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John 4: 5-42                                         (Sermon 1: “Encounters of a seventh kind”)

Romans 5: 1-11

Exodus 17: 1-17                                    ( Sermon 2: “You can get water out of stone”)

Psalm 95




If you are thirsty, you are in the right place.


Here in this house of prayer is opportunity of the first kind.

an opening into personal refreshment from the depths

of that most profound Well-Spring that we call God.


The God of Christ Jesus will quench the thirst

of any who come here today in  quiet expectation

and open-hearted trust.


Therefore, blessed are those who thirst,

for they shall be satisfied.


In the name of Christ Jesus I welcome you all.



            (using Roman 5 and Psalm 95)


Rejoice! Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have free access

to the grace of God in which we stand tall!

            O come, let us sing to our God,

            let us make joyful music to the God of our salvation!


Our hope will never be disappointed,

because God’s love has been poured into our hearts

by the Holy Spirit, so freely given to us.

            Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving,

            let us left the roof with songs of praise.




Holy Friend, you are the joy of the universe! As we gather at this holy watering place, may each of us pray for the blessing of others gathered around us. Bless us all with enough living water to quench our thirst. Rejuvenate our spirits for the excitement of genuine worship and for the privilege of preparing to follow you in the week ahead.  In Christ’s name and to and his glory.





Let us together admit our involvement in this world’s evil,

and turn again to the drinking fountain of God’s grace.



Lord Jesus, when our prayers seem like a stony desert

and our hearts feel as dry as a sand hill,

     drench me with a downpour of mercy.


Whenever we take good gifts for granted,

and grumble about every small obstacle,

     please put a new song on our tongues

     until we praise as naturally as bell birds.


When life’s abrasive pressures fray us,

loosing our hold on the Still Centre,

     tell us again about sparrows and magpies,

     about wild irises and pink heath,

     and the Parent who knows our every need.


When our miserly souls begrudge compassion,

complaining about needy people,

or hiding smugly in the folds of apathy,

     put in our hands a crown of thorns

     and show us again what Love can make

            with two pieces of wood and a few nails.


Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy.

Lord have mercy.


God of the crucified Jesus, and our God, your love is greater than all our clumsiness, fecklessness and wrongdoing. We thank you that your forgiveness cleanses us, your mercy heals us, and your bountiful grace restores us to a place in your one family that spans both earth and heaven. Wonderful are you, God our Saviour, Provider and Counsellor.





Our Saviour Christ, came with peace. “Peace for those who were near, and peace for those who were far off. “


The peace and wonder and joy of Christ Jesus be always with you.

     And also with you!




God of Jesus, our best Friend,

please keep us thirsty for your love

in our hearts and minds.


Make us always a bit dissatisfied with toys,

TV games, sport, and food and drink.

Make us want to love you

more than for anything else.

Then we will find the best happiness.

In Jesus’ name we pray.





Come on everyone, lift up your songs to God!

     Celebrate the eternal rock on which our hope rests.

With exuberant thanks we enter God’s presence,

     thrilled by the praise of massed voices.


For our loving God is truly the greatest;

     far beyond all secular fads and idols.

In God’s hands are the deepest valleys and ravines

     and the highest mountains on earth.

The seas and oceans belong to their Maker,

     the continents and islands are God’s handiwork.


Come on, let us open our lives to experience awe,

     let us bow down before God, our Maker.

For God is our God, and we are like sheep

     led to pasture by the hand of grace.

                                                                                                            © B.D. Prewer 2001




Sir, you have no bucket or rope

  and this well is deep.” John 4:11


Rising water,

     springing from great depths,

     stored up long ago when the stars

     first sang together for joy.


Living water,

     like a cup of celebration,

     full and running over

     all the days of our life.


Refreshing water,

     mysteriously satisfying

     so that our youth is renewed

     like soaring eagles.


Cleansing water,

     washing deep down

     where fingers cannot reach,

     making all things new.


Surprising water,

     breaking through the earth

     in rocky places

     wherever that man Jesus goes.


