Season of Creation
Certainly in our part of the world, water is abundant.
Water is fundamental to our lives. We spend the first nine months of our existence immersed in water. We quickly learn that water makes things grow, and that without water nothing grows. Water sustains life and makes life fruitful. We discover that water cleanses like nothing else except perhaps fire. Water washes away dirt and makes things clean.
In fact water is a great blessing. As it falls from the sky and soaks both us and the land, it is like a free gift of God’s grace and generosity. And it is a free gift of God’s grace and generosity.
It is probably not without significance that the writings of the Bible come from a part of the world where water is scarce. In the Bible, and most especially in Jesus’ teaching, water is used again and again as a profound and powerful symbol of God’s blessing.
But for all its power to give life and bless life, this gift from God has a dark side. It is a blessing except when it is denied or corrupted. It is a blessing except when it drowns.
This is more than metaphorical language. These are more than tragic moments in the lives of individuals. This is the stuff of politics and economics. This is a justice issue.
It has been claimed that the State of Israel has from time to time cut off water supplies to Palestinian territories as an act of repression. Whatever the truth of those allegations, futurologists warn us that the wars of the future will not be fought over oil but over access to drinking water.
The debate-of-the-moment in the UK is over fracking – hydraulic fracturing of the earth to produce shale gas. Much of the debate we see in print is about the economic benefits or otherwise. Much of the opposition concerns the effect it might have on the lives of people in surrounding communities. But fracking is a process which – by design – destroys millions of gallons of water. It combines water with toxic chemicals which render the water contaminated forever. When we think for a moment of those parts of the world where children still have to walk miles each day to collect the water their families will use that day, we begin to see that the wilful destruction of millions of gallons of water for short term and very local gain is a monstrous injustice.
And water can drown. We have become too flippant about global warming. We make jokes about having warm summers at last. But one of the effects of global warming is that sea levels are rising. Actually it’s not such a problem for us, at least not in the short term. Bangladesh, half of India, whole island communities in the Pacific will drown before we have to think about evacuating Brighton….
As Christian people, we must take seriously this justice issue of water at the same time as we celebrate the blessings it brings.
And we certainly do celebrate it.
Water is the element we use in Baptism, when we celebrate the work of God in a person’s life. It symbolises new birth: we are born as it were out of the waters of Baptism. It symbolises growth and life in our spiritual journey. And even, drawing on the darker side of water, it marks the drowning of all those things which prevent us from being everything which God intended; everything which prevents us from being fully human.
Water is precious. Water is vital.
Water is both a symbolic and an actual gift of God.
Each of us in the UK can celebrate a Sacrament in our own homes by turning on a tap / faucet.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’… The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ … Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? … Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ John 4
8 September 2013