09/17/17 – J. Vespers – Water, Water Everywhere

“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”

September 17, 2017
15th Sunday after Pentecost
Jazz Vespers Homily
Rev. Denise Clark-Jones

That is the famous line from Samuel Taylor Coleridges’ famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The speaker is a sailor whose ship lies in calm seas. Water surrounds him, but it is salt water and not fit for him to drink. What comes to my mind is the people of Flint, Michigan and those in the flood waters brought on by the recent hurricanes.
Living in a city, which has a river running through it, it is hard for us to imagine that a shortage of drinking water is a life and death issue in our world. Watching the scenes of the destruction wrought by the water unleashed on the Caribbean and the gulf states with hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is hard to imagine a shortage of water. Global warming may be turning ice into water, but there is still a water shortage. Finding enough clean water to drink and finding unpolluted water sources to provide water for our food sources is a problem that is growing. We are depleting our water tables at an alarming rate. Water sources do not recognize political boundaries so conflicts are already in play, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. But, doesn’t the creation story in Genesis tell us God created all the world for us and left us in charge?
At the time that the first two Creation stories in Genesis were written down, it was believed that the earth was like a dome surrounded by water both above and below. The water necessary for life was already in existence before the creation of the world as we know it. According to this Hebrew poem of praise, God divided the waters to give the world order by creating areas of land and areas of water that together would provide for the needs of all God’s creatures.
The bible is filled with water imagery. Water is necessary for life. We humans are about 60% water. In the two separate creation accounts in Genesis, it remains clear that God’s intention in separating of the water from the dry land was to create a world that is balanced and structured, suitable not only for humans but also all the plants and creatures.

This God of which the bible speaks is the God who created a world out of the chaos of unbridled water so that creation would be balanced, ordered, and structured to sustain life. Hence, when the text goes on to say that we humans are to “rule/dominate” all the creatures of land, water, and air (Gen. 1:26) and to “subdue” the land made by God (Gen. 1:28), those powerful images must always be held against the light of the reality that we act as mirrors of God, not as free agents of our own human desires.

God’s creation, however the process by which it came into being, was designed to be a place tended by humanity. The bible does say God decreed that humankind should have dominion over the earth; but, only after God announced that that humankind was created in God’s own image. This begs the question: “How would God take care of the earth?” Are we demonstrating our love for and gratitude to God with our stewardship of the earth? Are we demonstrating our love for our neighbors in the way we do or do not share the earth’s resources?
For far too often and for far too long we human beings, particularly the privileged and powerful first world countries, have played with the world we have been given as if it could forever withstand whatever we decided to do with it. We are now learning that we cannot act as though God has given us infinite resources to squander. God gave us resources to share. The result of our wasteful and careless actions has resulted in over-fished seas, threatened bees and birds necessary for new plant life, brought on scorching drought, and fouled air and waterways.

What this non-scientific hymn of praise tells us is this is not our world, but God’s world. Is it not blasphemous for us to claim to be made in the image of this God and then act as if God had and has nothing to do with it?

On Saturday, September 30, at 10 a.m. Westminster will host a seminar entitled: Gathering at the Well: Stewardship of the Earth’s Water. Sounds more scientific than biblical, doesn’t it? The bible tells us that within the design of the world, God placed boundaries and limits. Yet, God also gave us free will. We have had a choice of how we use the resources of the world. Our ways are now threatening the balance of nature, causing human suffering, and laying the groundwork for a world at war over water. As always, it is the most vulnerable who are the first and the most to suffer. All who claim these ancient Scriptures authoritative, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, have the responsibility to heed the warnings of our wasteful exploitation of the earth’s resources. Optimistic scientists tell us we have time to make restoration so generations will continue to live and live abundantly.

The bible, and our faith in God, challenges us to repent, to turn away from our self-centered ways that are threatening our environment and walk with God in the garden of earthly delights.


© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2017, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church – Peoria, Illinois