‘Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’ John 7:37
Brothers and sisters, well, we had got quite a lot happening in church this morning. Firstly, we're here to celebrate together and to give thanks for the fact that we've got to this stage where it really does feel as if we might finally be emerging from the worst of the pandemic. Secondly, we are here to celebrate the community that exists here. That is, the community of St. Georges, Chorley - the parish that holds together so much that's good about the community in which you will live. Thirdly, towards the end of worship this morning we are going to be dedicating and blessing a new piece of artwork in church (more info HERE). It's an innovative piece and it recalls lots of the scriptural imagery about the life-giving properties of water we hear in our scripture readings. Readings that convey to us that sense that God provides for us. The reality is God has been providing for us all the way through this dreadful time that we faced. This is not to deny that, as we have heard in our worship it is has been partly a time of lament where people have grieved, mourned. A time where we know that loved ones have died or been very ill, where we have lost some of the things that we used to have. Where we know that new ways will come about consequently, some we will be pleased about and some not. It's quite right and appropriate that we find a time such as now to bring this together and as we do so to reflect together on what has been, what will be and what we must pause to be thankful for.
Being thankful is right at the heart of what Christians do. Each Sunday, the parish community gathers to celebrate the Eucharist together. That word Eucharist as many of you will know means ‘Thanksgiving’. It comes from the Greek word for that. Still today in Greek society if somebody provides you with some service or gives you a gift it is appropriate to say back to them ‘Eucharisto’, which in modern Greek is the word derived from the word Eucharist. In other words, to give thanks to them for what they've done. As we give thanks for all that we have it doesn't stop us acknowledging the things that have been difficult, it doesn't stop us being unaware that there are challenges in life. However, it does remind us that fundamentally the Christian community is a people of the Thanksgiving that is our calling. So here today, as in places all over the world each day, we stop to give thanks. Give thanks for one another for the provision of the life that we have, for those who care for us and have been so self-sacrificial during the pandemic in caring for others. Most profoundly of all, we give thanks for the gift and offering of Jesus Christ who offered everything for us that we might be at one with God in right relationship. That is the heart of our Eucharist. That we recall and re-commemorate the action of Jesus’ sacrifice. That in a very real sense Jesus then becomes present to us, with us and for us in a very special way. That very special way then equips us as we receive Holy Communion to go out to be the people that Jesus calls us and wants us to be in the world, transforming our communities as a healthy church as we say in our diocese.
The gift of the new art installation in church today brings out many of the resonant images of a community that gives thanks but also expresses the life and vibrancy of the gospel by speaking to us of water. Quite simply we are largely made up of water in our bodies. Without it we would be a very strange thing indeed - partly with it we are who we are. The body that we are flows with that water to the glory of God. So, the human body does what the church does too - that church, which is also a body, the body of Christ. And the resonant images that we get from our scripture today about the living water that brings us to life, well that is the very essence from which we receive the gift of new life. As Jesus says whoever believes in Him receives his rivers of living water which will flow from within them. Also, as the prophecy of Isaiah says there will be that image of water flowing that speaks of God’s great provision for his people and whenever we acknowledge our thirst. We can go back to the wells of salvation in God and drink deeply again for God will be with us beside the living waters to sustain us and equipped us. Whenever you can come in and reflect in front of the art installation may it recall to you that gift of living water which, inevitably also reminds us of the gift of baptism by which we were baptised with water and in the power of the spirit into the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So, this is a great morning of celebration it is a morning of Thanksgiving. Yes, there is the sense of giving thanks for moving through a time of great pain and difficulty into something new. There is also a sense of moving into the great opportunities that the future brings us. The Church will always be the body of Christ in the world carrying with it the greatest news that the world can ever know. We need to come together as the body of Christ as we do today, to receive the body of Christ in the sacrament, that we may go out as the body of Christ to be the healthy church which transforms our community. Today is a great day to take stock. To be thankful. To not stop to celebrate but also having looked back to look forward with confident hope. We look to the way in which God calls us into the world to carry that great news of Jesus Christ. This Jesus the one for whom all things were made, the one who brings the ultimate message of good news and salvation to a world that needs to remember above all that we are called to be thankful for all we have. Amen. (from Archdeacon David).