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This waterway is right inside the city of Halifax. Image by Ken Jones, June 23, 2014

Exodus 17:1-7
Matthew 21:23-32

September 28, 2014

Year A

Poor Moses has been under a lot of pressure. Again today his followers are really angry, and they are still murmuring. They say to Moses,” Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our livestock and our children with thirst?”

Moses said to them, “Why do you always quarrel with me, why are you always complaining?”

Then Moses speaks to God and he says, “They are almost ready to stone me.”

God replies “Take the elders of Israel with you and when you get to the rock at Horeb, use the staff with which you struck the Nile, and strike the rock. Water will come forth and the people will drink.”

We have been following the stories from Genesis and Exodus all summer. The journey is not over; the people are still murmuring and Moses is now at his wits end. Certainly, the main focus of this story is about water, and it’s connected to our spiritual journey. A story about water and the spirit.

Observing water can be a meditation in itself. Just watching a river or a flowing stream can help us feel calm and restored. Our relationship with water can be a healing practice.

Imagine for a moment your experience with water and how it affects you.

On the prairie water brings the land alive. Water gives the prairie a voice. Particularly in the northern part of Saskatchewan where you can hear the rain in the forest, falling from the trees, or on to the lake, or soft on our skin as we walk in the warmth of a summer rain. When we travel to the mountains the dynamic of water is different from on the prairie – it is often fast running and it makes its way through rocks and boulders creating a new pathway as it goes. Ryan, my youngest son found a stone made perfectly round by the water churning through a gorge at Maligne canyon. Water creates much beauty for us in the world.

I lived by the ocean for seven years and I became used to the rhythm of the tide that came and went twice a day. If you walked on the beach the cycle became important to your day. Or when it was time to dig for clams, a very low tide was required. Of course the moon and the movement of the tide are closely connected. There is always the wind and the rain that brings what is called a nor’easter – a storm from the north east with 100 kilo winds and trees come down and block the roads and the power is off, sometimes for 24 hours.

Numerous times when I lived in Swift Current, I made my way with different groups to
Grassland National Park and kayaked on the Frenchman River. A quiet meandering river with high banks and fox, deer, muskrat, beaver, and eagles and hawks are seen on the banks of the river. I was always reminded that the water isn’t just ours, but that we share it with creation in its entirety.

It seems that water becomes the flow of life-giving awareness, water is constantly cycled throughout the world and this calls us to consider the power of water and its balance. Only through a balanced relationship with water can we have abundance and thriving life. Water, no matter where we live, is a major force in our lives. Our spirits are closely connected to water.

Having talked about our personal experience with water, let’s consider the other side of the water issue. From the book, “
The Earth Path, Grounding Your Spirit in The Rhythms Of Nature” by Starhawk; she is a Wiccan Jewish Theologian from the United States. She writes,

Water, it is predicted, will be the great issue of the twenty-first century, the century of resource wars and conflicts. Because we haven’t yet been courageous enough to implement sane solutions, and because control of the world is becoming more and more concentrated while the population is growing, it is estimated that by the year 2020 two-thirds of the world will be without adequate supplies of clean water. Water has always been seen as a communal resource, something that should belong to all, and water delivery has long been a primary function of government, something we pay for and make decisions about collectively. Today, there is more and more pressure to privatize water, to place its ownership and control in the hands of corporations that can make a profit out of providing this basic human need.
What does water privatisation mean? Many of us already filter our water, or we buy bottled water to drink. When I was growing up, we assumed our well water was safe to drink and later that tap water was safe. Today, we trust that our tap water probably won’t give us typhoid or cholera, as it might in India, but some suspect that it might give us cancer. Now we know that traces of the medication we take eventually ends up in our drinking water.

Privatised water services in
England, France and Wales have meant increased rates and lack of access to water for many low income users.

In Bolivia, water privatisation resulted in a 40% increase in cost and sparked an
uprising in Cochabamba in 2000. The people in Bolivia eventually staged a non-violent uprising, blocking roads and commerce in the city for two weeks in April of 2000. The government eventually gave in and turned water delivery over to a committee of people, called La Coordinator. This group eventually wrote a declaration regarding the fundamental right for all people to have access to clean water.

The politics and the personnel issues surrounding water are everywhere. I don’t believe we can escape not being a part of the water crisis. The recent march that happened in New York City had a focus to it that involved water shortage.

Water: I remember waking up one morning on Haida Gwaii to no water. The tap just gurgled and stopped. I called the Band office and they said, “You’re right there is no water. The reservoir that we store our water in is dry.” The water for the village of
Skidegate came from the hills and was stored in a reservoir. The band office said, “People are letting there taps run or drip all night because it is one way to keep their water lines from freezing. Temperatures have been lower than usual this week; hence we have run out of water. When they stop letting their taps drip the reservoir will fill and we will have water.” She added, “I don’t know when that will be.” It was a few days before we had water again but we had water for the rest of the winter so I assume that people found another solution to stop the lines from freezing. The average winter temperature was +5ºC and the cold snap was unusual. That is my only experience of having to get water from else where so I could cook, drink and bathe. There is nothing like water from the tap.

When I was in
Tibet I was amazed at the amount of water there was. Water ran from every direction, it seemed. When we were trekking we always ate lunch by running water and we always camped at night by water. The water was clear and cold and came from the mountains. However, we were told that we must always either boil the water or use purification drops before drinking it. When the Olympic Games were being boycotted by the Tibetan people I thought to myself that China will not give up Tibet, if for no other reason then there is water in Tibet. Lots of it.

You will have your own stories about water. Presently, in Tisdale there is lots of conversation regarding water and why the main street is closed. A little inconvenience I suppose but in the end we will have clean cold water.

Water is emotion, and water is also key to cleansing and healing. When we begin to open up to the natural world, when we drop our defences and begin to hear what nature is saying to us, when we start to appreciate the incredible beauty and wonder of the world, we also become aware of how much is being destroyed. Grief and sadness may overwhelm us at such times.
Starhawk experiences this loss as an upwelling of sorrow and tears that seem to come from the very heart of the earth, dark and cold and unimaginably deep.

Close with the Blessing of Water
Praise and gratitude to the sacred waters of the world, to the oceans, the mother of life, the womb of the plant life that freshens our air with oxygen, the brew that is stirred by sunlight and the moon’s gravity into the great currents and tides that move across the earth, circulating the means of life, bringing warmth to the frozen Artic and cool, fresh winds to the tropics. We give thanks for the blessed clouds and the rain that brings the gift of life to the land, that eases the thirst of roots that grows the trees and sustains life even in the dry desert. We give thanks for the springs that bring life-giving water up from the ground, for the small streams and creeks, for the mighty rivers. We praise the beauty of water, the sparkle of the sunlight on a blue lake, the shimmer of moonlight on the ocean’s waves, the white spray of the waterfall. We take delight in the sweet singing of the dancing stream and the roar of the river in flood.
John Appleseed(p.154 Earth Path, Starhawk)
We ask help to know within ourselves all the powers of water: to wear down and to build up, to ebb and to flow, to nurture and to destroy, to merge and to separate. We know that water has great powers of healing and cleansing, and we also know that water is vulnerable to contamination and pollution.
We ask help in our work as healers, in our efforts to ensure that the waters of the world run clean and run free, that all the earth’s children have the water they need to sustain abundance of life. Blessed be the water.

Sharon Ferguson-Hood