Eight Ways of Looking at Water By Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Kimberlee Conway Ireton has embarked on a Year of Prayer. To help hold her accountable to this commitment to live more prayerfully, she promised herself (and her blog readers) that she’d write about (some of) her prayer experiences.

This reflection was written in response to “blessing the water” prayer experiment in Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray.  A free study guide is also available and there is still time to form a group to use this as a study guide during Lent. 

Water3

 

1. Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters.

2.”When Paul says, ‘If then you have been raised with Christ,'” the preacher quotes from Colossians 3, “he is referring to baptism. In the ancient world, water was viewed as a place of chaos, a symbol of death.” I understand. I am afraid of water, too, the vast expanses that blanket the earth, hiding only God knows what beneath their opaque, undulating surface.

Water2

 

3. Icy morning. Frost paints the housetops white. My breath hangs in the air when I step onto the porch. Back inside, I run water from the tap into the kettle, pour near-boiling water over tea leaves and wait for them to steep. I sip too soon; the hot liquid scalds my throat.

4. Driving up the hill to church, I enter the fog. Low, white swirls of water settle among the gravestones as I pass the cemetery. I think of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and am grateful I live in so lush a place as this, where water is plentiful and our bones are never dry.

Water1

5. Stomach flu. I sleep fitfully, mouth dry, throat parched. A cup of water sits on the nightstand. I do not drink it. I am afraid I will throw up yet again, and my body aches from the violence of retching. Much as I long for water, I let the cup sit, unsipped.

6. After nearly a day without eating or drinking, I am a dry and weary land. I am the deer longing for the water-brooks. I sit at the dining room table and marvel at the beauty of clear water in clear glass. I sip, and the water soothes my parched throat. I imagine it filling my belly, my body, sending its healing power into every cell, rehydrating my dry skin, my dry eyes, my dry self.

7. Lynne takes the baby in her arms. He is wearing a long, white gown, over 100 years old, she tells us. She dips her fingers in the font and marks his forehead in the sign of a cross, once, twice, three times, baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “You are one of Christ’s own,” she tells him, “forever.”

8. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If any of you thirsts, come to me! And those who believe in me—drink!” 


Post and photos by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, urban outsider, mother of four, and author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.

Advertisements

Blessing the Water of God

Multinomah Falls Oregon

Multinomah Falls Oregon

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. 

The Overflow Project by Brian Wolters

Water is life

Water is life

This morning’s post comes from Brian “Wolt” Wolters. Wolt is the executive director of the Overflow Project . The issue of access to fresh water is one that I am particularly concerned about and I think that The Overflow Project is a very creative response to this issue.



I remember a report in my church’s bulletin the week after Easter titled “Easter by the numbers” sharing the number of Easter volunteers, attendees, services, and flowers. In general, churches promote and plan well in advance for Easter by decorating sanctuaries, orientating volunteers, and expanding parking lots. This year a church even rented out the Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle for its Easter gathering. Clearly, a phenomenon exists where people attend a church service on Easter more than any other day of the year, and churches make a big deal about it.

I am fascinated with Jesus, the very one people celebrate coming back to life on Easter Sunday. Joyfully and ironically, Jesus doesn’t disappear after Easter Sunday. In fact, Jesus lives on earth after his death before he ascends. The Holy Spirit then arrives on Pentecost. Easter is a season that spans 50 days.

Why do people – including churches- typically stop celebrating the day after Easter?

An alternative exists: living a life similar to Jesus as he actually teaches by being light in this world where there is so much darkness, caring for the poor and broken, and celebrating the hope and new life of Christ that he offers to all. Enough is enough. You have all that you need in Christ. Jesus ushers a new way of living in the world post-death as a testimony to us.

What does Easter and the significance of how Christ lives after his death mean to you? What would it look like to form new habits of faith and live intentionally? Could you go beyond writing checks and instead live and give generously out of the overflow in your life?

This year a small team and I launched a new endeavor called The Overflow Project to invite individuals and communities all around the world to participate in a new kind of living. During the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost we developed resources for groups and churches to celebrate and live simply to break down the barrier that divides rich and poor and to free us from ignorance about poverty.

Providing water brings life

Providing water brings life

Currently about 1 billion people in the world live without access to clean safe drinking water –a basic human right and a fundamental need for empowerment and economic development.

On Pentecost Sunday we will receive participant’s collective contributions to support sustainable clean water projects in Uganda. This effort changes our lives by opening our eyes to a different kind of life and changes Uganda through investing in clean water solutions and hygiene training.

The Overflow Project’s 50-Day Challenge is still happening right now. Anybody can join, even for the few days that remain.

We have so much to celebrate today! Christ has risen. Remember Easter for what it is, even today, nearly 50 days later.

Brian “Wolt” Wolters

Thanking God for the Gift of Water

Yesterday was baptism day at our church and I wast struck by profound meaning of the words for blessing the water from the Book of Common Prayer.  It is part of the service that we say together as a reaffirmation of our baptismal vows.

I could not help but think of these words again as I took my morning shower and made my morning cup of tea.  These too are baptismal moments, refreshing, renewing and bringing life.  And as I go out with my watering can onto the porch, here too I experience baptism as I sprinkle them with water and give them life.

Water is essential to life.  In so many ways it cleanses and gives life to us each day and in every moment.  Yet we can so easily take it for granted, missing the richness of these sacramental moments that remind us constantly of our covenant with God and reassure us of the cleansing of souls that has taken place through baptism.  So as sit with your cup of tea of coffee this morning, give thanks for the gift of water.

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.  Through it you led the children of Israel our of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise.  In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father for the water of Baptism.  In it we are buried with Christ in his death.  By it we share in his resurrection.  Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. …