Creation 4 2020
I witnessed a baptism last week. I was in the role of Godmother, not priest, and it was difficult not being able to be there and not being able to participate. I love doing baptisms myself. it is such joy to unpack the symbolism of the water, to help those listening to understand what we are doing and then to act in the performance of the rite. It is the defining moment, you pour the water onto the candidate and it symbolises new life in Christ, it is the sign and seal of God’s love for the child and the relationship they have embarked on. And why is it water? Because without water, life cannot be, at least not here is our system on planet earth.
Water is vital, in other words water is life.
We live on the driest continent and yet, we in the big cities take water for granted, it is so essential that we cannot imagine being without it, but for those Australians who live in other parts, not so coastal, water is a constant worry.
And so it appears it was for the people who inhabited Palestine. The bible, both Old Testament and New, is full of references to water. We read four passages today that highlight some important things.
Water comes up again and again in Isaiah, but in this particular passage we have a link between God, water, tress and the poor. Water insecurity is one of the things that separates the poorest from the rest. If you do not have ready access to clean drinking water then life is precarious and indeed many people die of the lack. God hears the cry of those who do not have water. This is the God of compassion and justice that sees the need of the poorest and least. Water is, of course, yet another thing that the rich and powerful control access to in a number of different ways. It is not just the humans who need the water, however. In this passage, just as in both the Psalm and Revelation, trees, the largest plants, are also linked to the water. Humans and trees both, along with everything else, need water and the creation is bound together in that need. It is the web of life. In Psalm 104 not only do the humans and the trees get a mention but also other animals, and in both cases it is clearly God the creator, who makes the water flow.
When we turn to the magnificent passage at the end of Revelation we have a description of the new heavens and the new earth and the star of the show is the river that flows through the centre of the city- because, without water there is no life. And once again there are trees that are vital to the whole new creation, trees for fruit and trees for healing. There is this deep connectedness between the river, the trees and the humans, indeed everything else as well.
In our world we are in danger of not understanding how deeply connected it all is. We have tried to separate the elements by putting a price on them. And this is only possible because we city folk are disconnected from the rivers and plants and animals that are together in the ecosystem. The element that we are most aware of in cities is air and unfortunately, we don’t recognise the connectedness between air and water, trees and the other plants, or if we do, we do nothing about it. We began to understand during the bushfires but sadly other experiences have put that out of our minds.
God is the creator and that in which it all holds together, but unfortunately, we have been given the gift of freedom to wreak havoc and destroy.
In the person of Jesus the Christ, the incarnation of God, we have the creator joined with creation. As Jesus tells the woman at the well, he can give her the eternal water, that is life. She, like the poor and needy in Isaiah, is subject to the restriction on her access to water that has her drawing water in the heat of the day. Jesus wants to offer her a stream of living water that she will have access to eternally.
Of course, that gift that Jesus offers is in the new creation, like that in Revelations. In the meantime, while human beings are in charge of the physical world, inequality, and corruption, water shortages and water insecurity continue.
We city dwellers who are insulated from the problems need to become more aware of the importance of water security, of pollution, of competing needs and the whole financial system that controls all of the above. As recipients of the living water, as those baptised in the water of life, we have a responsibility to be advocates both for other humans and for the natural world, we need to speak for the rivers and for those who depend on them- which of course is the whole ecosystem not only human beings, “so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.’’
Rev. Roberta Hamilton