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17th May 2020

Every Last Drop. Talk and Sermon for Christian Aid Week

Passage: Verses from John 4 and John 7

Delivered by Lesley Clare

Good morning. As you will be aware, this past week has been Christian Aid week. In previous years, many of us would have been out delivering and collecting Christian Aid envelopes from the houses in the streets around St John’s. Obviously, this year things have been very different, and the 2000 red envelopes are still in their cardboard boxes in our spare bedroom.
But the work of Christian Aid continues, helping to improve the lives of people in the world’s poorest communities. Today is a day to celebrate all that Christian Aid and its partners have achieved.

Earlier in the service, we were thinking about washing our hands. It’s easy for us to turn on the tap and sing Happy Birthday twice through as we do this. But imagine how difficult it would be if you had no running water and if every last drop of water really mattered.
This is the reality for many people in Kenya where Christian Aid has been working since 1997. Women and children have to walk long distances every day to collect water. Severe droughts have often hit Kenya, but the climate crisis is making them more frequent and more intense. River beds are bone dry and other water sources are drying up too. On average, those women and children are now having to walk 8 kilometres (that’s 5 miles) every day and water is heavy!
Children often arrive late for school because they have had to start the day fetching water and this can dramatically affect their performance.
The water they collect is used for cooking and drinking but and there is often none left for washing clothes or for personal hygiene. Families who used to grow maize, fruit and vegetables can no longer do so, as across most of the country it hasn’t rained for over two years now.

I would like to tell you about Faith and her family who live in Makueni in Kenya. Without water, Faith and her husband Steven couldn’t grow crops. Drought had turned the land to dirt and dust. Without crops they didn’t have enough to eat or sell. Hunger was a reality and sending their children to school an impossibility.
Christian Aid saw the need and helped their community build a rock catchment and a sand dam. These provide reliable sources of water close by all year round. Because Faith’s village now has access to clean water, there has been a reduction in water-borne diseases and people have been able to grow crops again.

Before the catchment and the dam were constructed, Faith had a daily uphill struggle to find water. Now her life has turned around. Her recent tomato crop was so good that she paid her children’s school fees, bought 2 cows (one for milk and one for ploughing) and she and Steven purchased a plot of land. They hope that next year they will be able to build a family toilet.

All of this was made possible because people generously donated money to Christian Aid. There are many more families in Kenya who are still in the situation that Faith was in so please keep them in your prayers.
As I’m sure you’ll be expecting, Christian Aid is working hard to reduce the impact of the corona virus on the communities with which they work. The world’s poorest countries have the weakest health systems and many of the most vulnerable people are being exposed to Covid-19. They will struggle to get the healthcare they need, with the added cost of not earning a living whilst in lockdown.
So every time you wash your hands (and please keep doing so) spare a moment to think of those who have no running water and for whom every last drop of water matters. And if you are able, please consider donating some money to support the wonderful work of Christian Aid. Thank you.

Sermon delivered by Jennifer Millington

Just imagine having a boundless supply of energy; never getting tired or fed up; always full of life and delighting in life.
Dream on…….

Just imagine having endless love to give; never getting weary of people; never allowing them to get you down; always wanting to support and sympathise, no matter what the other person has done. Dream on…….

Just imagine having limitless confidence; belief in who you are and what you are doing. Never having doubts; never having days when you wonder why you bothered to get out of bed.
Dream on…..

Jesus said “Anyone who drinks the water I give will have a boundless spring of living water welling up in them to eternal life (that is, all day, every day).
Dream on…..
Yet Jesus himself does not come across as someone who was never tired, never frustrated with people, never uncertain. Jesus needed sleep. Once he slept in a boat right through a storm, so he must have been tired. He asked for food when he got hungry and water when thirsty.
Jesus got weary of people. He would take time out to be on his own, because he needed space and stillness to recharge his batteries.
And Jesus got depressed when he felt that his ministry had failed. He cried over the city of Jerusalem because he had not been able to save it from disaster. He looked sadly at the rich young man who had chosen the wrong path and said despairingly that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus, was not some superhero type who is never tired, never frustrated and never bothered by self-doubt. (Good thing, really. People like that tend to get right up our nose….)
Yet Jesus made this promise that he could give the water of life and that we would never be thirsty again.

Jesus was talking, St. John said, of the Holy Spirit: the living power of God which lives in us. And the thing about the Holy Spirit is that it does not run out. Unlike our bodies, brains and hearts which become weary and worn out, the Spirit keeps on renewing.

We see this in the life of the world: in gardens and fields which look dead and lifeless, but which miraculously put out green shoots each spring.
We see it in the human race as each successive generation solves problems their ancestors would have called impossible.
And we see it right now in the human heart as our society which has been called selfish, irresponsible, individualistic and totally lacking in community spirit, turns round and pours out incredible levels of sacrificial generosity; creative support; warm gratitude and real love for the neighbour.
So yes, there may well be plenty of weariness, frustration and uncertainty to be found but that vital, renewing Holy Spirit is not running dry.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was not for us to control. The Spirit would live in us and work through us and achieve amazing things, but we would never be in charge.
Which is a good thing because it means that when we listen to Jesus’ promise about the unending water of life, we do not have to depend on how we are feeling right now to make this promise come true. I am asked to trust in the Holy Spirit, and not in me.

Jesus may have known what it was like to be tired and frustrated and discouraged but he was never without power to heal, teach, inspire and forgive. And those who believed in him and trusted his promise, despite having their share of human frailty, discovered the living water of the Holy Spirit welling up in them; enabling them to start transforming the world.

This week we have celebrated the work of Christian Aid in the neediest places in the world. And it would be understandable if people in the UK said “I can’t be doing with this right now. I have my own and my family’s needs to worry about. We have plenty of suffering and fear on our own doorsteps. We cannot be expected to do anything about other countries.”

Yet the Holy Spirit is still alive and working.
The Spirit is working through this time of crisis to confront us with the truth- that we are all inter-dependent. We are a global community and if some nations are under serious threat then sooner or later, we shall all be affected.
The Spirit is inspiring people still to work, to campaign for peace with healing and justice all around the world. The Spirit is keeping hope and determination alive: the world can be changed.
And the Holy Spirit is empowering people like us, despite our own weariness, frustration, doubt and fears, still to give what we can, trusting that this will help to make life safer for others and play some part in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.

Turn to Jesus and ask for that spring of living water, the Spirit of God, to well up in you.
Trust that Spirit to keep on renewing, no matter how weary or discouraged you are feeling.
Trust that Spirit to keep on renewing God’s people even though our church is set to remain in some form of lockdown for a good while yet. Trust that Spirit to make us generous and hope-ful in supporting Christian Aid.

And may the water of life refresh and renew you today, tomorrow and always. Amen.