There is no shortage of sermon fodder for this morning. We are focusing on PIE Day with youth from Duncan and Nelson United Churches and how God loves us all as we are. There is the whole question of the pandemic we are currently facing—as it has now been declared—with respect to COVID-19. There’s lots of stuff that arises from this wonderful story from John’s Gospel. So, what to say?
Let me begin with a little article from The Christian Century. It was about keeping our focus and was written by Amy Ziettlow and actually was for last week’s story about Nicodemus coming to visit Jesus during the night. With all that’s going on, Ziettlow tells us, it’s easy to lose our focus.
Amy Ziettlow teaches ballet. The name of her article was, “Where are you looking? What is your spot?” I know nothing about ballet and have always wondered how ballet dancers—all dancers and figure skaters, for that matter—can spin multiple times without throwing up! Ziettlow wrote, “In a turn, the body balances on the ball of the foot and spins. As dancers we work on “spotting,” the practice of choosing a spot on the wall that becomes our focal point during a turn. To avoid dizziness, the eyes remain focused on the spot. In each turn, the face whips around at the very last moment to return our stare to the same spot. This focused attention of the eyes enables a ballerina to complete 32 foute turns or 16 counts of chaine turns across the floor without throwing up or reeling across the stage. A flailing arm or a step off balance is a telltale sign that the focal point has been lost. The body follows the clear or muddled focus of the eyes.”
I found that description of turning both illuminating and fascinating. Ziettlow went on to suggest that as we move through our concerns for the day, we can lose sight of our spot—the thing that orients our lives; we lose sight of love or healing or hope or compassion.
This concern about losing our focus made me think of the Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel. Maybe she’d lost her spot; she’d lost her focus. Jesus gently turned her focus to self-compassion, self-care, self-acceptance, acceptance of others and ultimately love. It’s a powerful story of personal transformation that has lasting communal impacts; as the Samaritan woman—who remained unnamed—found a new focus around the well of living water, she went back to her community who were hungering for a new focus it would seem.
Did the woman know of Jesus? Maybe. Maybe not. But in the course of their frank conversation, she’s offered a new focus. She must have faced lots of stares, gossip, innuendo and silence when she walked into a room or when she went to the well. After all, she visited the well at noon when everyone else wasn’t there; people went early to the well to fetch water. The woman wanted to avoid conversation with others from her community; she didn’t want the gossip, the judgement, the feelings of shame, and the silence when she appeared. But finding Jesus there was a surprise.
In their brief and frank conversation, Jesus helped the Samaritan woman refocus on the gift of love, the gift of living judgement-free, the gift of transformation that is both personal and communal.
PIE Day invites in us that re-focus on love as well as personal and communal transformation. Public. Intentional. And Explicit. Descriptions of our sexuality can often make us uncomfortable. I watched a performance by Billie Eilish some time ago on the Graham Norton show, a BBC entertainment chat-show. Billie Eilish has won all kinds of awards at the age of 18 and has begun a world tour. Billie Eilish does not show their body in the service of their art. Billie Eilish has not wanted to follow the path of pop icons for whom sexuality is a means to sell songs. During a show in Miami, Billie Eilish showed a video in which they said, “While I feel your stares, your disapproval or your sighs of relief, if I lived by them, I’d never be able to move. Would you like me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer? Taller? Would you like me to be quiet? Do my shoulders provoke you? Does my chest? Am I my stomach? My hips?”
Sam Smith is another performer who is challenging the entertainment norms regarding sexuality, gender identity and body-image. They have a wonderful voice and speak of acceptance and hope.
These two performers are showing the way beyond shaming and conforming to a body-image or gender-image. They are showing us about how we need to refocus: on people as we are, free of judgement, free of expectation, free of conformity, full of love and compassion.
A new focus on love and compassion is what we are about this morning. A new community of caring to challenge the spread of COVID-19; a new community of caring to promote a healthy earth; a new community of love to move beyond judgement to acceptance, to a radical welcome and a place to call home; a new community where we can spin as much as we’d like, never get motion-sickness, keep our focus on love and stay the course for the health of our planet. That’s the Kin-Dom of Love!
 See The Christian Century “Living by the Word” column for Lent 2; it was called” Where are you looking? What is your spot?”