This is a text version of the story I told at the opening worship this past week’s Arts, Recreation and Worship Conference. You can find video at the bottom of the post.
The whole story–our story, our faith story–begins and ends with water
It all begins with the spirit of almighty God hovering over the water—an inky, black, watery abyss. Water left to its own devices will create chaos and wreak havoc.
So God reigned that water in. Lit it up. Separated it. Into sky and clouds and oceans and rivers and lakes and babbling brooks.
God tamed the water before bringing forth any living beings. Before humans, before animals, even before plants because God knew they would all need water. Water would be a life-giving force required by every facet of creation. Water was essential to the life of everyone and everything.
And when that creation turned from God, it was water that turned on them. That life-giving force dealt a deathblow to almost the entirety of creation. But even as devastating as water could be, no one could live without it.
It was water that carried Israel’s tiny little liberator, Moses, to safety.
It was the parting of water that allowed that liberator to lead God’s people out of Egypt
And the force of that same water that kept their enemies from making chase
When the children of God were wandering in the desert and thirsty
God brought forth water from a rock
From a rock!
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood
God reigns over the deep waters
Water comes in the tears shed beside river water—the waters of Babylon where the exiled Israelites lay down and wept.
Water heals—even the muddy water of the river Jordan where a reluctant Namaan was cleansed of his leprosy.
And even when the waters rage and the storms surge
And the leviathan roars
The Psalmist assures us that still waters are in our future.
That the God who created us
Will shepherd us to where the water is peaceful and calm
Will lead us beside still waters
Water is friend
Water is foe
Living-giving and Life Taking
Water is what makes us.
Depending on our age and gender, our very beings are about 60 to 80 percent water.
No wonder it’s so important to hydrate.
We are not only made of water
We are a lot like water
Water left to its own devices will create chaos and wreak havoc
We are a lot like water
When people are left to our own devices, we tend to create chaos and wreak havoc.
So the God of water had to come down to this wet and wild earth to live among God’s water-based people.
The Messiah bursts onto the scene and is baptized in water. Cleansing water. Water that one emerges from as a new person.
Jesus calls himself living water
And surrounds himself with fisherman whose livelihood comes from the water.
Water, water everywhere!
Jesus meets women at wells and blind people at pools
Jesus cooks breakfast on the beach beside the water
Jesus doesn’t have the same relationship to water as we mere mortals do
Jesus turns water into wine! Of all the super powers, that has to be the best!
Jesus doesn’t stick his toe in the water. Jesus walks on water!
Jesus can make raging seas grow calm with simply the sound of his voice.
Jesus has complete control over this force that can be life giving AND lift taking.
Some of Jesus’s last words were I thirst
We all need water.
We all need water.
Water is required for living
Living water—it’s not just a metaphor
It is a spiritual truth and a physical necessity
And the last thing Jesus told us to do before he went up to heaven
Go and baptize in water.
Use the water to mediate my grace
Use the water to stake my claim on my people
Use the water to make sure people know to whom they belong
Go and Baptize in water
We–the ones created in God’s image are, of course, largely water
What is the shape of water?
No one knows.
God is like water
We cannot perceive the shape of God any more than we can perceive the shape of water.
Just as water takes many forms
God takes many forms in our lives
Water is in us
Water surrounds us
Water gives us life
God is in us
God Surrounds us
God gives us life that is really life
God and water
Video version has a bonus story at the end.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.