Redeeming water,

     paid in full by One

     who by cross and tomb

     has brought us his baptism

                                                                        © B.D. Prewer 1997




Saviour God, bring us back to the Living Water. If necessary, drag us complaining and kicking away from all the cheap cordials that give momentary pleasure but lasting dissatisfaction. Confront us again with your uncompromising Christ. May his Spirit question and probe us until we do away with excuses and diversions and allow ourselves to drink deeply from the spring of his inexhaustible truth. In his name and to your glory.





·    Note The following sermon is extremely long. When  it was preached the briefest hymns were selected and succinct prayers employed.





John 4: 4-42


Most of us know what it feels like to be used up by others and then discarded, don’t we?


You give your best, try to be helpful as possible, but it is taken for granted, and later you are discarded like a Kleenex tissue. Unfortunately, many of our human encounters are like that. Such encounters diminish us as a person, belittle us, and eat away at our sense of personal worth and well being.


I am going to label these experiences as encounters of the 1 to 6 kind. You will see why in a minute.


First let me underline the fact that when we have suffered bad experiences,  where our good nature is exploited and then we are tossed aside, then we feel not only diminished. We become bitter, cautious and suspicious of human relationships.


We may even become anti-social characters; outwardly aggressive and abrasive types, while underneath we are afraid and still feel the pain of old wounds. We erect barriers. We don’t want to be ever used and then discarded again.




I believe the Woman of Samaria, whom Jesus met at Jacob’s well, was like that. She had endured five, maybe six, encounters of the hurtful kind, and had taken to avoiding human company. Isolation was better than more hurt. When she found Jesus waiting at the well, she was much on her guard.


It is far too generally assumed that this woman was a hardened sinner. A brazen marriage wrecker, sly, ruthless in exploiting male weaknesses. Most of the sermons I have read and heard have tended to paint her as a sexually promiscuous woman.


Some see Jesus as exposing her sordid sex life. I quote one world-renowned preacher:

     “He lifted the lid off her personality. Forced her to look down at the sickening sight of her      own moral weakness and to smell the stench of her uncontrollable, lustful nature.”


[By the way, whenever I hear a man speak vehemently like that about a woman, the red lights on the switchboard of the counsellor in me start flashing. I ask myself: Who is he really talking about, the woman or the sordid temptations that afflict himself?]


I believe the woman is more likely to be the one who was mistreated and demeaned. She had been divorced at least five times, and was living with a sixth man. Remember that in Jesus’ day, men held almost all the rights to divorce. 


A man could divorce his wife on the smallest pretext. He only had to attest “something unseemly in her.” This unseemliness could be as trivial as the husband not liking the way his wife looked first thing in the morning, or the fact that she boiled his egg too hard, or if her singing voice sounded harsh, or if she answered back when he criticised her. To make a divorce effective, all the husband had to do was to call in a male witness, and write out the dismissal notice.


A divorced woman, unless she had independent means, lost all status and value in the community. She was seen as a rejected woman. She was a disgrace.  Her own family was loathe to receive her back in their household. Her very existence became precarious. Options for employment were severely limited to being a menial servant. And such positions did not come up very often. High class women were not likely to employ a divorcee, and put temptation in the way of their easily-tempted husband. There were no unemployment benefits in those days. In reality the options were: Find work as a servant, marry again very quickly, become some man’s mistress, work as a prostitute, or starve.


I think this woman of Samaria was likely to have been greatly sinned against by men. That she was exploited by men and then discarded. Her status and dignity in the community had been torn to shreds. And like many of life’s victims, she may have been turned into the village scapegoat to ease the bad conscience of respectable citizens.


The woman of Samaria was a diminished person; devalued; a tattered remnant of what God created her to be. Her six close encounters with men were all of a damaging kind: used and abused. Her self image was shrunken. Her bruising encounters with the righteous women of the village also became damaging ones. They had reduced her sense of self worth to near zero.


Then one day, under the burning heat of the midday sun, unexpectedly she had an encounter of the seventh kind.




I invite her to picture her at high noon, when all sensible people would be either indoors, or those out in the fields would be sheltering in the shade of brushwood booths -- which rural workers still erect in those lands today.


