Rev. George Miller
Date: Jan 22, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 4:18-25
Does anyone in modern-day America realize just how magical our relationship with water is?
Turn on a faucet-it’s there. Turn another knob- it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s lukewarm!
Without a thought or ounce of effort we can wash with it, bathe in it, cook with it, care for our lawn, and flush our wastes away.
No need to think of water…unless if you live somewhere in which access to clean water does not exist.
I’ll admit- when I’ve heard stories about people having to walk a mile for water, I thought- “Big deal. A mile’s not that far.”
Until the day lightening hit the pump at my old apartment and we went without water for 3 days. Fortunately, I already had water in the fridge, but when it came time to flush the toilet???
I went down to the dock and filled up a bucket with lake water to pour into the bowl.
Let me tell you- Never again.
A bucket full of water is heavy, and the weight of the strained handle tears at your knuckles. Plus it sloshes out.
Either you walk fast and lose half of what you got, or you walk slow and dread every moment.
And that was just the length of my backyard; if it had been a mile- oh no, child.
THAT’S when I realized that folk with no access to fresh water the way we do have it hard.
Here in Florida we are truly blessed to be surrounded so many made shades of blue, turquoise, aquamarine, muddy, and brown.
You don’t have to go more than five minutes in Florida and there it is- water hazards on the golf course, rain-filled ditches on the roadside, streams, swamps, lakes, creeks, ocean, the Gulf.
During the rainy season it falls from the sky. During hurricane season it collects on the streets.
Sadly, the waters are not safe from the dangers of modern living.
In 2005 an African-American community in Manatee County was not warned that toxic wastes were in their water.
Last year, 215 million gallons of polluted water drained into the aquifer from a sinkhole at a phosphate facility.
In St. Petersburg, 100 million gallons of sewage escaped from a treatment plant and polluted Tampa Bay.
Governor Scott imposed an emergency rule saying that authorities are be to be notified 24 hours of anything threatening our waters.
When you think about it, water is life. If the air is the lungs of the planet, then water is the blood.
Last week we began our “Land Of Delight” sermon series based on the book Grounded by Diana Butler-Bass.
According to the book, 70% of the human body is made up of water; 71% of the earth is composed of water.
From space, our planet looks like a big beautiful blue marble, which prompted one writer to state that we should not call our planet “earth”, but we should call it “ocean.”
So, Planet Ocean, is made up of 71% water. But - only .3% of that water is available to us to use via lakes, rivers, streams.
96% of the earth’s water is saline.
2% is ice.
2% is fresh water, but most of that water is trapped underground.
Leaving only .3% of fresh, useable water for all of non-sea based creation.
That’s not a lot, and yet- here we are, here we have been, living and surviving all these thousands of years on less than .3%.
According to Butler-Bass humans have always had a spiritual connection with water.
Buddhists leave water at their shrines to achieve serenity, clarity, and purity.
Hindus build holy sites by rivers, seen as sacred, where one is made pure, sins are forgiven and ancestors are honored.
Muslims associate water with motherhood, creation, and God’s provision. To deny water to a thirsty traveler is an affront to Allah.
There are at least 18 metaphors that water represents in world religions.
Think of our own Biblically-rooted faith. Whenever scriptures tell of wells, springs and oases, we often encounter renewal, hospitality, spiritual vision, and blessing.
Water is present in the beginning; it’s there as the Israelites journey to the Promised Land.
Water is there when Jesus begins his ministry, and when the new heaven and new earth is made known.
Our interaction with water is complex. What is your relationship with water?
Some fear it; some have had horrible experiences.
My relationship with water is deep. Perhaps it’s because I was born on an island; perhaps it’s because I’m a Pisces through and through.
Perhaps it’s because the ocean holds my fondest memories.
Fishing for flounder in a small boat with my grandfather, dad, and uncle.
Spending all day at the beach with family, swimming in the surf, digging in the sand, grilling as the sun set.
Summers with best friends at Smiths Point, than going for ice cream on the North Shore.
Taking Cornelius to the east coast, teaching him how jump over/under the waves.
Monthly sojourns to Ft. Pierce in which I spend solitary time with Mama Ocean, listening to the surf, seeing the sand crabs and packs of pelicans.
Some prefer the mountains; some the fields. Give me the ocean anytime.
Butler-Bass would understand. As we discussed last week, her book invites us to rethink how we see God.
