Third Sunday in Lent, rcl yr a, 2020 SJE Kitchener EXODUS 17:1-7; PSALM 95; ROMANS 5:1-11; JOHN 4:5-42 The Revd Dr Preston Parsons I don’t imagine this is the Lenten fast you had in mind a couple of weeks ago. It’s certainly not the one I had in mind! I’ve been planning on preaching grace, and speaking truthfully, and being kind to one another. As for my fast from eating, I hadn’t intended to do much more than refrain from ordering sweets with my coffee. But then this happened: Coronavirus response. And I think we need to talk through what it means to be the church in this particular time. And instead of giving up sweets with my cappuccino, we are all going to give up coffee hour, and just about all our gatherings together for a while. There’s an important reason, though, for us to do these things. We are giving up things like coffee together, and gathering together, giving up the eucharist, even. But not for ourselves. These sacrifices, giving up such good things, and things we we most certainly love, are given up for the sake of others. Because if we weren’t giving these things up, and we let coronavirus spread at a greater pace, infecting more people, our health systems would be overloaded over a much shorter period of time. Health care workers would be more overworked, more stressed, and would face more difficult decisions about who to treat, because more people would get sick, and at the same time. Some of us will probably die, and this is a good time to reflect on our mortality—a lenten discipline to be sure—but without our sacrifices, even more of us would die. Many of us, if we wished, could ignore the requests, I suppose; even if we became sick we wouldn’t get THAT sick. We could shake hands with one another, we could sneeze and cough indiscriminately, we could neglect to wash our hands. But this isn’t the time to think of ourselves, or our own personal convenience—it is a time to do things for the sake of others. This notion that we act for the sake of others is an important theological theme in Scripture. It’s most certainly working in the background as Paul writes of what Jesus does. “For if while we were enemies,” Paul writes, “we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” For Paul, the death of Jesus on the cross, and even the life of Jesus in the resurrection, isn’t really about his own spiritual journey, or him accruing benefits on account of his sacrifice. At the empty tomb, Jesus does not say, “Well that cross sure did suck! But LOOK  AT ME  NOW,  PEOPLE. This resurrection thing sure is working out well for me.” This is the extraordinary thing about God’s grace, and God’s work in Christ; it’s all done for others: “through the death of his Son … [we,] having been reconciled [by him], will we be saved by his life.” I’ve spoken about repentance for others, as seen in Jesus repenting in the wilderness, repenting for us because he represents us. Paul strikes even more deeply into what Jesus does for others here: Jesus dies for others, that others might have life. That’s grace. That’s God. That’s a promise to us. Even if we might feel anxious, scattered, wondering what to do: all we do, we do with the confidence that God is for us. Even as we worry about getting sick, worry about our own mortality, and whatever unknowns we are about to face. But Jesus acting for others, in his death that gives us life, means we get his life—and we get to live out his live with him, a life lived for others. So in a way, I hope that we, as Christians, can live into this reality of living our lives for others too. We should really be able to get this concept, and way of being. Even in simple, simple ways. Do we wash our hands because it accrues a benefit for us? Sure, it’s a lot less likely that you will get sick. But primarily we do it so that others don’t get sick. Do we give up gathering together because it’s good for us as individuals? It probably is. But more importantly, we give up gathering together so that others don’t get sick. We cough into our elbow, too, for others, so that others don’t get sick. We don’t want to get sick, or to make others sick, so that other people, health professionals especially, don’t bear a greater burden than they must. And in the end, all these things, so small in a way, but so significant as we do them together, are for the sake of life: so that those among us who are susceptible to illness might live, so that health professionals might be less burdened, and will have to make fewer life-and-death treatment decisions for others. So be encouraged! Our Lord has indeed died for us so that we might have life, and in living for us, invites us into that life that we might have life abundantly. Now. Today. So be confident in God’s grace. And know that as he acts for others, for us, and that we might have life, he invites us into that life, a life lived for others. I hope that many of you will be willing to be telephone or errand buddies—that you might share a bit of that life. But you can do simple things too, for others: simple things, like refraining from shaking hands for others, staying home if you’re unwell for others, washing your hands, for others—and even in small ways (but ways that will most certainly be a part of bringing life to others!) to live the life that Christ lives, a life lived not for himself, but that others might have life, and have it abundantly. AMEN