On Wednesday 24 June 2020, Bishop Vernon Fisher conducted the midweek divine service at Silvertown congregation.
He was accompanied by a Bishop Anthony Hartzenberg, a small NACTV crew and an organist This divine service was recorded during the course of Wednesday and was made available on NACTV, YouTube and was also streamed live on the NACTV Facebook page later that evening.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: I have found a friend in Jesus (EH 373)
Bible word: Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me?” John 4:9 (a)
My dear brothers and sisters, I hope I am the mouthpiece for all of us when I say we are thankful that we can have a divine service on a Wednesday evening. Our prayers have been answered, and our District Apostle has made the wise decision for us to celebrate word. We cannot go without God’s word. In the hymn, we sang it says that with God’s word it is blessed and glorious with Him – it cannot be the opposite – glorious and blessed with Jesus. As the disciples said on the Mount: “can we not remain here? It is blessed here, it is glorious here. Can we not build a temple here?” and wherever we find ourselves watching, listening or reading the service, may that environment be blessed, may it be glorious, because Jesus is present! And His presence is being revealed in our disposition, in our actions and in our thoughts.
Just focus on Jesus for a moment, amongst the many qualities we can ascribe to Him – Jesus is a Master Teacher. We go through the Holy Scripture and we can come to that conclusion – He was a master at teaching those He came into contact with. And the manner in which He taught was so diverse, yet direct and the variety did not exclude anyone. And there were many occasions where Jesus had to address multitudes of people. There were also occasions where He gave attention to the individual; He gave attention in a one-on-one situation, and He gave detail to how the individual felt.
These are special qualities that we can learn from Jesus, and our Bible word gives an account of such an instance when Jesus approached the Samaritan woman. He approached her at Jacob’s well. Dear brothers and sisters let us break this narrative down into three segments.
Firstly, Jesus approached a Samaritan. And history tells us that there was discord between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews thought that the Samaritans were heathens. They thought that the Samaritans were outcasts. Yet, there were commonalities because they believed in the same God, they read from the same Bible – the Hebrew Bible of Torah. They were all descendants of Jacob. And the well where this conversation took place was the piece of land that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph. That is the first segment.
The second segment is that it was frowned upon for a devoted Jew, like Jesus, to engage a woman; to speak to a female in public – and, especially a female who had a questionable character (history and background) – which this woman had.
And maybe, a last segment we can look at is that Jesus’s travels were not haphazard, it was meticulously orchestrated so that He could reach out to those who live on the fringes of society. No one was too bad for Him, and no one was too good for Him. He took advantage to preach His gospel to everyone. And out of this, we want to give a title to our divine service that Jesus fulfilled His mission in an unbiased way. He was not prejudice – He was fair to all.
Now, let us have a closer examination of the Samaritans before we have our own opinion about them. This woman represented the Samaritans. And one quality that stands out that we need to give them credit for – they recognised the Messiah. After Jesus spoke to her, her tone and persona changed. It changed completely dear brothers and sisters. This Jesus, who was a stranger, she said to Him: ‘Sir’. Her tone changed. And one can ask why she was bewildered when Jesus, as a Jew, drew her closer to Him. Through her bewilderment, she said: “Sir, you have nothing to draw the water from the well.” Jesus made time for her, and she went back to her contemporaries. She went back into her village and she went to tell others about her encounter with the Messiah. And they returned, and they spoke to Jesus. And when they were exposed to His teaching, they requested and urged Him to stay a bit longer. And He concurred with their humble request and He stayed two days longer.
Let us pause there for a moment. In our immediate vicinity, in our immediate society, are there those we describe as a Samaritan? Are there those who we think are not privileged enough to know Jesus, to be exposed to the word of Jesus, to be exposed to the teaching? Can we also introduce others like the Samaritan woman did so that others can also be bewildered and say, ‘I also want of Your heavenly nourishments, give me some’? And we can intervene and say that I can draw the water for you if you are not empowered, if you feel estranged, I will draw the water for you. And we read in the New Testament that when others see the light in us, they will glorify our Father which is in heaven. We don’t draw followers for ourselves, we draw followers for Jesus. And the ones who feel they are on the fringes, they will then tell others that they have experienced Jesus and that they have heard His teachings and I am transformed. They will say they were once heathens, but now I am a believer. And this is what the Samaritan recognised. Let us introduce others so that they can recognise Jesus. And how can they do that? They can see and observe the qualities of Jesus in you and in me.
