Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Water, Water Everywhere


Water, Water Everywhere

Water has been a topic of conversation over the last several months. The statement, “It’s raining today” has been a regular part of our conversation - altho the statement, “We had an entire day without rain!” has also been said a few times as well! As a result, we have had water everywhere. More people have commented they have had water in their basement where they have never had it before; creeks and rivers are over their banks; all of our yards are mud! The positive is the news people keep reminding us our water table should be good for the rest of the year and we won’t have to worry about drought!
Water plays a central part of our life and a central part of the stories throughout our Bible. There is a rich imagery of water which we find in stories and the poetry of the Psalms to help us better understand our faith and our relationship with God. We have water at the beginning of creation and the water of life at the end of Revelation. We have too much water like the floods of Noah and not enough water like the drought that forced Jacob’s family to go to Egypt for food. There are over 800 references to water in our Bibles.
Water is used because water is essential to our life. We may complain that we have had a bit too much water recently, but it is something we cannot live without. There is no living thing that can exist without water. Our bodies are 60% water. Before birth we live in water and water remains central to our daily lives after our births. So it is not surprising that water plays such an important part of explaining our relationship with God.
Did you know that for the Hebrews - the writers of the Old Testament - water first and foremost was a symbol of chaos; a symbol of things not being in order. Humans, in general, like things orderly - our Presbyterian mantra “decently and in order”. In the beginning, we are told in Genesis 1, all that existed was chaos, darkness and God. Have you ever thought about that time before creation? Our thoughts go to creation and we think of the creation, the beginning of our world and of animals and of people. But if God has existed forever, then obviously there was a time before the creation of the world - and that is described as ‘chaotic waters’ - the dark over the deep waters - the earth was formless and void and darkness over the deep chaotic water. The picture before creation was this picture of darkness and chaotic waters and then God’s spirit came and hovered over the waters and creation began. From the beginning of time water helps us to see what God can do in our lives. Our lives that often slip into chaos - how easily that happens - our lives kind of spin our of control but we see the difference God can make. Surely if God can bring order to the chaos of the waters of the world in the beginning, he can bring calm and order to our lives. Water shows us that God is in complete control - God took that nothingness and that deep, dark, water and gave it order and purpose and water reminds us that God can do the same with us….. What a great encouragement we get from this picture of water.
So much of the water images in the bible are positive. Water is a visible symbol that we can see reminding us of what God can and will do for us. John Calvin said that “water is the visible symbol for an invisible grace”.
Think about water in the story of Noah. If we only look at the water part of the story of Noah, the water doesn’t give us a real positive feeling. Look what water did - there really was water, water everywhere. Water destroyed the earth and that included every person except for Noah’s family. Horrific. At a youth conference I attended several years ago a professional traveling drama troop showed us quite a graphic, and probably pretty accurate, portrayal of this event. They had this huge boat that started on the stage at the floor level of the stage and as the story progressed, the boat began to rise up with this great blue scenery rising with it and then people begin to appear on the stage. People jumping up and trying to hang onto something so they could rise with the boat and
finding nothing; people screaming, “Help! Help!” “Noah save us!” Which I always assumed is why the story tells us Noah is ‘sealed’ in the boat so that he cannot help these desperate people. But the boat continued to rise and the portion of the stage where we have terrified, screaming people trying go get in the boat begins to go down as the screams and cries for help eventually fade away and once again there is no longer chaos, but simply the calm of water and Noah’s Ark and silence.
Here is where water begins to represent for the readers of scripture the idea of cleansing. While this kind of destruction just shocks us, we see what God has done. So that Noah and his family can remain true to God, the earth is cleansed from sin and opposition to God so that Noah and his family can begin again this relationship with God that God desires with his people. This story of water shows us just how far God will go to continue to be our God so we can be his people. The cleansing waters of God’s desire to be with us.
We read today the story of Moses and the crossing of the red sea. Remember the story - God’s people are in slavery in Egypt. God sends Moses to free them from slavery. Through a series of events, Pharaoh frees the Hebrew people only to find them on the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army quickly in pursuit. Through the power of God, Moses raises his staff over the water of the sea, the sea opens up and God’s people walk across on dry land while for the Egyptians, the water returns to the idea of chaos as the Egyptian Army drowns when they try to cross on that same path the Hebrews had just traveled.
Here we find the idea of ‘through the waters’ we receive salvation. By going through the waters of the red sea, the Hebrews are ‘saved’ and then they become God’s people. God parts the water before the Hebrews enter the promised land; God parts the water for the prophet Elijah to go through before he rides his fiery chariot into heaven; Water becomes the visible sign of belonging to God. God parts the water, the people go through and then they are God’s people or they continue as God’s people.
So we get the phrase, “through the waters of baptism” to help us understand how water becomes that same symbol for us. Water, especially in our baptism, becomes the visible sign of God bringing us through the water where we become his. Water is the visible sign of our belonging to God as
illustrated by all these examples in Old Testament stories.
When we think of church and we think of water, we naturally think of baptism. Our first thought of baptism then goes to the story of Jesus’ baptism which we also read earlier today. Jesus comes from Galilee to John to be baptized in the Jordan River - the same river that God parted so that his people could enter the Promised Land. John is reluctant to baptize Jesus - but Jesus tells John that this baptism is not a baptism of repentance, because Jesus is without sin; he has nothing to repent of - but the purpose of Jesus’ baptism is simply to do what God has asked him to do. Jesus goes under the waters and comes out and we are told that immediately the skies open up and the voice of God is heard proclaiming Jesus to be his son and sending the holy spirit. It reminds us of creation - we have water and the voice of God and the spirit who remember at creation ‘hovered’ over the water to turn it from chaos into the waters of creation. Jesus baptism then for us represents a ‘new creation’. Paul says in 2 Corinthians - Everyone who is in Christ is a new creation - the old life is gone and a new life has begun - a new life is created - our new life as a child of God.
Through the waters of baptism, we are made new and we become part of the people of God.
Water is everywhere through our scripture. The prophet Amos tells us “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” - water becomes a symbol of how we are to live as God’s people - with justice and righteousness. The absence of water in the Bible in times of drought shows us the difficulty of living without the waters God provides, Jesus is on the water calming the storms or using water to bring the Gospel message of love and compassion as he meets the Samaritan Woman at the well.
The bible starts with water, water is throughout all the stories and events and lessons, we belong to God because of water and then scripture ends with water. In Revelation we read about the ‘water of life’. When God brings about the new heaven and the new earth where there are no more tears or no more suffering or no more pain or no more death we read there are no more seas - which teaches us there will be no more chaos in this new heaven and new earth. God will bring all things to a time of true peace - both externally and internally. Coming from the throne of God will be the river of life. No one will ever thirst again - no one will be thirsty for water and no will will ever again thirst for the love of God.