I ask you to picture her shouldering the large water jar, slipping out of her dwelling, and scurrying out of the village, through the heat haze, to Jacob’s well.


The other women had been there in the cool of the early morning, chatting and laughing together. And they would be there again in the shade of evening, exchanging the gossip of the day. But this bruised woman makes the journey alone, to avoid the scornful glances and the barbed words. She has had enough of that pain being inflicted on her. Even the midday heat was preferable to denigration by her village sisters.


As she arrives near the well of Jacob, she has no idea that she is coming to “the well of salvation.” Watch her surprise as she finds a stranger there. She stops, a few metres short of the well, not sure what do. Then Jesus takes the initiative, and the most beautiful encounter of the seventh kind takes place.




Jesus neither ignores her nor avoids her. He does not treat her as if she has some kind of disease. Instead he does something very lovely. He asks her to give him a drink. The diminished person is asked to give help to the most complete human being who ever lived.


Maybe the greatest untapped resource among us is the ministry of those whom society treats as casualties, or the ignored nobodies? We often think in terms of “what can we do for them?” which assumes that we are in the lofty position over them. Jesus put himself beside people, not above them. Jesus was ready to gratefully allow them to help him.


He did the same thing with another woman in another place. At the dinner party of Simon the Pharisee, when Jesus allowed a prostitute to gatecrash the event, kneel and his feet, wash them with tears, and wipe them with her perfumed hair. The so-called nobodies have something to offer us, if we would only get down off our high and mighty attitude. The causalities of life can bless us, if we permit them.


Jesus said to the outcaste woman, Will you give me a drink?”


That empowered her enough to respond: “How come, that you a Jew, as me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” The encounter of the seventh kind is on; the dialogue has begun, with the woman already cast by Jesus as one who has something to offer him.




Having given her some dignity, Jesus is able to offer her something: the riddle of the living water.


“If you could understand who it is who is talking with you, you would ask me for a drink of living water, welling up with abundant life.”


The woman responds: “How? You have no bucket or pitcher. This well is deep. Do you reckon you are greater than our ancestor Jacob who dug this well?”


I hear no evasion in this question. No verbal fencing. Just honest puzzlement. The encounter of the seventh kind is moving into the depths of spiritual mystery and wonder.


Jesus answers by affirming that what he has to offer will be like a spring of clear water bubbling up from her heart with eternal life. The woman whose own heart feels shrunken and dry cries out: “Sir, please give it to me”


At this point Jesus appears to change the subject. I say “appears” because in fact he is opening up the sad story of her life, its many rejections, and her ongoing misery.  Woman, go and call your husband.”


Without any evasion, she responds with the truth. “I have no husband.”


How you and I react to what follows, will depend on how we picture Jesus at this moment. Whether we see him as wagging a reproving finger at a wicked woman, or compassionately responding to her honesty. No finger wagging for me. I picture Jesus looking at her with love and respect.


You have told me the very truth. Five husbands have divorced you and the man with whom you are living at this moment is not your husband.”


At this point the woman becomes alarmed. It is a scary thing to meet someone who seems to openly care about you and is willing to get personal about your private hurts. To admit your wounds even to a loving counsellor is not always a welcome thing.  We would rather try diversion.


The woman does try to change the subject. She attempts to move the focus off her and on to the safe topic of abstract religious discussion. Better this than allow this perceptive man to probe any deeper into her tender wounds.


There are significant differences between Jewish beliefs and those of Samaritans. She grabs for one of them to divert the attention away from herself.


     Sir, I can see you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain. But you Jews claim that Jerusalem is the correct place to worship.


It is a cunning move, and a lesser pastor than Jesus may have been diverted. Jesus will have none of it. He takes up the word worship and moves back to issues of truth and sincerity.


     Dear woman, forget about this mountain or that. God is not confined to places or     religions.

      God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”


The Samaritan woman can’t quite understand what Jesus is getting at. So she speaks of her belief that God will one day send a Messiah who will make all things plain.

     I know that the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain all things.”


Very gently but firmly Jesus responds:

     I who am speaking to you, I am that Messiah”




At this point John tells us that the disciples returned from the village. They were surprised to see him speaking with such a woman. It made them feel awkward. Embarrassed.