Jesus often did the work Himself. Remember, in this instance, while His disciples were in the town buying food, they returned and observed that Jesus was having a conversation. There were many questions that transpired in their mind and even that they articulated. But there were two things that stood out. Firstly, Jesus freed this woman from sin. He penetrated her feeling of guilt. Because in this story, one reads that Jesus said ‘go and call your husband.’ And she said to Jesus that she does not have a husband. He said to her that you have answered correctly and He did not capitalise on her guilt. He penetrated her consciousness and said to her that she answered right. This is the love of Jesus – the love of Jesus that you and I know – that we must not capitalise on the faults and failings of others, but that we free them of their conscience. And Jesus spoke to this woman with authority, and He said to her: “what I will give you, what I will introduce you to” – Jesus spoke under the authority of His Father. Can that be two departure points in our engagement with others? I am not interested in how you feel and why you feel. The authority of Jesus is: love your neighbour. Love the one that you are introduced to. Love the one that feels they are being ostracised – draw them closer. Remember, the Samaritans went to go and tell others. And Jesus spoke to His disciples and He said to them that to get others to understand the will of My Father is not based on external factors or external conditions. He said let the stranger change His worry to worship – let the stranger not feel that you are sitting on the fence – but let the stranger feel that we are unbiased and that we do not judge – God loves us all. We sang in our opening hymn that we have found a friend in Jesus – that is very direct and specific – a friend that cares. I go back to the title of our word that says ‘Jesus fulfilled His commission without any prejudice, without being biased. There is a request from Jesus to you and me – let us shed our bias nature, let us shed our prejudice. Often, when we are introduced and being exposed to our character of being biased, we blame it on many things. We often say things like “I am biased and prejudice because you must understand my upbringing, you must understand where I am from, you must understand the influences in my life.”
There are so many reasons we give to try and justify that we are biased in our disposition, biased in the manner in which we live, biased in our behaviour because we want to go with popular demand. Let us test that dear brothers and sisters. We always have an opinion, we always have judgement, and we formulate a character when we see others. Let us shed the spirit of being prejudice; the spirit of being biased. Let us not judge, let us not write anyone off, let us not show others that they are not good enough. I go back to the Samaritans – remember, it was a Samaritan who helped the man that went astray. And we know this person as the Good Samaritan. And Jesus gave credit to this man – He made the Samaritan feel like a hero. He said the Priest and the Levite passed the man by, but you did not judge, you were not biased, you were not prejudice – but the others were. The Good Samaritan took care of this man without being biased and not being prejudice. Another Samaritan was the one who returned to Jesus. The story about the lepers – he returned. Again, I go back – can we execute the spirit of bias when Jesus exposes it? Can we yield and say that we need to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus? I need to be obedient to that which Jesus requires of me and not become stubborn and create the culture, that Jesus nature within us that we love, that we are filled with peace, that we create oneness; uniformity. And for those characteristics to be prevalent, to be tangible, you cannot dilute that with the spirit of being prejudice and biased. May God help us in our approach to change because Jesus doesn’t only know our strengths, He also knows our weaknesses. And if He observes the spirit of bias within us, He sees it as a weakness. Through His word and teaching, we want to control our emotions, the way we execute ourselves, the way we live and draw others to Jesus because He wants to effectively use us to complete the bride of Christ.
God bless us, dear brothers and sisters. Let us recap: Jesus’ nature was that He wanted to fulfil His mission. And, to fulfil His mission, He did it without prejudice and biases. Jesus drew everyone close to Him, and the Samaritans recognised the Messiah. As we recognise the Messiah, we want to introduce Him to others. And if we are too slow, and if we have our opinions, Jesus will do the work Himself, as He did with this woman. He drew her closer to Him, and she, in turn, went to tell others and the balance of the village came and they listened to Jesus – they listened to His teaching. And after Jesus has done what He has done, then we can shed the spirit of being prejudice and of being biased. God needs us to complete His work, and we want Jesus to complete His work. But we need to do a little introspection by taking ourselves out of ourselves and ask what spirit lives within me? Is it the spirit of reaching out and drawing others to Jesus? Remember, Jesus didn’t ostracise the adulteress. He said: “those without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus didn’t look the other way when the man was hanging next to Him on the cross – He reached out. Please, dear brothers and sisters, reach out to others so that they can also be saved. Remember the mission of Jesus that all man needs to be saved. God bless us in our endeavours so that we can contribute to Jesus completing His work. Amen.
Thoughts from Bishop Vernon Fisher