First Congregational Church
February 29, 2017
7th Sunday after Epiphany, Water Sunday
“The Reflection of Water”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Ole sends his son, Sven to bed. Five minutes later, Sven screams downstairs, “Dad! Can you get me a glass of water?” Ole says, “No. You had your chance.” After a minute Sven screams again, “Dad! Can you get me a glass of water?” Ole says, “No. I told you, you had your chance. If you ask one more time, I’ll come up there and spank you.” After a short silence, the father hears, “Dad! When you come up to spank me, can you bring me a glass or water?”
The impetuous for this morning’s message came at the invitation of Aubrey Ann Parker, as a part of the Benzie County Water Festival. She and I have collaborated a few times on advertising events for each other’s interests, and I’ve friended her on Facebook, and I look forward to the day when we actually meet. She asked, if as part of the Festival, I would be willing to preach on the topic of water, and I figured, that would be easy enough.
Pure water (solely hydrogen and oxygen atoms) has a neutral pH of 7, which is neither acidic nor basic - perfectly balanced. My research suggested that although somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, 97% is saltwater. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers, which leaves just 1% for all of humanity’s needs. On a daily basis, we use 10 billion tons of freshwater worldwide, and it is said that the United States uses nearly 80 percent of its water for irrigation and thermoelectric power.
We live near one of the Great Lakes and the DNR website says there are 17 smaller lakes in Benzie County. Wikipedia says that of the 860 square miles in our county, 63% of our land is water.
Our human body is 2/3 water, absorbs cold water faster than hot water and by the time a person is 70 years old, they will have required 1.5 million gallons of water. If you lose 2% of your body’s water supply, your energy will decrease by 20%. A 10% decrease in water, you will be unable to walk, and a 20% decrease, you will be dead.
In the same sense, drinking too much water too quickly can lead to water intoxication. Water intoxication occurs when water dilutes the sodium level in the bloodstream and causes an imbalance of water in the brain and is most likely to occur during periods of intense athletic performance. (I’m probably not going to be worrying about that this week.)
Poseidon was the Greek mythologic Olympian God of the Oceans and king of the sea gods, and the Norse people had 10 entities, gods and goddesses of various sorts of water, from waterfalls to sea faring to water spirits, and Rán, sea goddess of death who collects the drowned in a net. Herman Melville wrote one of our great literary works about water, “Moby Dick,” Robert Louis Stevenson gave us “Treasure Island,” and Earnest Hemingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea.” Most all of us have seen the movie “Titanic” or “The Perfect Storm,” and a good many of us could sing along with the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
Native peoples hold water as food, a means of transport and a sacred being that holds life on earth. They recognized that a seed does not germinate until it receives water, the spirit of water igniting the production of life. Chief Tamale Bwoya of Uganda wrote, “Though water has several benefits, it should be treated with respect and dignity because it is a sacred natural resource that holds life” and he pointed out that “nature provides it freely with the rains.”
I have to thank my hair dresser for asking me about the effect of prayer on water. And oh, my, there is a new topic to explore. Apparently there is a man named Masaru Emoto who has been conducting worldwide research on the effect of ideas, words, and music upon the molecules of water. A water sample taken from the Fujiwara Dam in Japan had ugly blob shapes. After an hour of prayer beside the dam, water samples revealed a clear, bright-white hexagonal crystal-within-a-crystal. In another experiment, when water samples are bombarded with heavy metal music or labeled with negative words, or when negative thoughts and emotions are focused intentionally on water, the water did not form crystals at all and displayed chaotic, fragmented structures.
The Bible has references to water 617 times, according the New International Version, and I actually went through each of them, with some interesting observations. Only twice is the word “ocean” used in the Bible, most all other references to large bodies of water used the word, “seas.” And by the way, those 617 times, was for the word water only; it didn’t include rivers, streams, dew, rain or any of the other forms of water we use in our language.
The Spirit hovered over the waters after God created the heavens and the earth, but it wasn’t until God created light, day and night that water was separated from - water - and it was after that that water was gathered in one place so that dry ground could appear. (When you have a few minutes to spare some time, go read the first verses of Genesis 1 again. There is some great thought-provoking language there.)
