This set of Lent daily reflections follows the theme of water. I hope they will entertain, prompt deeper thought and bring us closer to the source of our being, which many of us call God.
Lent is a journey about our humanity as part of the web of life and as part of our calling to be holy.
Reissued February 2023
Water can seem a most ubiquitous and common thing. It is tasteless, colourless and scentless. Yet despite or perhaps because of that, it is really the most important and amazing substance we have.
71% of the earth is covered by water. Water is vital for all known life forms, even though it provides neither calories nor essential nutrients. The human body itself is approximately 65% water. Altogether the total amounts of water in, on and above the earth measures 1,386,000,000,000 cubic kilometres.
According to John’s gospel, Jesus makes repeated trips to Jerusalem during his years of mission, usually coinciding with major festivals. One such festival, Shavuot, involved water being poured over the altar as a morning offering on each of the seven days of the feast. It is a time of rejoicing and of thanking God for the fruitfulness of the earth.
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38
When a baby is conceived, it is nurtured in the womb inside the membrane of an amniotic sac. This contains water that comes from the mother. The water serves to protect the growing baby, cushioning it from physical knocks, ensuring a constant warm temperature, supporting its body so it can move and exercise its limbs, and supporting her umbilical cord – that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the baby – preventing it from becoming compressed. At some point during the birth process the membrane will burst and these waters will be released. The watery environment of the baby’s gestation encourages some women to choose giving birth a pool of warm water. This can have a soothing effect on both mother and baby. Given the proportion of our body that is water, there seems an immense logic that before we’re born we are nurtured in water.
John in his gospel tells of an encounter between Jesus and a religious leader in which the leader strives to understand how one can be an earthly human and yet be holy, be of God.
“I am telling the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit.” John 3:5
70% of the fresh water used by humans is for agriculture. Water is key in ensuring plants grow. You have only to add water to some mustard seeds and overnight they begin to sprout.
In Genesis 2, the newly created earth is described as barren and lacking any kind of vegetation. The writer notes the need for both water and for someone to till the soil. So God causes water to well up from the earth, irrigating its whole surface – a Gods-made irrigation system!
Good irrigation systems control the application of water so that each plant receives only what it needs. It can be an effective way of conserving limited water stocks. Irrigation is a farming technique that dates back some 5000 years and allows water from seasonal rainfall to be extended over a longer time frame.
You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it:
The river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly, settings its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing it with growth. Psalms 65:9-10
When viewed from space, the earth really does look like a blue planet. For whilst 71% of the earth is covered by water, nearly all is ocean and sea. Less than 1% is fresh water such as rivers and streams. Together with the annual movement of the sun, it is the saline waters that shape the world’s climate, moving heat and air masses between poles and continents.
Seas and oceans also, provide shipping routes around the world, and from as long ago as 3000BCE people have migrated by sea especially amongst the various islands of the Pacific.
Between 50 and 80% of the world living species inhabit the oceans. That only 9% of these have been classified accounts for the uncertainty as to their number. If we see our roles as stewards of the earth, it may be we have underestimated the extent of our calling!
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teams with creatures un us table, living things both small and great. Psalm 104: 24-25
If less that 1% of the world’s water is available to us as drinking water – also known as sweet water – we may be equally surprised to learn that one fifth of that sweet water is to be found in just one place! Lake Baikal in Siberia is the largest lake in volume as well as the deepest – 1642m.
Access to drinking water would seem to be an absolute necessity, yet it is not so for one in three people. Here in the UK a litre of tap water costs less than 1p, yet many of us still buy bottled water than cost up to £5 a litre. We seem to have a global water access issue.
When the Israelites were travelling through the wilderness in their escape from Egypt, they complained about the lack of water to drink.
The Lord answered Moses, “Go our in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand before you by the rock at Horne. Strike the rock and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. Exodus 17:5-6
Rivers can be described as arteries that carry water around the world. In Genesis 2 when we read of God causing the water to rise up,and irrigate the land, we hear of the river that flows out of Eden, divides into four and brings water to a,, the surrounding lands. In the book of Ezekiel, we witness his vision of the new temple, out of which flows a river. Its waters restore the stagnant sea whilst on the banks grow tree with leaves for healing and fruits for every month of the year. In the Book of Revelation, Jon. Sees an identical scene when he is shown the new Jerusalem,
The Whangauni River in New Zealand, following years of campaigning by the local people – the Whanganui Iwi -,was recognised in 2017as a legal person thereby protecting the river and the people’s relationship with it.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2
We have probably all seen or can imagine a reservoir- a lake shaped store of water. We can perhaps less readily imagine an underground reservoir or aquifer. Particularly types of rock are good at absorbing water, whilst other resist water passing through. If the latter lies below the former, the absorbent rock will catch and retain water that filters down from the surface and becomes an underground reservoir. Once full the water may bubble out as a freshwater spring. Alternatively it can be pumped to the surface.
