Rev. George Miller
“Knee-Deep in Fresh. Flowing Water ”
August 22, 2010
I remember my first visit to Florida. My father, mother, brother and I made the trip from NY in our Volkswagen Bug. It was to Disney World, a magical place with Space Mountain, Tomorrow Land and the Peter Pan ride promising “You can fly, you can fly, you can fly!”
I remember my visit to FL as an adult. Herb and Hardric picked me up after flying in from Grand Rapids, MI. Florida was this foreign place with unfamiliar foliage, a barrage of wild animals and a bird that almost flew into the windshield.
Just recently, I moved to Florida. In my Pontiac with my cat in his crate. I felt like I had moved to Mars: a lizard on the lanai, a black snake curled up by the garbage pail, swimming outside in April, having a sunburn before June.
I believe that when it comes to relocating here there are three kinds of folk: those who love it right away, those who give it a chance and soon move away and those who wonder just what they got themselves into, but grow to love this place, magical, foreign, other-worldly.
I’m of the third group. Each week there’s been something new to discover, and different to see. When it comes to water, within a 90 mile drive you have pools, lakes, an ocean and the Gulf.
Still, Florida at times can seem like living on Mars. And on April 22, 2010, an event happened that sure made the waters feel like that.
Even though there were concerns and warning signs, a BP well was blown out, instantly killing 11 lives, changing their families forever, leaking oil into the waters, creating a Gulf that wasn’t magical and was darker then the nether regions of space.
And in the wake of the spill came death. Death to sea life, mackerel and mullet.
Death to birds of the air, pelicans and herons.
Death to the future yet unborn, oyster beds and turtle eggs.
Death to the hopes of fisherfolk needing a healthy season, financial death in the form of cancelled hotel rooms, vacation trips, shopping at stores.
Louisiana, Mississippi, have been hard hit, with tar balls and gunked up marshes.
Florida, with its magical and foreign, Mars-like mystique has not gone untouched, with oil on our shores, seeping into the sand, poisoning our state, for who knows how long and in what ways.
Maybe I should just put my cat back in his crate and hop into my Pontiac and head back north...
Maybe we all should.
But that would not be an act of faith. The would be an act of fear. And that would be a way of saying I do not believe; that would be a way of saying that God is helpless and unable to do anything.
In some ways the Gulf has been in an exile, an oil soaked exile, and what is God going to do?...
...Ezekiel knew what it was like to be in exile. He was one of the first prophets to predict that the people and land were going to suffer for their sins.
Ezekiel was also among the first people to be taken away in exile, led away from their native land to live as captives and second class citizens.
He was forced to live in Babylon, a place foreign and other worldly, with their beliefs in other gods, different rituals and eating of forbidden foods.
As Ezekiel and his peers languished in Babylon, their enemies abused their land, destroying their businesses, violating their crops and annihilating their Temple.
This pained and tormented Ezekiel, so much so that he began to see visions, magical and other worldly, of unusual looking creatures and places.
Near the end of his visions there came the images of hope, of restoration. That one day the people would return, the land would heal and he had a vision of water, life giving water, trickling out of the Temple.
Ezekiel’s vision dealt with a specific piece of geography and spoke in symbolic terms, but it doesn’t make it any less healing for us to hear today.
Ezekiel talks about water. A trickle. Coming out of the Temple.
Not much, but a trickle nevertheless. But what does a trickle mean? Movement. That somehow out of this senseless death and destruction, new life will begin, if even small and minute.
But wait! He goes a little further and this trickle has somehow grown. It’s now up to his ankles. Not much, but still, better then nothing.
Ezekiel goes a little further in this water, and it’s knee-deep. Knees, a prominent part of the body, used for praying. Ezekiel is knee deep in fresh, flowing water.
He goes further still and now its up to his waist, further still and its so deep and wide he has to swim across it.
He goes along the bank of the river, and what does he see? Tar balls and oil soaked pelicans? No, he sees trees, a great number lining the water.
What began as a trickle is now flowing, flowing into the sea, a sea that was dead and stagnant, a sea in which no life existed.
And what does this water bring: life! Life in all forms. Every living creature that swarms is there, fish too numerous to count.
And where there’s fish, there are fisherfolk, casting their nets, earning a living, able to feed and care for their families.
The marshes and swamps play their part and the trees bear fruit, their leaves used for healing purposes, all due to God’s water flowing from God’s holy house.
People of Florida, we have been through an exile of sorts: the land, the people, the businesses have suffered due to human error and sin.
Because of that a price has been paid, darkness has covered the land and sunk into the waters.
But that is not the last word.
We at Emmanuel UCC have tried to do our part, a trickling part perhaps, but a part nevertheless.
We have lamented, studied the word, prayed for the environment and animals, shared our views with the government, BP and local papers. We shared signs of forgiveness and taken a sabbath from our consumption.
And now the river we have begun continues tonight as we reach out and reach up to God. We call upon God in trust that God will work and has been working through this entire mess.
That God is with the families of those who died on the rig. That the Spirit is working to make all things new and to ease the groaning of creation.
That those who follow Jesus are emulating his call to forgive, to help and to heal.
That those who follow other spiritual paths are also hearing and listening to what they know to be just and true, fair and right.
The time to be ruled strictly by anger and fear is over, the time to trust and to do with wisdom and grace is now.
Our God is moving across the waters just as God has done in the past.
As God moves there will be separation from darkness and light as the oil begins to dissipate and be cleaned up.
As God moves across the waters new freedom will come as mackerel and dolphin, shrimp and sharks find their waters easier to swim through, free from the confining disruption of the oil.
As God moves across the waters, fishermen, who were among the first of Jesus’s followers, will begin again to live their lives and cast their nets.
Because this I believe, and this I know to be true: that even though the hard times are not over, even though there is still much uncertainty to face, God’s promise is true, and God will find a way to bring fresh flowing waters back into our life.
The question is this: will we fall knee-deep into the fresh, flowing water, conscious of how we can change our ways, or will we continue doing the same old same old, sinning against the earth and wondering why she screams out in pain?
In conclusion, Ezekiel never lived to see the Exile end or the Temple and land be restored. But he still believed, and in his belief he acted.
May we believe as well. May we each play our part in creating fresh flowing waters.
Thanks be to God who is our Creator, the Spirit that sweeps over the land and for Jesus who spoke of waters and sparrows, lilies and fields.
Amen and amen.