Water is Life

Sermon from Dianne Mesh

Those of you who were here last Sunday may remember how, during our
community reflection time, I spoke of my realization of how much I have always
taken the earth for granted. I have been far too much like a, more fortunate, small
child who, without even realizing it, takes a mother’s presence and care as a given,
something that “always was, is now and ever shall be.”

This past week, for the first time in my life, I began to wonder “How did Mom do
it?” When Dad was away at work for months at a time, when few friends or
neighbours ever dropped by our isolated home, when she had three children under
the age of five, how did Mom manage to get out to the well for water?

Now it wasn’t a long ways to the far end of the front garden and to our deep and
scary hole-in-the-ground well with its short wooden frame and heavy cover that we
children were never, ever to remove. It didn’t taken a great deal of time to drop in
two buckets, one after the other, and pull them up by a long rope with water
splashing over the sides.

Mom would be back in the house within five minutes tops, dumping the fresh cool
water into the wooden barrel just behind the back porch door. But that was five
minutes of leaving three little kids alone with a hot stove and much curiosity about
whatever may have been cooking on top of it.

I very much doubt my mom took access to water for granted in those days.

Years later, after my family had moved into the middle of the community, I became
the chief water carrier. We didn’t have our own well then and it was a longer walk
to the one under Uncle Bob’s house. Access was via a rickety bridge over a small
brook, sometimes dry and sometimes full to the brim and moving fast. The process
of removing the cover from the well and leaning over to drop the bucket into the
water so far below always caused my tummy to heave just a little bit. What would
it be like if I ever fell in?

In those days I took it for granted that water was work, scary work, and I didn’t
much like doing it.

But times change, and now I get a bit annoyed when I turn on a tap and just the
right temperature of water can’t be immediately made to flow.

What about you? What is your history with water? How plentiful was it, and how
easy was it to access, throughout the course of your life?

Like so many other things, water is essential for life yet not equally accessible to
everyone. Sometimes there is the danger of too little and sometimes there is the
danger of too much.

That can make for an uneasy relationship with water. While we need it to live,
while we may drink greedily of it on a hot day, sink thankfully into it after a long
ski or bike ride and bless its descent on a parched field or forest, we cannot always
trust that it will use its tremendous power for good.

There’s a poem I discovered as a child, one I have never forgotten, one I return to
again and again and again. It speaks to another aspect of my childhood relationship
with water. It’s called Erosion and it was written by the Newfoundland poet EJ
Pratt.

It took the sea a thousand years,
A thousand years to trace
The granite features of this cliff
In crag and scarp and base.


It took the sea an hour one night,
An hour of storm to place
The sculpture of these granite seams
Upon a woman’s face.


For many years my father made a living from the sea. It fed us. It sustained us. We
depended so heavily on its bounty. Yet my father taught us to never trust it. I
remember him once saying, “When you are around the shore, never turn your back
on the sea. And if you ever see it sucking the water out farther than you have ever
seen it go before, turn and run for the hills. Run as fast as you can and don’t look
back.”

Even then I knew about tsunamis. I had heard about the 1929 tidal wave in
southern Newfoundland. I had seen pictures of houses and heard of people being
carried away by the sea. Sometimes, great walls of water roared toward me in my
dreams.

The thing about water, the thing about all creation, is that relationship with it is
inevitably complex. How can we not love it for its wonder and its beauty? How can we not be profoundly grateful for its many gifts and repay it with our concern for its wellbeing and its care?

Yet how can we not fear it as well? And how can our very understandable fear not
lead to a fight or flight response, one where we either try to wrestle Creation into
our control or do our best to have as little as possible to do with it?

Living in fear is no way to live. Indeed, living in fear can make us irrational. It can
lead to denial. Living in fear can make it far more likely that we will choose
dangerous paths, paths that will lead to death and not to life. (I could talk a lot
about how I see that playing out in the Covid 19 pandemic but I won’t.)
So what do we do? How do we live fully and lovingly when life is so uncertain,
when it may be taken away from us at anytime?

These are hard questions and there are no simplistic answers. There is only the
goodness, as well as the challenges, of the moment. And there are the glimpses we
receive of a Beyondness to what we have and what we know at the present time.
There is a Beyondness that holds all things in everlasting relationship for good.
I think that’s where Jesus is pointing when he tells the woman at the well about
another kind of water, water to satisfy our parchment of spirit so that, no matter
how we experience wells, water, seas and storms, our thirst will be quenched and
and our fears allayed.

I pray that our relationship with water, and with all creation, be healed as we
receive Jesus’s invitation to “Drink of the water I give and never be thirsty again.”

Service Recording with Music