Sunday at Scarboro – September 25th, 2016

Service: 10:30 am38-sept25_16-water-001-001
Coffee and Fellowship at 10 am

Minister:   Rev. Lee Spice
Theme:     Creation Time – Water
Anthems: Yemaya Asesu…..arr. Tate

To listen to Rev. Lee Spice’s message, click here

September 25 – Water
Gen.1:20 – 23; Matthew 10: 40 – 42

This past summer, our daughter was doing some field work in a small camp in BC.  When she came back to Alberta, she had with her a small jug of water.

“It is very special,” she said.  “The riveris special.  You can drink the water. As is, without treating it.”

For the people at that camp, the river was a sacred entity – a gift from the Creator.  Our daughter brought us a sacred gift, in the gift of that water.

[pours water and drinks it].

Actually, that water got used up a long time ago.  The actual water in this jug is treated, Okotoks tap water.

I am imagining that there were a few of you, watching me pour and drink the water, that were a little bit anxious.  “Really, you’re going to drink that water, right out of the river?  Should we trust the word of the people who depend on that water to be clean?”

I drank the water, and it was delicious and refreshing, and I was fine.  But the very fact that any of us, including me, were wary about drinking it…well, that’s just sad.

Water is life.  We are told that our own bodies are 50 to 65% water.  We need it to live.  We drink it, we wash with it, we water our gardens with it.  We depend on water for transportation, for industry and for energy.

In 2010, the United Nation declared that the right to clean drinking water and sanitation are human rights for everyone.  What does that mean for us, when we learn that Nestle has just outbid a town in Ontario for a new fresh water well that would have replenished the municipal water supply?  Or the fact that 2 million people in Aleppo have now been cut off from their water supply?

I went on a site that shows water advisories for Alberta, and on Thursday there were FIFTY communities with water advisories, many of them were boil-water advisories, some were “do not consume” advisories.  Edson and Milk River were on the list, and most of the rest were First Nations Communities.  Of those indigenous communities, there were three that had boil water advisories since 2011, one since 2010, and one since 2009.  Seven years. (http://www.watertoday.ca/textm-p.asp?province=1)

When we read about water in the Bible, it has both actual and metaphorical meanings.  For instance, the story about Jesus being in a boat and calming the storm may have been about a real body of water, but we look to the story and say, “When Jesus is in our boat, we’re going to pull through.”

When we immerse an adult or sprinkle a baby with real water, it is symbolic of cleansing, and becoming a new person as we allow God to transform us.

In this Bible passage, I think the image of water serves both actual and metaphorical purposes.  And, thinking about it more deeply, what I have come to believe is that, when it comes to God, the division between the physical and the spiritual is false.  Certainly, in Celtic and North American indigenous traditions, and even in Christian mysticism, the physical and the spiritual come together. Theologians such as Sally McFague, see all of Creation as the Body of Christ.  Canadian Bruce Sanguin sees God incarnated in every living molecule.

So when we talk about the spiritual living water, I believe we are also sometimes talking about real water.  Water is a spiritual issue.

In our passage from Matthew, Jesus is giving his disciples a pep talk.  These verses from the writer of the gospel of Matthew come after a series of statements by Jesus as to how it is going to be, and what is expected of them.  He has told them that, as disciples, they might be persecuted, but they should not fear.  He has talked about the costs of discipleship.

And here – he talks about the rewards.  Strangely, it is not so much about the rewards for the disciples who are going out – but for the people who are welcoming them. When the “little ones” go out to talk about Jesus, great will be the reward of those who offer them even a cup of cold water.

The blessing is in the hospitality.

The blessing is in the greeting of the “little ones” as respected equals.

The blessing is in the unity of the giver and the receiver of the hospitality.

And the symbol of that blessing is a cup of cold water.

When settlers first came to this country, they were greeted with hospitality – with clean water and land.  And now, hundreds of years later – we in Calgary share this land as signers of Treaty 7.  How is it, now?

Some time ago, I read some articles about dreams and their interpretations.  One author suggested that, in our dreams, bodies of water represent our unconscious self. So, if you dream about a vast, still sea, you are probably at peace.  If the water you dream about is wavy and choppy, then you might be going through a turbulent time.

If the earth’s water were to be an indication of our human selves, a reflection of our inner spirituality and of our outer being, what would it be saying about us?  What shall we make of the beautiful BC river, one of the last of its kind, from which we can drink freely, and what shall we say about accidentally leaky tailings ponds and e-coli in the Elbow River?

If the state of the earth’s water is our collective consciousness, what is it saying about the shrinking ice packs and rising sea levels?  What is it saying about drought in Africa, and children in refugee camps dying of dysentery?

Water is life. When we are called to offer cups of cool water to the little ones, what are we now offering in our outstretched hands?  What gifts of the Creator are we lifting up to share with the human race?

I want to leave us with a word of hope – a word of peace.

Our world is resilient.  If we were to allow it to happen, I believe that the Holy Sacred Spirit can heal through the cleansing and the protecting of the water.  If you are paying attention to the First Nations movements in Canada and the US, you will note that many indigenous groups are saying that this is what they are doing – those hundreds at Black Rock are saying, “We are protectors, not protesters.”

I heard a sound clip from Bob Rae, not too long ago, and he said something like, “The Indigenous peoples have never given up (in other words, never signed away), their rights to care for the land.”  If we are wise, we will all find ways to join in.

Water is life.  It is the beginning of all things.  It is a gift of the Creator, and in water comes the creating, healing, cleansing actions of God.  It is shared in hospitality as a gift between peoples and all of Creation.

I end with one of my favourite poems by Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.