They could understand that God loved respectable people, and they would expect to find Jesus in their company. But how could he tolerate the company of the disreputable! In this situation, a case of threefold disrepute! A Samaritan, a woman, and the village sinner?


The disciples felt ill at ease in the presence of an encounter of the seventh kind. Like many converts, they saw themselves a cut above the other outsiders whom Christ came to seek and save. I suspect we sometimes feel the same way. We become ill at ease with encounters of the seventh kind, where the grace of Christ is breaking down barriers, flouting notions of respectability.


We are glad that his open arms have included us. But after a while we become smug, and a bit self righteous. Then we get uncomfortable whenever Christ includes outsiders and invites them to sit at his Table, and eat the same bread and drink for the same cup.




The story of “The woman of Samaria” concludes with the woman going back into her town and witnessing to the people about Jesus, the Messiah.


Isn’t that amazing?  This scorned woman, who a hour before slipped out of the town like a moral leper in order to draw water from the well, now had the confidence to go back with her head held high, and preach to the people who had despised her.


This encounter of the seventh kind had given her back her self respect.


Her new dignity evidently impressed many in the Samaritan village. They invited this Jew Jesus, and his Jewish disciples, to share their Samaritan hospitality for a few days.

Remarkably we read that many people there put their trust in Jesus as a result of the woman’s testimony.


They also came to experience an encounter of the seventh kind: an encounter with the saving love of God in Christ Jesus, where old ways of thinking and acting are cast aside, and all things become new.




This church and this hour are like that well in Samaria. Here we find the Messiah waiting for us with living water; with a wondrous, inclusive, healing love. For us to leave here, renewed in spirit and truth, will only happen if we allow this hour to be yet another encounter of the seventh kind. Christ is available; the rest is up to us.








Exodus 17: 6 


“ Look, I will stand with you on the rock of Horeb. You [Moses] shall strike the rock with your rod, and water shall flow out of it, that the people may drink.”


Water. Life must have water,.



In Australia, the driest continent on earth, we have some inkling of how precious water is.  Our maps boldly show some rivers that only flow once a year, and in some cases they may only flow a few times in a century. Numerous travellers, from the early explorers down to the present day adventurers, have perished for lack of water. No water, no life.




The aboriginal people treasured and memorised every watering hole. This was especially so in the dry inland. From one generation to the next, they sang songs which were like maps of their territory; in these song-maps the precious water holes were prominent. They treasured water; it meant life.


In fact, in some areas of limestone country, the nomadic people would come to an apparently dry place and strike a rock with a waddy (club). Like a miracle, water would flow from the rock.


Now that places us very much in Moses territory.





First, we had better look at the matter of miracle. Most would consider Moses striking a rock with his staff and producing water, a prime example of a miracle performed by a wonderful man of God.


Aboriginal Australians in some areas, also produced water out of rock.  Is that too a miracle? I suspect that if we had been an explorer, dying of thirst, and we saw an aborigine bring water out of rock, we would have seen it as a miracle. And maybe it would be.


Let me make one thing clear: I believe God can do anything special, perform any miracle that God wishes. God is utterly unbound and flowing free.  But at the same time I believe (from my experience) God’s miracles usually have more to do with working through stupid, fragile, sinners like me rather than fracturing the orderliness of things which are pompously called  “the laws of nature.”




In the case of Moses, as a fugitive on the run from Egyptian police, Moses had found himself in the desert of the Sanaia Peninsular. It may have seemed like an accident to him when he ended up there, and fell in with the family of a wilderness sheik named Jethro. But this was a part of the miracle.


Moses, without realising it, was God’s apprentice for forty years in the desert country. He learned its geography. He learned its sparse fruits and water holes. He became what we in Australia would call an experienced “bushman”.  He could live off the land. Moses knew how to surmount the desert threats to human existence. It seems likely he also came to know that in certain places water lay just behind a thin layer of limestone.


The real miracle of the salvation of the Jewish people was that God had over so many years trained a sinful, foolish man like Moses, to be a saviour of his people. .The desert became his finishing school.


