There is one thing that has connected most of my life: water. Most of the places I have lived have been near water, it might have been a swamp but water nonetheless. But also rivers, small lakes, a great lake, an ocean. I was a swimmer which I use to explain why I’m also injuring myself when I’m just walking. I find myself drawn to places with water, stop to watch it, and when I take the time to go in water, it feels like home. I imagine this might resonate with you as well. You live in this lake country, own homes on lakes, go out on boats and kayaks, return to the same places to remember and reconnect to yourself, to the past.
I wonder if it’s because our bodies are 60% water, like calling like back to itself. We begin life in womb water, I wonder if it stirs memories we cannot give words to of safety and calm. I wonder if it’s because we feel so weightless when we’re in water that it lifts the weight of our minds, pasts, futures, our doubts and guilts and worries.
And how often do we consider the miracle of plumbing? With just a twist, you get clean, safe water you can drink or wash in. We have come to trust and take for granted that, with just a turn, water.
70% of Earth is covered in water, only 2.5% is not salt water, and 1% is accessible. It’s underground and it makes up glaciers. It is what connects the world, it is the web that weaves through all of creation, what all creatures need, what ties us together. Water.
The Psalm we read today is the result of the Exodus story we did not read today, but cause who wants to listen to them complain, again. And in a similar fashion, they complained and God supplied. And I get it, maybe the water that they were finding wasn’t safe to drink, or they had long past the rivers that run to the seas. They were thirsty, there were a lot of them, and you can live a month without food but only a week without water. Then a well sprang up in the desert, bringing relief. Praise God who brings water to dry places, nourishes the land, and the creatures.
However, such miracles of water from rocks or streams in deserts or turning a faucet do not happen everywhere or every day.
2.2 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. 4.2 billion people lack safe sanitation and 2 in 5 health care facilities have either no soap and water or hand sanitizer. Imagine living in the midst of COVID-19 without effective ways to clean your hands.
Your body craves water yet unclean water increases the possibility of illness. The 3rd leading cause of death in children around the world is diarrhea, which is treatable, with water.
85% of the world’s population live in the driest half of the world. 200 million women and girls spend hours each day searching for water to bring back to their families, sometimes leaving before the sun rises and returning in the afternoon, only to get up and do it all over again the next day, searching for any small stream in a desert.
Of course, not even everyone in the United States can participate in the turning on of a faucet and finding safe drinking water. Flint and Detroit, Pittsburg and Miami, many in Appalachia and… Milwaukee, live with unsafe water, some lead, some a result of unsafe practices, a coal spill, and not even everyone knows! Not even everyone is taking action, not even those in power are taking action. 63 million people in the United States live with unclean drinking water and unhealthy bacteria in public water has been on the rise.
How do we live in hope and faith that God brings water to those in need, when even the water our neighbors, literally our neighbors!, drink isn’t safe?
In 2015, Cape Town South Africa started seeing declining levels of dam water from which the entire city received their water. They were in the midst of a drought and the reservoir kept losing water. They started preparing for Day Zero—when Cape Town would run out of water. At its lowest, the reservoir had 13.5% of the water they needed. They had clear restrictions and consequences for those who decided what they needed to do what more important than the needs of everyone.
I wonder if you’ve been dry. Running or hiking or biking. Out on a boat, surrounded by water but none that you feel safe to drink. And dry. I wonder if you’ve ever been dry, in your heart, and soul. When it feels like you’re all desert and no river. And all we have is hope. I wonder if there are days when even hope seems dry. Like sickness is going to get worse, pain is going to go on, like maybe justice isn’t going to be met, or quarantine isn’t going to end. Sometimes, life is dry.
The people of Cape Town dropped their water usage by half. The rains came to Cape Town and the dam that had been at 13% reached 90%. The water came from the rock in the desert for the Hebrew people. Water came to the woman who in Samaria at the well.
There is a natural spring in Israel, once a year or so, the spring begins to bubble, and water bursts forth. Then it begins through the desert. A river starts to flow. People gather waiting for the moment there is a rushing river where there had once been dry ground. It flows into the Jordan River, and out to sea, for a moment, it’s all connected, and there is a stream in the desert.
I think there are 2 things: we live in hope of the water coming to dry places AND we have a job to do.
We have to live in the hope, we have to live in the confidence that the God who brings water to dry places, renewing the face of the earth will bring renew us, will renew our communities, will renew creation. We live in the confidence that the God of creation can connect the that which binds us, the web that connects us, the water that flows through the earth, can be brought forth to saturate dry places. To bring justice where there is none, to bring water from rocks, springs to deserts. It is the Wadi in Israel, rains in Cape Town, it’s moments and sparks and drizzles.
But here is the other part, we have a job to do, too. We have a calling in the midst of it all, too. Jesus tell this parable and we are called to do what we say we will do, to answer yes when we are called, to care for the kin-dom. We have a call like those in Cape Town, reducing for the salvation of the community. We are called to care for the web that connects us, the water that flows through us, through the earth. To care for the waterways, those who live in harmony with the web.
That is what this month has been asking of us—who will we be? What will we do? How will we live the call to be stewards of God’s good creation. How are we going to advocate on behalf of the earth and all creatures who live on it? What can we do church? Terracycle gives the opportunity to recycle the things that we wouldn’t normally be able to—toothpaste tubes, BIC pens, SOLO cups.
Maybe we can find a way to put our faith into action, to do what we say we will do, to love God by loving God’s creation. We start honoring the web that binds us, the water that connects us. Even in the dry moments, even in the dry time, even in dry places, God is bringing water, bringing hope, bringing life.