Rivers of living water will flow from within you

Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield
Sunday 14th March 2021

40 blogs of Lent — day 23

The door to Holy Trinity Huddersfield, showing spring flowers in the foreground.

Mothering Sunday, or commonly Mother’s Day, a bittersweet day for me as I remember my mother who passed away in 2016, so a day of sadness and joy. It was also her birthday on Friday; having those two days close together brings added poignancy.

Also today is the 15th anniversary of the accident that left me disabled. A day I actually mark with joy. I was not expected to survive, so this is 15 years of bonus life.

This week has marked the return on the school run, picking up my granddaughter for her key worker parents, plus I also got out to play music, recording a guitar part in church for the Sunday service. I had to guess which one to take, but hearing the piano and vocal part I was adding to, the Telecaster I brought down felt like I had made the right choice. I was told it recorded well.

At Holy Trinity’s YouTube service, Vicar Mike was leading, saying God is not angry forever, he is full of grave and we come in humility and penitence, leading us into prayers on penitence – sorry Lord for my mistakes in the last week.

Licenced Lay Minister Bev preached. Before the sermon she talked about a book she has been reading, Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, about a young woman, Cussy Mary Carter, who worked for the Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky. It is based on a true story though the people have been fictionalised. She was a Kentucky blue, a person with bluish tinge to the skin due to a form of anaemia, who was shamed by the condition, having to hide her face from people she read to, and faced discrimination and persecution because of the condition.

Shame is at the heart of bible passage that was about to be read, said Bev. Shame cripples. It prevents people being part of the stream. Jesus lived at a time when there was a strong shame honour culture.

The passage was John 8:2-11. Please read this before continuing as the following notes from the sermon:

Bev’s sermon started with a note on what had occurred earlier in John’s Gospel. Jesus had said “Rivers of living water will flow from within you.” (I have used this as my title as I felt God reminding me of this, even though it was not in the actual reading). The Pharisees knew that only God could make this claim so they plotted and tried to shame Jesus so no one would listen to him. The rabbis waited until there was a crowd before they brought the woman in. They wanted a crowd. They were not bothered about the law, they were only interested in shaming Jesus.

They had the law on their side. They thought That Jesus had 2 options:

Say no, do not stone her. This would bring shame on Jesus.

Or say, we cannot do this. Only the Romans were allowed to execute people, and saying this would provoke the people to riot. Not good with Roman soldiers looking on.

Jesus does neither. He is not looking at the woman, bringing more shame on her, he is looking at the gtound and writing in the dirt. Then he stands up. “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” Anyone claiming to be sinless would bring shame on their family, so they leave. Jesus chooses not to add to their shame by looking at the ground again.

When people accuse you, it could be through racism or homophobia. Remember that they have no right to condemn you. Jesus gives the woman a choice to live a life free from condemnation. You can have that too.

Is there something you have done, that makes you feel worthless? Does anything make you feel shameful?

Or are you part of the crowd pointing out the shame of others — “they have been breaking lockdown rules.”

Grace is offered by Jesus. He says, “I do not condemn you, you can be free of shame.” He even offers to walk alongside you.

This was immediately followed by a song, the same one that over a year ago, before the first lockdown God used to calm my apprehension at the approaching pandemic: “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”

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