The following post is the fourth in a series that is excerpted from my upcoming book Return to Our Senses, which will be available in mid November.
One essential element in the creation story that draws us deep into the love of God is water. Life began when the Spirit of God moved over the watery chaos of the deep and brought dry land into being. Throughout the Biblical story emerging from water always symbolizes a transformation from death to life, from chaos to new creation. We see it in the story of Noah and the flood and in the children of Israel passing through the waters that consume the Egyptians. We see it most vividly in the baptism of Jesus. He emerges from the waters with the dove, the loving Spirit of God hovering over him.
Through Christ creation is renewed. Water is no longer symbolic of the threat of chaos but has been transfigured by our loving God into a cleansing force that takes away the sins of the world. In the flood of Noah, sinners were drowned and wiped out. In the cleansing baptism of Jesus sin itself is drowned and the sinners are cleansed and made whole.
I love the imagery in Ezekiel 47:1-12, repeated again in Revelation 22:1-2 of the river of life that flows from the throne of God throughout the new Jerusalem nourishing the trees on its banks. “Life will flourish wherever the water flows… Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing” (Ez 47:9, 12).
Water is essential to life, but unless it is transformed by the blessing of God, it creates floods, devastation and chaos. With the blessing of God however, it cleanses and gives life to the entire creation each day and in every moment. From the moment of our conception, we are wrapped in water’s tender embrace, but we must emerge out of the waters to find true life out in God’s world.
Born Anew Out of the Water
Blessing of water is symbolic, not just of life, but of transformation. Every use of water transforms and renews. When we drink it we rehydrate dry and thirsty cells, we cleanse toxins from our bodies and we revitalize our energy. When we sprinkle it on our gardens it renews the dry and thirsty ground and gives life to every plant. When it rains from the clouds it refreshes and renews the very air we breathe.
Every use of water can be seen as a form of baptism, an opportunity to offer prayers of thanksgiving and appreciation for the gift of water and of life. We can so easily take it for granted, however missing the richness of these prayerful and sacramental moments that using water affords us, reminding us constantly of our covenant with God and reassure us of the cleansing of our souls that has taken place through baptism. Armenian Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian in his delightful book of garden mediations Inheriting Paradise comments: When we bless water, we acknowledge God’s grace and desire to cleanse the world and make it paradise.
Our bodies are eighty percent water. We are constituted of water and we are born anew of it. It is ubiquitous in our world, a constant reminder of the transforming, life giving power of God. Thanksgiving prayers for the gift of water and the renewal of our baptismal vows should not be confined to a baptismal service. A morning shower and a refreshing cup of tea, these too are baptismal moments, refreshing, renewing and bringing life. As I head out with my watering can onto the porch, here too I experience baptism and as I sprinkle my plants with water and give them life. As I sit and watch the waves crash on the seashore or stand in awe of the breathtaking beauty of a waterfall cascading onto the rocks this too speaks of baptism and the incredible cleansing and renewing experience of water.
I grew up in Australia, a land that is subject to severe droughts, often followed by devastating floods. I quickly learned that water is precious. Every drop is to be treasured and used wisely. Now I live in Seattle, Washington an area that is known for its rainy weather. I don’t just take the rain for granted, sometimes I resent it.
However at the end of summer I am often reminded again of what a gift water is. As the first rain of autumn falls, the brown parched lawns that are such a hallmark of the Seattle summer, give way to verdant green. I sit watching it fall gently on my thirsty garden and drink in the fresh fragrance of the rain cleansed air. In that moment my heart rejoices. Baptism I think. God has drenched the whole earth with love and faithfulness this morning. God has touched me too with a cleansing rain that has seeped into the dry and parched areas of my soul.
Recently as I sat and watched the dawn break on a rain drenched world I wondered: How often do I confess the sin in my life without acknowledging the places where I have already been cleansed by God’s baptismal waters? Wow, it really is like a morning after rain when the light shines more brightly, the air smells more fragrant and song of birds fill the air. Take time to confess before God, not the places where darkness still needs to be uncovered but those wonderful places where God’s light is breaking through. Bask in the touch of God’s approval and love. Hear the gentle voice that whispers: well done good and faithful servant. I suspect that as it was for me, this will be like a cleansing rain, a moment of baptism and a very intimate meeting with God.
This post is excepted from my new book Return to Our Senses which is now available through Mustard Seed Associates at a pre-publication discounted price of $15.