Water: source of imagination


Scripture; Isaiah 12; 2-6  Nigel Bunce

Scripture is replete with stories and images about water. The Holy Land is mostly desert. It’s hard for us, who live in southern Ontario, just how evocative ae those images. For example, Jesus speaking about ‘living water’ that ‘gushes up’ to give eternal life.

Water: essential for life

Water. It seems to come up often in these reflections. Perhaps because water is so essential for life – and not just human life. But also because Israel is a desert country. The photograph in the slides is of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Plants thrive next to the stream, but elsewhere the dry land is barren.

The prophet Isaiah wrote that the people would draw with joy from the springs of salvation. There’s a double meaning here. On one hand, salvation from death by thirst comes upon finding a spring, a stream, or an oasis in the desert . Equally, to find God’s salvation brings joy. It reminds the finder of the physical experience of finding water in a thirsty land.

Water brings joy to thirsty lands

The song we sang just before the Scripture reading captures the same idea. Joy will come, the song attests, even in the driest wilderness. The desert will blossom like a rose when water flows. That’s to say, when the rains come, and the desert transforms into a temporary carpet of flowers.

Water and the Gospels

I think of how often water is central to the Jesus stories that we call the Gospels. It begins with Jesus’ baptism with water in the Jordan River. That, incidentally, is ‘living water’, meaning flowing water. As opposed to stagnant water – dead water. Jewish ritual baths always require a source of flowing water. As did baptistries in early Christian times. That’s why I always make the water splash when I pour it from the ewer into the font at a baptism.

John’s Gospel is particularly rich in water-based stories. Jesus tells Nicodemus that no-one can be born again without being born of water and the Spirit. That’s to say, without baptism. Recall that John baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize also with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus also spoke about living water when he took a drink from the woman of Samaria. The water she drew from the well quenched thirst temporarily. But she would soon be thirsty again. In contrast, Jesus spoke about a spring of water that gushes up to give eternal life.  It doesn’t just flow or seep. It gushes up.  It’s plentiful, never-ending.

Strength of ‘watery’ images

It’s hard for us to realize the strength of these images. We live in southern Ontario. Water is so plentiful that we complain when asked to conserve water, by not watering our lawns and gardens. Living water flows through Guelph every day of the year, in the Speed and Eramosa Rivers. It’s hard not to take it for granted.

Returning to the Atacama Desert.  Where Michelle and I visited many years ago. The town of San Pedro de Atacama gets water from a small stream. The water is so valuable that gates ration each garden or small-holding. You can divert water onto your property only at a specified time each week. There is so little water that just outside the town, the depleted stream just disappears into the desert sands.

Therefore, let us always remember that water is life. It is one of the Creators’s many gifts. May we not waste it or pollute it. Amen