 In the desert Moses painfully and slowly learned about himself, about his strengths and his limitations. He came to understand the desert seasons and their opportunities, and he learned how to survive in the harsh and dry land where water seemed to be largely absent. Moses became for all purposes a Bedouin tribesman; he spoke the Bedouin language and had an understanding of the nature of the various tribes of the desert. He knew which ones to trust and which ones to fear. He came to understand where it was safe to travel and where it was not. This whole forty years was a part of God’s miracle of salvation-miracle.


Best of all Moses discovered in the wilderness a God who was greater than all else, an utterly awesome yet loving Being whose name was the ‘Unnameable”-: “I will be whatever I will be”


God had providentially placed the right person, in the right place, at the right time. And when much later Moses was leading a rabble of ex-slaves in that same desert country, and they were crying out with thirst, God had the right person in the right place at the right time. The water flowing surprisingly out of rock that Moses struck with his staff, was indeed a part of the miracle of the salvation of the Hebrew people.




I regard this story as a folk story based soundly on an historical event. Today it is coupled with the story of Jesus and the Samaritan women by the well, is because it is also an allegory of how God cares for us. The sign of water in a rocky place is a sign that God cares for us, even when we imagine God is absent.


God is with us, ready to quench our thirst.


Most of us have wilderness times in our spiritual journey. Times when prayer seem as dry as bulldust and God just a cruel mirage. Like the thirsty people that Moses was leading, we become weary, dejected, disappointed. We wonder whether we are really on God’s journey or not.


* Here I sound a warning: There are some Christians who either never have dry seasons of the spirit, or who do but are too anxious to admit it. There are those who wag a finger at us and insist that if we truly had faith, then every day will be like a picnic beside pure flowing streams. They insist that we should never be weary, never depressed, and never thirsty. The irony is this: If we take their blithe advice to heart, we are likely to end up feeling even more guilty and despondent about our dry spiritual situation than before.


It is far better to be honest to God. Our Christian pilgrimage, through this world to our promised land, is likely to take us through some very barren times. Like the people of Israel we may cry out sometimes petulantly and occasionally with profound desperation, for some sign of God’s providence.


This does not mean we are extra bad sinners. In fact, we are in good company. If we read about the lives of the saints, we will discover that every one of them had seasons of spiritual drought. Some call it “the dark night of the soul”.  Even Jesus endured his wilderness experience. What is more, we are told that he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, far from being a sign of our faithlessness, our dry times are more a sign that we are indeed on the journey where God would have us go; a path which Jesus Christ has walked before us.




I for one will readily admit to going through times of spiritual wilderness. Sometimes these seasons last a few days, sometimes many months. Maybe years. I know what it is to burn with thirst. But I have not been there alone. Never alone.


Always God has given me enough of the “living water” to keep going. It is like receiving a gift of water out of rock. It may be only a sip, but it is sufficient for that day.


My spiritual encouragement sometimes comes from an unlikely source. A comment from a stranger. A surprising word from an apparent non-believer. Even a sharp word from an opponent. A story in a newspaper.


Other times the refreshment comes from a more expected sources. Empathy from my best friend Marie. A precious moment in quiet solitude. A verse of Scripture, a couplet from a poem, or a melody of music. Maybe the song of a magpie, a phrase in a sermon, a hug from a friend when I am feeling most unhuggable.


These moments may be only like tiny sips of water but they have kept me alive as a Christian. My God does indeed meet me in the wilderness. Not always with the abundant springs I long for; but with enough to keep me on the journey. God remains faithful.




There is one fascinating thing about the story of Moses at the rock of Horeb. It is a matter of geography. Just one more day’s journey and the people of Israel would have been in sight of the large Oasis of Rephidim, which these days is called Fairan. At this special oasis even today up to  7000 nomads, with their flocks, can camp at the one time without exhausting the supply of water.


It would seem that they were very much in God’s hands, even when they thought Moses to be inadequate. God knew what lay ahead. God knew where to lead the people.


Isn’t that also true in your life? It is in mine. After doing it tough, when I least expect it, I arrive a special oasis where the living water of God is provided extravagantly.