She states that we should start thinking of God in a horizontal way; to look to the horizon, where earth and sky touch; that God is present there and beyond.
The same can be said for where the shore touches the ground; where sky touches sea.
Think of how present God seems when you look upon the waters; seeing the sun rise, seeing the sun set, seeing the stars sparkling in the sky.
Interestingly, in Hebrew the same word for water is also the same word for eye-“ayin.”
So when we look upon the Atlantic Ocean, or Lake Jackson, or the pesky golf course hazard, it is water seeing water.
That’s deep, and it helps us to see today’s scripture in another way.
We have Matthew’s account of Jesus’ ministry. After he is baptized in the Jordan, and tempted in the wilderness, Jesus finds himself on the north-west shore of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee is located near the mouth of the Jordan River, which was the major source of water for Israel.
The Sea of Galilee is actually a huge lake, bigger than Jackson, smaller than Okeechobee.
Jesus walks along this watery source of life, proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Note how an element of horizontal faith is at play. God’s Kingdom is near- like the horizon where sea touches sky.
As Jesus walks along the water he saw 2 brothers casting nets into the sea and he invites them to follow him. Next, Jesus saw two other brothers in a boat and he calls upon them.
Note how we are told that Jesus “saw” these men. He saw them casting a net into the sea. He saw them in a boat upon the sea.
With his eyes he sees them upon the water.
And if humans are 70% water, this is a story about water seeing water around water.
“Booooommmmmmm- mind blown!”
We could say that the holy/sacred water in Jesus sees the holy/sacred water in the men, and the holy/sacred water in the men recognize the holy/sacred and eternal/living water in Jesus.
Think of that.
Jesus is preaching that the kingdom of heaven is near, and it sure is.
In so many ways water is the very symbolic, spiritual, physical reality of God.
Ever notice how soothing it can be to walk along water?
How being in an environment featuring water, be it a fountain or a lake-view can make you feel more relaxed and satisfied?
Science shows that engaging with nature and water stimulates the same area of our brain as food, money, and sex.
How 15 minutes walking along a river can boost energy levels and positive emotions. Those who live on or near water express higher levels of happiness and sometimes better health outcomes.
That even the color blue can prompt feelings of wellness.
Ever wonder why?
Could it be that water is life; life is water?
After all, the Bible begins with Genesis telling us that in the beginning the breath of God blew over the waters.
In The Garden a river flowed from all four directions.
When the Israelites crossed the sea they were free; when they crossed the Jordan they were home.
When John baptized people with water, they repented. When Jesus was submerged, the skies opened up and the Wind of God poured down.
When the water of Jesus saw the water of the fisherman upon the Sea, his ministry began.
When he came upon a foreign, forsaken woman at a well, he offered her water that was alive.
And the Book of Revelation concludes the biblical narrative by telling us about the River of Life.
How we will dwell in a holy city in which the water of life flows from God, “bright as crystal”, and on either side of the river is the tree of life, with fruit of every kind.
In the Bible we see that water is with God in the beginning, and water is with God at the very end.
It is as if we are being told the “Living water is God; God is living water.”
As we prepare to conclude, the waters belong to God- from the oceans to the streams, the rivers to the ravines, the wells in the wilderness, and the ice-caps in Alaska.
Therefore- so do the waters in us…
…Last week you were invited to think of how wind and air connects us all, and how the atmosphere makes us all neighbors.
Today, think of how we are all made up of water, water that’s connected to God.
Really think of what that means-
That we have eyes basically made up of water so that we can see.
We have saliva made up of basically water so we can enjoy eating and digest our food.
We have water lining our throat and tongue so we can talk, sing, speak out and speak up.
Water on our lips so we can kiss.
Water in our tears so we can express sadness, empathy, and joy.
Water from within that flush out our toxins.
Water in our blood that carries breath to our organs and life to our flesh.
Last week we said that our feet may be on the ground, but we are sky creatures striding through the heavens.
This week we can say that though we exist on the land, within us dwells the holy waters.
Each of us contains our own oceans, rivers, streams, wells, and rainfalls.
We may live on earth but our bodies already have the eternal Living Waters dwelling within.
What does that mean?
How does such knowledge affect how we see, how we see the world around us, and how we see one another?
We are water seeing water that belongs to the Alpha and Omega of all the waters.
For that, we can say “Amen” and “Amen.”