|Lectionary||1st Reading||Psalm||2nd Reading||Gospel|
1 Samuel 16-1-13
John 9: 1-41
World Water Day
SECTION 1: NOTES ON THE READINGS
A theme in the readings is leadership – the leadership of a King in 1 Samuel, the leadership of the Shepherd in Psalm 23, in the Gospel the leadership of Jesus “the Light of the World” in bringing sight to a blind man and confronting those who refuse to “see” the light and life he brings.
1 Samuel 16-1-13
The prophet Samuel, grieving over the failure of King Saul, is sent to anoint a man chosen as successor. Samuel goes to Bethlehem and is presented with the sons of Jesse. The prophet insists the youngest son, who is caring for the sheep, is sent for. The prophet is told by God that this son is the one chosen. David is anointed with oil and is empowered by God’s spirit.
This key passage shows God at work in discernment and empowerment of leadership. God chooses people who may be thought unlikely. God sees inner potential: “the heart”. David grows to become a significant leader. David has faults but he is a strong King who trusts God.
In Tonga, growing up as a boy, my father took me spear-fishing at night. I believe the learning in fishing expeditions contributes to my leadership today. I learned to trust, to endure hardship, to understand the environment, to provide for the extended family and much else. How did the early formation of David, who lived close to nature in his shepherding, enable him to lead and care? Are potential leaders today enabled by close connection with the environment and care for creatures? Who are unlikely leaders emerging in God’s world today?
This psalm, called a Psalm of David, if not written by the Shepherd King, is likely to have been written to reflect David’s relationship with God. For the Psalmist, a shepherd who cares for the flock contributes hugely to the well being of creatures and human beings. Shepherding is no gentle pastoral occupation. It is tough work. It requires vigilance and courage. A shepherd guides and enables the flock to be nourished and sustained. Immersed in the environment, honouring potential to sustain life, a shepherd is close companion to the sheep. The shepherd protects them, at times at great cost.
In the 23rd Psalm God is the Shepherd who knows the sheep intimately, sustains and guides. The Shepherd and the sheep do not have an easy journey. What is certain is the presence of the Shepherd through the greatest difficulties. We have no sheep in Tonga -the land of my birth. A Tongan word used for shepherd is “tauhi” – which refers to someone who is protector or guardian even at cost. God is “Tauhi”.
The letter to the Ephesians shows concern for the ongoing life of the community of faith. In Ephesians 5 believers are exhorted to reject the “darkness” of destructive behavior from which they have emerged. Followers of Christ are to act in positive ways, becoming “children of light”. How do we live out the Gospel in positive contrast to the destructive power of prevailing behavior?
JOHN 9: 1-41
John 9 is alive with the themes of John’s Gospel: light and life. Jesus uses elements of creation in his healing – spit mixed with earth and washed off by water from the pool of Siloam. Here we see a Guardian (referred to above as a “Tauhi”) who utilizes God’s creation for well being. Jesus, the Guardian, heals and protects and stands firm in face of strong opposition.
This healing story contains interactions and controversy. Here is healing of blindness and reaction. Jesus restores sight to a man born blind. The previously blind man witnesses to what he knows to be true. Religious leaders refuse to “see” the life and light Jesus brings, choosing to remain spiritually blind. The Pharisees reject simple honesty of the man: “I was blind now I see”. They refuse to see the truth, remaining blind to reality. Jesus shows great care for the man he has healed. The man believes and worships Jesus (see John 1:14 “we saw his glory …..full of grace and truth”.) Born blind and cruelly rejected by those who refused to see God at work, this unlikely man, who now sees in different ways, bears witness to the love of God.
SECTION TWO: DRAFT SERMON/OUTLINE
Psalm 23:1a 2b – The Lord is my Shepherd…………. he leads me beside still waters.
John 9: 26, I was blind, now I see
The 23rd Psalm is song of trust in God. It echoes the 40 year journey in the wilderness to the Promised Land. Enemies, danger and death are at hand. The Shepherd leads through “the darkest valley”. The use of the word ‘Guardian” may strengthen for us the familiar image of the Shepherd. The Shepherd/Guardian is a powerful protector. The challenges (war, natural disasters, climate change) in our world, besides those personal to us, may seem huge. For the Psalmist God is there in creation and is there for us.
Psalm 23 uses vivid images from creation, including that of water. When in New Zealand recently a State of Emergency was called because of unprecedented flooding, followed by the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle. Human beings may actively cause the destructive powers of water. But water is a great gift. Water is essential to life.
The watering of the sheep is a prime task. The 23rd Psalm speaks of a Guardian who leads “beside still waters” where sheep drink safely and find not only survival, but abundant life. God’s people are to enjoy and share abundant life. We are to work towards water being safely accessed and towards water not threatening existence.
In the Gospel, Jesus heals a man born blind. (Using spit, earth and water.) Jesus, the Guardian, protects the abused and confronts those who deny the reality of God’s loving activity. The Island groups of the Pacific are surrounded by the greatest Ocean. We see clearly the damaging effects of sea level rising due to climate change. We see the need to bring awareness in order to address the abuse of creation, not only to secure the safety of the Islands, the Ocean and the Pacific peoples but also for the well being of all lands and peoples of this amazing Planet. God, our Tauhi –Guardian, calls us to togetherness in caring, to becoming tauhi –guardians of this amazing Planet.
We may choose blindness to reality. How are we opening our eyes to the wonder of God’s creation and enabling others to see humanity and creation afresh? How are we celebrating and proclaiming in word and action God’s life-giving presence in today’s world?
The Gospel ends with a rebuke to those who refuse to see reality. The Psalmist ends with an assurance that goodness and mercy are stronger that all that confront
SECTION 3: ADDITIONAL MATERIAL
The Pool of Siloam.
Today, in response to Your Gospel,
I not only wash in the Pool of Siloam,
I plunge in and I swim.
Open my eyes to the wonder of water,
to the wonder of Your creation.
In Your shimmering Light,
give me wisdom, strength and courage to care.
A Book: Harold S Kushner The Lord is my Shepherd: The Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm 2003 Hodder &Stoughton London
Take time to reflect on Psalm 23rd.– slowly read and allow the words to reach your heart. Paraphrase the Psalm for your particular situation.
Contemplate a glass of water and give thanks for this gift of God to bring life. .
Resources from the UN for World Water Day.
An Anthology of poems: Thirst Mary Oliver 2006 Bloodaxe Books Ltd
A Prayer for 19th March from the Lectionary of Aoteaora, New Zealand and Polynesia:
God of unchangeable power,
when you fashioned the world,
the morning stars sang together
and the host of heaven shouted for joy;
open our eyes to the wonder of creation
and teach us to see all things for good;
to the honour of your glorious name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May God, our Guardian, bless and guide us.
May the love of Christ dwell deeply within our hearts.
May the Holy Spirit strengthen us to act with justice
and empower us with new visions. Amen
Archbishop Emeritus Winston Halapua &
The Revd Sue Halapua
Winston and Sue live in Fiji and are passionate advocates for climate justice and the empowerment of women and young people. Archbishop Emeritus Winston Halapua is former Bishop of the Diocese of Polynesia and Archbishop of the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. He has a longstanding commitment of highlighting the devastating nature of climate change in Oceania and has articulated a theology of the ocean – ‘Moana’. The Revd Sue Halapua has had an active ministry serving as priest in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and in Chaplaincy roles including to the Moana Community of Saint Clare, the first Anglican women’s religious order to be founded within the Diocese of Polynesia