We cannot engineer these times of prodigious refreshment. Spiritual bonanzas cannot be brought about by pious manipulation of events. Nor can they be hastened by badgering God with petulant prayers. Through Christ our Leader, God will bring us to the living waters, when the time is right. Trust and obedience are required on our part if we are to be ready to avail ourselves of the blessings of God.


Water is essential for life. The living water of God’s Spirit is essential for our personal life. But is it always a gift of grace, not a reward for our goodness. Moses at the rock of Horeb, Jesus by the well in Samaria, were agents of amazing, refreshing, overflowing  grace.


That is how I have made it here today. What about you?




I believe that our lives are held within the encircling love of God,

     who knows our names and recognises our deepest needs.

I believe that Christ is the divine Child of the living God,

     and that his grace is like living waters that can never be exhausted.

I believe in the bathing, refreshing, Spirit of God

     who yearns over our welfare as a mother yearns for her child.

I believe that God is in the arid desert as well as in green pastures,

     and that hard times and disciplines are also loving gifts.

I believe that our journey does have a purpose and a destination,

     and that our path leads to a final glory we cannot yet imagine.

I believe that in the church we are fellow pilgrims on the road,

     and that we are called to refresh one another as God refreshes us.




Let us pray for all God’s children.


Within this house of prayer, loving God, where we are refreshed by living water of your Spirit, we turn our prayers towards the hungers and thirsts of the wider world.

Leader: With the fullness of Christ’s grace,

People: flow waters, flow with healing grace.


Enter the experience of all who this day are looking for a faith which will enable them to turn around the defeat and shame of their present story.

Leader: With the fullness of Christ’s grace,

People: flow waters, flow with healing grace.


Enter the grief and misery of folk who have found that no human friend or loved one is able to reach the lonely depths of their sorrow.

Leader: With the fullness of Christ’s grace,

People: flow waters, flow with healing grace.


Enter the insecurity of those desperate seekers who rush from one religion to another, and from one counsellor to another.

Leader: With the fullness of Christ’s grace,

People: flow waters, flow with healing grace.


Enter the strength of self-made people who privately are driven by an unnameable discontent which makes them irritable and hard to live or work with.

Leader: With the fullness of Christ’s grace,

People: flow waters, flow with healing grace.


Enter the bitterness of citizens whose lives have been devastated by the bad decisions of leaders in business, parliament or court.

Leader: With the fullness of Christ’s grace,

People: flow waters, flow with healing grace.


Enter the despair of all whose land or jobs, homes or health, freedom or reputation, have been taken from them.

Leader: With the fullness of Christ’s grace,

People: flow waters, flow with healing grace.




Closed to you be every pitfall,

Smooth to you be every steep hill,

Warm to you be every sheltered nook,

Sweet to you be every stream of God.

                        (Old Celtic blessing)


For pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land,

God’s mercies never end.


 The blessing of God almighty...........



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ISBN 978-1-937763-78-7: AUSTRALIA:

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Australian Prayers

Third edition May 2014

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Jesus Our Future

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ISBN 978-1-62880-032-6

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Although this book was written with young people in mind, it has proved to be popular with Christians or seekers of all ages. Through the eyes and ears of a youth named Chip, big questions are raised and wrestled with; faith and doubt,  unanswered  prayers, refugees,  death and grief, racism and bullying, are just a few of the varied topics confronted in these pages. Suitable as a gift to the young, and proven to be helpful when it has been used as a study book for adults.

Australian Prayers has been a valuable prayer resource for over thirty years.  These prayers are suitable for both private and public use and continue to be as fresh and relevant today as ever.  Also, the author encourages users to adapt geographical or historical images to suit local, current situations.

This collection of original, contemporary prayers is anchored firmly in the belief that no matter what the immediate future may hold for us, ultimately Jesus is himself both the goal and the shape of our future.  He is the key certainty towards which the Spirit of God is inexorably leading us in this scientific and high-tech era. Although the first pages of this book were created for the turn of the millennium, the resources in this volume reflect the interests, concerns and needs of our post-modern world.