Jesus. They could have laughed at her. They could have told her she was wasting her time. They could have told her that this way that Jesus was suggesting just simply wasn’t the way it had always been done. And they probably did tell her to stop. But she didn’t. She kept on telling about her experience. For his part, Jesus stayed there an extra two days and spoke to the people, even when it didn’t fit in the schedule.
Circle Culture and the potential for action that makes a difference. Many people believed in The Way of Jesus after this experience at the Well.
I admit, we haven’t been great lately at cultivating Circle Culture. But there is always opportunity to work on it. When the opportunity presents itself to you, take it. You may have the opportunity to be part of a life or faith altering experience. Make the connection with someone unexpected. Drink the Kool-Aid.

Music Minstry Come Thou Fount Laura Beth Smith

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation

Offertory What Can I Do? MV 191

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Listen to Children Praying VU 400

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the sung Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Hymn By the Well, a Thirsty Woman MV 117

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing May The Love Of Our God MV 218

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