Then there are the big miracles that involved water. One of the great covenants between God and humanity was made after the Great Flood, as witnessed by Noah and his family. Moses purified water with a stick, drew water from a rock and drowned an army after parting the Red Sea for the Hebrew people to escape from Pharoah. And by the way, Elijah also parted waters in a river for the safe evacuation of people. Then there was the whole Jonah and whale incident. Jesus’ very first disciples were familiar with water as fishermen, and then he took that little jaunt walking on the water, turned water into wine, and of course, there were baptisms by John the Baptist and Jesus.
Water was an important part of Middle Eastern hospitality; immediately brought to guests for the washing of hands and feet. When a livestock owner failed to express this hospitality of water to King David, David declared war on him. It was a conversation over hospitality that Jesus pointed to the woman that washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. There was an element of hospitality when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, too. When we think about the Bible and water, I wonder how quickly this event came to mind for any one of us.
1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Thank you, Cecelia. Water is always in front of us: from the Flint water issues, to the Dakota Area Pipe Line, the floods in California and the blizzards in the northeast. In the world’s dirty secret, somewhere between 900 and 4,500 children die every day from a lack of water, which is becoming the number one killer of children. Even in forest fires and droughts, water is at the heart of conversations. In our scripture passage, I think it is the reflection of God that is at the heart of the conversation.
In the scarcity and rarity of water in the Middle East, the requests for water from Jesus and the woman are more precious. Her burden, to care for her family, no matter how it looked, was not light, a five gallon bucket of water weighing about 40 pounds, carried in the worst heat of the day to avoid the ridicule by other women who didn’t care enough to even keep their mouths shut.
Jesus’ request is a touching, vulnerable moment, one of the very few times that we hear him make a request of another person. He needs something that she can provide. And he knows she needs something only he can provide. The woman has been surrounded with things that cannot quench the thirst in her soul. She has been married five times – those relationships have not met her ultimate need. She works hard – hauling water and whatever other household chores she had – but work does not fulfill the need of her soul. Us modern people, we think work, money, entertainment, sporting events can fulfill the need of our spirit. None of these are inherently harmful, but they will not satisfy the spirit’s longing for the close, satisfying relationship that comes from the One who created us in the first place.
There is a story about a man who was on a train going across the desert in Arizona. He was the only person in the car who had not pulled down the window shades to keep out the glare of the hot sun on the parched earth. In contrast to the other passengers, he kept looking out his window, and actually seemed to enjoy the dismal scene.
After a while the curious man seated across the aisle, asked, “Sir, what do you see in that wasteland that makes you smile?” “Oh,” he replied,” I’m in the irrigation business, and I was thinking if we could only get water to this land that the desert would become a garden.”
There are some in the world who get it, mostly, some who get it, sort of, and some who can’t even begin to understand God’s desire to bring water our hearts, to fill our ultimate need of love and inclusion and acknowledgement and value. As I thought about this message about water, and that which we need to be whole people, it was easy to see in this relationship between the Samaritan woman and Jesus - he acknowledging her worth and she finding that which would end her search for that which is intended to be filled by God’s own self. When she looked at Jesus, quite unexpectedly and in an every-day-sort-of manner, she saw God’s reflection.
And maybe that’s why so much of our earth is made up of water, and so much of our lives are dependent on it, because it reflects God back to us. May God help each of us to recognize those moments in the coming week, moments when we will see God’s reflection and the holiness of water in unexpected and every-day ways and means. Let us pray.
Wise and Omniscient God, we thank you for the perfect design with which you created this world. Thank you for the perfect balances you provide in water itself, in its symbolism and in its commonness. Help us to be cognizant of the ways we can be more respectful of this gift that runs through our homes, our world, even our own bodies. For the times when we have misused water, we ask for your forgiveness. Remind us, too, to pray for the living bodies of water that surround us, that which runs through trees and creatures, even that which is used in the food we eat. For all the blessings with which you shower us, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.