Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Water, Holy Water: Praising God on Earth Day

By Bryan Hanger

April 22 is the day when the whole world pauses to celebrate the planet we call home. But for Christians there is a unique dimension to Earth Day, for creation cannot be spoken of without first remembering and praising the God who gave us this wonderful home.

It can be easy to forget the true miracle of creation, but before there was anything, God already had in mind the details of our world and how we humans would be the ones to inhabit and steward over it. What a wonderful vocation to be given! But the responsibilities of stewardship can sometimes get beyond us, and occasions like Earth Day give us time to pause and reflect upon the successes and failures of our attempted stewardship.

One of these failures has been our protection of the world's water. As we continue to see the effects of environmental degradation, climate change, and pollution on our water we are reminded that we have not fully heeded God's calling in scripture to be stewards of our water. Ezekiel reminds us of God's admonition to care for our water so that all may enjoy it and be nourished: “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:18).

Water is sacred and vital to humanity's existence, but how we consume and use water has an effect on how others access and enjoy it. Our actions and inaction connect us to one another. When we abuse or take for granted this gift of water we can inadvertently affect others’ ability to live and thrive.

Jesus understands how important water is, and that's why he chooses it as a metaphor to explain how vital he is to our lives. When Jesus offers us living water, he very bluntly is telling us that we can't survive and thrive without him.

But God not only offers us living water that will quench our spiritual thirst, God also blesses us with physical water to give us relief, help us grow, and nourish creation. The Psalmist reminds us of how God’s great gift of water sustains and nurtures creation's development: “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work” (Psalm 104:10-13).

We know that the Lord's work is good, but what has been the fruit of our own work and stewardship? As we examine the effects of pollution, climate change, and other factors we see that more and more we have disrupted this beautiful cycle of life. We have been given the gift of water and have taken it for granted, used more than we needed, and distorted our relationship with creation. It is time for us to collectively realize this, repent, and begin anew as faithful stewards of God’s creation. The health and vitality of God’s creation depends on it.

This is the message that our friends at Creation Justice Ministries are raising up in their new publication “Water, Holy Water.” This publication has revealing stories from around the world, information about the state of our world's water, prayers to use during worship, and other resources for your congregation to use. We join them in lifting up this important issue, and encourage you and your congregation to reflect on these issues. Download “Water, Holy Water” from www.creationjustice.org.

Also, don’t forget to check out the Climate Change Study Resource our office helped put together. We encourage you to study and reflect on it before this year's Annual Conference when the official statement in response to the Climate Change query will be presented and voted on. The study resource is at www.brethren.org/peace/documents/climate-change-study-resource.pdf.

-- Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness.

Source: 4/22/2014 Newsline

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