A Watery Call to Action Creationtide.4 Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Water cleanses, refreshes, hydrates, can even be used for healing. If you’ve ever been hot or thirsty, you know that a class of water is nectar of the gods. When you’re coughing, water can help bring you some relief. When you feel less than fresh, […]
A Watery Call to Action
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Water cleanses, refreshes, hydrates, can even be used for healing.
If you’ve ever been hot or thirsty, you know that a class of water is nectar of the gods.
When you’re coughing, water can help bring you some relief.
When you feel less than fresh, a shower or a bath or even a sponge bath can make you feel human again.
If you have a tickle in your throat or dry mouth, a sip of water can be a life saver for a public speaker or a singer.
And even to maintain good health, we know that we need to drink plenty of water every day.
Water is used throughout the bible as a powerful symbol.
We remember the Syrian general Naaman who had a skin disease. The prophet told him to immerse himself 7 times in a river, and when he did, he was healed.
Of course, that story is probably more symbolic than literal. It shows that when we feel broken, overwhelmed, wounded, we can immerse ourselves in a more conscious awareness of the omnipresent, loving power that we call God, and we will emerge remembering that we are spiritually and eternally whole.
All three of our readings today use water as a symbol for what the prophet Micah called “doing justice, loving mercy, and living humbly.”
The first reading from Isaiah said those who value fairness, who work for justice, who try to live with integrity will feel blessed, will feel safe and will have their spiritual needs met…it will feel like having shelter, food, and water. To care for others, to work to build a world of opportunity, fairness, compassion and generosity will make us feel as if we are always one with infinite goodness.
Amos exhorted the people to let justice roll like a river.
And Mark’s gospel shows that giving or receiving something as simple as water can be an experience of grace.
Water literally helps us, and so we need to be grateful for water and we need to use it wisely and mindfully.
But water also symbolizes the spirit of life that is flowing through us, always available to sustain us; and we as spiritual seekers and workers want to be a witness of that spirit so that others can learn of the power that is available to help all people at all times.
I want say something about the gospel lesson this morning, that short sentence about receiving a cup of water and the giver of the water being blessed. That simple sentence comes from a longer narrative that actually gives us instruction about what it means to follow the way of Jesus. Here’s the story…
Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and Jesus asked them, “What where you talking about as we traveled here?”
They didn’t want to answer him, because what they had been talking about was actually petty and selfish. They had been arguing about who was his favorite, who was the MVP on his team. Of course, Jesus overheard their conversation and knew what they had been talking about. So he called them all together and told them, “In the kind of world we’re trying to build, those who serve are the noblest, the last are first and the first are last.”
Of course, he was saying that everyone had sacred value and everyone deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, but those who had been denied that by worldly systems would be first to be acknowledged. They’d get what they had been denied; the downtrodden would be lifted up.
To make his point, he called over a child. Children were to be seen and not heard. They were utterly powerless in that culture. Jesus held the child and said, “whoever receives one such child receives a profound experience of God!” He was saying when we notice that God is within every single person, and we treat people as if that were true, we experience more of God because we have realized that God is in the powerless as well as the powerful, the glamorous as well as the humble…when we God as the All-in-all, we experience more of what God is.
John doesn’t get it. It’s like he was just humming the whole time Jesus was talking. Jesus is going on and on about everyone has worth and a divine spark is in every person, and to follow Jesus is to care about others. John says, “yeah, yeah, whatever; meanwhile, we saw an exorcist trying to cast out demons in your name, but he wasn’t one of us so we told him stop.”
Now, don’t get hung up on the whole exorcism thing. This was the first century, remember. If herbs, wine, rest, or leeches couldn’t cure it, then the problem must be evil spirits, and the cure for evil spirits was exorcism. What did they know?
But we’re not so different. If we don’t know what to do, if we have a problem that we don’t know how to fix, we pray. We don’t blame our problems on goblins, but we do know that there is a Higher Power that can help us get through the challenge, that can fill us with hope and peace, that can sustain us until things get better again; and prayer is how we access and tap into this Higher Power. That’s what Jesus and his disciples and other healers would do. If the limited medical options available to them couldn’t help, they would summon the power of hope that prayer offers. They called it casting out demons, but what it really amounted to was praying for things to get better.
So, someone not in Jesus’ group was praying for people who were tormented by various problems. He was doing what Jesus and his friends did which is what casting out demons in Jesus’ name means.
Working in Jesus name didn’t mean using “in Jesus’ name” as the magic words that will make miraculous things happen. That phrase isn’t the bibbity bobbity boo, the presto chango, the alakazam of Christianity! To do something in someone’s name is to do it on their behalf or to do it like they do it. Someone was trying to heal people the way Jesus and his disciples healed people, he was praying for people to feel better, for their lives to improve and John and the others didn’t like it. They felt like someone was encroaching on their territory.
The disciples wanted to know which one of them was the best. And when Jesus said that’s not how we are going to work, John at least wants to believe that they as a group are better than other groups. Sure, we’re all equal in this club, but surely our club is the best, right? Our religion, our gender, our sexual orientation, our nationality…we so want our group to be the primary, the most important group. That was John’s attitude; but John was wrong.
So Jesus tries to explain to them one more time.
He says, “Don’t bother that exorcist, that healer. He’s trying to help people; there’s plenty of work for all of us. Whoever isn’t against us, is for us.” And then he added the words we heard read earlier this morning: “Whoever gives you a cup of water for my sake will not be unrewarded.”
That’s the story of the cup of the water. Jesus’ misguided disciples want the kin-dom of God that Jesus is trying to model to be just like the Roman world of power of privilege, but with them being the privileged ones. Jesus keeps saying, “you’re missing the point. We don’t want to be the new oppressors; we want to create a world where oppression is finally eliminated.”
And so he says in the realm of God he is imagining and trying to manifest, the last are first and the first are last, no one is left out, no one is more special than anyone else, no one is untouchable, no one is unlovable, no one is beyond hope, everyone deserves gifts and everyone has gifts to share.
Jesus uses the image of a child to encourage us to help others.
Jesus uses the image of someone from a different group doing good work to say let’s stop hating groups for who they are and start appreciating the good they do.
Jesus use the image of someone offering us a cup of water to say we need help sometimes and we should appreciate those who care enough to offer it.
He’s saying that we all matter, we all deserve to be happy and well, and in truth, we are all one.
When you fall down, I help you up. When I fall down, you help me up. When you are sad, I encourage you. When I am sad, you encourage me. When others are being demonized, we speak out on behalf of their sacred value. When we are being demonized, we appreciate the voice of allies speaking up for us. That’s the message; we are all in this together. That’s the kin-dom of God. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
The Spirit of Life…
Washes over me now.
I am blessed.
And I bless others.
Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv, DMin
Senior Minister, Sunshine Cathedral