Rev. George Miller Jan 2, 2011
Psalm 147:12-20 “A New Year’s Blessing”
It’s been said that each pastor has only 3-4 sermons in them and they just dress them up differently each week. I agree.
In fact, by now you should pretty much know my repertoire, the themes and topics I tend to preach from. One such theme is the role that water plays in the Scriptures.
Water has been all over the news lately. California has had so much rain that it’s causing sopping wet soil and deadly mudslides. Massive amounts of snow have messed up the airlines.
In one Russian airport a near riot broke out when travelers were left stranded for two days, forcing them to confront issues of plumbing and running out of fresh water which also meant the inability to do things like make coffee.
In Florida we’ve woken up with frost on the ground, fog at the airport, ice cycles on oranges, and the more it rains the more Lake Jackson keeps filling in, covering up the greenery and recreating ecosystems that were in place years ago.
Water, water everywhere…Of course, the role of water in nature and human life is nothing new, it just takes on different meanings with different people and situations.
The ancient Canaanites saw rain as important for crop growth and feeding their animals. In fact, the god they worshipped, called Baal, was seen as the god of rain; a fertility god who gave and held back life through the means of letting it pour or causing droughts.
The Greeks had Poseidon, god of the sea. Not only did Poseidon control the waters that sailors and fishermen made their living upon, but it was said that Poseidon created horses out of sea foam.
In Friday’s paper was a photo of people paying tribute to the statue of Yemanja, who in parts of Haiti is called the goddess or saint of the sea.
For the Hebrews, the sea was something to be feared. It was seen as chaotic, dangerous, and deadly. So when you come across water in the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, you need to think “Danger” or of things being topsy-turvy.
Example: in Exodus we have the Hebrew slaves being chased by the Egyptian army. They come across the Red Sea. But what does God do: part the waters and safely brings them through to the other side.
In other words, when they came upon death and chaos, God acts in such a way that brings them from death into life, from chaos into comfort.
Another example: in the New Testament the disciples are at sea during a storm, afraid. What does Jesus do? Walks on water.
To say that Jesus walked on water means that Jesus is in control and has power over things that seems disruptive and threatening.
It’s also a sly way for the Gospel writers to show that Jesus, not Baal or Poseidon or other false gods, is the true source of life.
So, why share all these things with you, after all, we’re still in the Christmas season? Just last week we witnessed the hope that came with birth of the Christ child and the light that the magi followed.
I share this, because if you haven’t noticed, our world is still pretty much a place of chaos, danger and mystery.
But Jesus has entered once again, bearing hope and joy, peace and light. And this psalm, filled with images of water upon water, brings with it gifts that we can carry into the rest of Epiphany and the New Year.
Take a second look at verses 16-18. The Lord gives snow, scatters frost, and hurls hail. More then that, God’s word goes out, melts them away and makes the waters flow.
After all, what is snow and frost and hail, but water in different forms? And if you think false gods or world leaders like Baal or Poseidon, Bin Laden, Bush or Obama control the waters, you better guess again.
As dangerous and frustrating as they may seem, the various forms of chaos we each face do not have ultimate control or dominion over us.
Why is that? Because it is God who ultimately has our back; and do you know what God can do to these forms of chaos?
God can make the snow like wool, scatter the frost like harmless ashes and, with a word, melt them all away, and with a bit of the Spirit, make them…flow.
And as they flow, those waters can become a source of transformation and new life:
Living water offered to a woman at a well; rains that fill grapes with their juice and allows wheat to be made into bread; and fresh water that fills the baptismal font to welcome us into God’s Holy Family.
It is Epiphany; the 12 days of Christmas. Once again Jesus has been born to bring hope and light into our world. Hope and light that no amount of water can put out.
What do the waters mean to you?
Are you facing waters of chaos that is pulling you under, making it feel as if you’re drowning, afraid of what will happen next?
Let Jesus walk to you upon those waters, and when he extends his hand, don’t be afraid to take it, trusting that no matter how large the waves may be, Jesus is with you all the way.
Is the water you’re facing the ways of the world that you just don’t understand or believe?
Are the Republicans, Tea Partiers or Democrats driving you crazy and you fear which way the tides will turn?
Call upon Jesus, the living word and wisdom of God, to move and give insight to the powers that be, knowing that if God’s word can melt the frozen waters and make them flow, how much more God can melt the hearts and minds of our leaders, guiding them in the ways of justice and righteousness.
Or perhaps you are waiting for the living water to rain down on so that there is renewal and enough for all, so that wounds are bound up and our children are given a fair shot at life.
It is the New Year; 2011. With that New Year a babe is in the manger, the days are growing longer and God is on the move.
Danger may appear to be in the waters, but God, through Christ, is in control. We don’t have to live this year afraid of spiritual mudslides or being stranded on the tarmac of life.
Instead, let us embrace all that God is ready to give, and what God’s word is causing to flow.
Before I end my message I have two prayers for you. My first prayer is for God to rain down upon us blessings of grace, blessings of healing, and blessings of enough.
My second prayer is that we accept these blessings and are willing to get wet in the gifts that come from the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ.
Peace be to those who have ears to hear and blessings to our God who we also experience as Spirit and Son.
Amen and amen.