Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
Call to Worship
We’ve come to worship God, who makes streams flow from rock,
All: God who turns the parched earth into springs of water, who sends the rain from heaven and makes the wilderness blossom and flourish.
As the deer thirsts for flowing streams,
All: so we thirst for You, O God.
Come, let’s worship our life-giving God,
All: who pours out living water [for] all who thirst.
May God open the heavens and let mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains. Let us especially pray for those most impacted by water shortages and for the wisdom and charity to be good stewards of this precious gift. May our political leaders seek the common good as we learn to care and share God's gift of water for the good of all. In your many names we pray, AMEN.
(Based on a prayer by Bishop Jaime Soto, Catholic Diocese of Sacramento http://www.greenfaith.org/programs/greenfaith-day/christian-prayers-for-water)
The Wisdom of Isaiah 33.15-16
“Those who live righteously and speak with integrity, who despise the gain of oppression, who wave away bribe instead of accepting it, who do not ponder bloodshed and cruelty, they will live on the heights, their refuge will be the fortress of rocks, their food will be supplied, and their water will be assured.”
“Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
Jesus said, “Whoever shares with you a cup of water for my sake will by no means lose their reward.”
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
“Water not War”
Over the past three weeks we have been celebrating Creation. In the first week we talked about the earth itself. We considered the fact that God created the earth and all that is in it and called it all good. And we confronted our responsibility to care for the earth. In the second week we looked at humanity itself, created from the dust of the earth as the stewards of all of creation. Last week we looked up to the sky, that beautiful blue heaven above us that is filled with the brilliance of the stars of the universe in the darkness of night; the dome above us that holds the clouds that bring the rain upon the earth to water the crops. And so today we turn our attention to water, the basis of life itself.
Genesis 1.2 in the New International Version of the bible says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Water is a symbol of the beginning in many creation stories from many religions around the world. Our own tradition and that of our Jewish brothers and sisters begins at the beginning with God hovering over the water. This for me is an image of God tending to the water as if it were a child, watching over it, loving it even in its uncontrolled roiling.
But we have a very different view of water. Even in our own tradition it is considered sinister. It’s a symbol of chaos. In some Christian traditions we make the sign of the cross in the water as a way to make water holy before baptism. Water needs to be blessed to make it holy? This seems silly to me… why do we need to do this? How did water become a symbol for chaos and violence?
Well simply put water scares us. Its power is matched by nothing else. The flash floods that have been the center of our news cycles recently bend our imagination in what the power of water can do in the span of a few minutes. The tsunami that hit Japan with a 30 foot wall of water devastated an area that to this day struggles to recover. And we remember the tsunami that devastated Thailand in 2004. Water even cuts through solid rock. One of the most magnificent examples of that power is the Grand Canyon in the US. We are working on harnessing the power of the waves in the ocean to produce energy even as we remember the power of hurricane Katrina. There is good reason for water to scare us.
But water is also the first building block of life. There has never been an organism discovered on earth that can live independent of liquid water. Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. We must have a constant, regular supply of water to live. We can survive for some time without food but we cannot go long without water. We will die. Water is the very essence of our human life.
How do we connect our readings today? Giving a cup of water is such a small thing. This simple act is contrasted with justice and righteousness described as water. How can we connect such a simple act of compassion with creating justice and righteousness throughout the world?
We live in places where we turn on the faucet and out comes clean, clear, safe drinking water. We have flush toilets and sewer systems. Water borne diseases have been eradicated from memory in our societies. But one in seven people on the earth have unpredictable or no access to clean safe drinking water. At the rate we are going it is probably that up to 2/3rds of the population of the world may be living with water scarcity or water deprivation by the year 2025. That is only 10 years away.
In parts of Africa and Asia people are spending their entire lives digging wells for those who have no water, constructing desalinization plants to make ocean water drinkable, and aiding with construction of waste disposal systems that help keep water safe for drinking. These projects bring justice to places that are oppressed by a lack of water. And we must remain vigilant against the commoditization of water in these areas.
It is not ok for Nestlé, a multinational global company to deny that access to water is a basic human right so that they can “own” the rights to water in areas where they will bottle what is there and sell it back to those who need it. This is capitalistic oppression on a scale that is unfathomable. Wells and access to water makes justice. Giving someone who is thirsty a cup of water is the basic activity of bringing justice and righteousness alive.
Clean water means healthy people. Healthy people can work, and study, and think, and innovate. Water powers industry that makes jobs that allow people to live better lives and give their children opportunities they were not afforded. We as Christians have an ethical responsibility to work for justice for ALL people on the earth not through war but perhaps through water.
Our reading from Isaiah gives us a recipe for how we can accomplish the goal of justice and righteousness for all. “Those who live righteously and speak with integrity, who despise the gain of oppression, who wave away bribe instead of accepting it, who do not ponder bloodshed and cruelty, they will live on the heights, their refuge will be the fortress of rocks, their food will be supplied, and their water will be assured.” In other words, the result of working for economic justice is safety, prosperity, food and water.
This week let us be mindful of the privilege within which we live every time we go to the sink to wash our hands, get a drink of water, or take a shower. Let us give thanks for our privilege by actively working for safe water access for every human and animal and plant on the earth. And let us never fall victim to the arguments of the oppressors that try to convince us that it is ethical for anyone to own the water that others need to survive. ““Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.” Amen