Sometimes we talk of people as having a deep store of knowledge or resourcefulness, that only becomes apparent when it is needed. God too is an endless reservoir of knowledge and love.
Shout for joy, you heavens! Shout, deep places of the earth! Shout for joy, mountains, and every tree of the forest! The LORD has shown his greatness by saving his people Israel. Isaiah 44:23
As well as aquifers, water is stored in glaciers. Each winter snow falls, freezes and is stored at high altitudes. In the summer melt water from the glaciers maintains river levels when rainfall is less and demand – eg for irrigation – is high. It seems an ideal system (and at no cost!). However in recent years this balance has been upset by global warming. Winter precipitation does not always freeze at high levels but adds instead to river levels exacerbating the risk of flooding. And in the summer the reduced size of glaciers reduces the river levels when the water is needed most.
The Bible talks about rain in due season but its availability also depends upon our responsible care of the world and our understanding of the environments interconnectedness.
You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it. Psalm 65:9
Dew has been thought of as the best water for face washing and indeed is rumoured to remove freckles too (should you so wish).
Dew is indeed a source of pure water, being formed when moisture in the air comes into contact with a colder surface and condenses. Heavier dew fall occurs when there is either a lot of water vapour in the air, or a greater differential in temperature between and the contact surface. Dew can help water plants when the atmosphere is not wet enough to create rain.
In the story of Exodus, when God provides the Israelites with bread in the form of manna, it is said to cover the ground like dew,. This bread on,y lasted a day so the people had to trust that God would continue to provide their daily bread.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
Clouds are most remarkable things. At the basic level they are collections of water droplets that are small enough to be held in the atmosphere – less than 0.001mm across. These water droplets forrm when water vapour in the air condenses where the air cools below a certain altitude. One process but isn’t it amazing what a variety of shapes, sizes, patterns and colours those minute droplets can produce!
The Bible often links God’s presence, God’s glory with the clouds. Clouds appear about Mount Sinai where God meets Moses, about the temple sheen God takes up residence there, and in Mount Tabor at the transfiguration of Jesus. Whilst the Book of Job describes God wrapping the newly made sea in a blanket is cloud!
Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its blanket Job 38:8-9
Whilst clouds are collections of minute water particles high in the sky, similar water particles form at low levels creating mists and fogs. Most and fog can change the way we relate to out surroundings. They can change our perception of distance. They can make sounds seem louder or closer. They can obscure our vision or they can make things stand out. They can diffuse the light by which we see, creating an ethereal environment. They can seem full of mystery.
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
As water droplets in a cloud grow larger, there comes a point at which they can no longer be held suspended in the cloud. At this point rain falls.
Rain that falls after a period of drought is most welcome; rain that falls during a time of flooding is not. Even without these extremes we often give rain a mixed reception: welcomed by the gardner in summer but not by the cricketers. Welcomed by a child with new Wellington boots, less so by the cyclist going to work. Yet rain washes things clean, freshens the air and hangs like diamonds on the ends of branches.
Many stories in the Bible concern either the lack of or the excess of rain as a sign of God’s power – think of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Elijah and king Ahab. But rain in the right places a.so features as a sign of God’s blessing, for rain is essential for the growth of plants and the flourishing of the earth.
“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness flourish with it;
I, the Lord, have created it.” Isaiah 45:8
All water that drops from the air is called precipitation. This includes rain and fog etc being liquid forms, and snow and hail as frozen forms. A blanketing of snow has a magical quality that transforms the landscape. Like rain, snow is welcomed by some and not by others. For children the chance of snow is fun, whilst for those less steady in their feet, snow is a worry. For those sat inside admiring the scenery, it is a thing of beauty, whilst for those who have too feed the sheep and cattle, it is another burden.
Seasonal snow, as opposed to permanent glaciers, covers about 9% of the earth’s surface and occurs mainly in the northern hemisphere. Many animals living in these regions change their colouring to white in the winter.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
A blanket of snow is magical in its ability to change how things look, but equally magical is the beauty of each snowflake. Snowflakes form in the atmosphere as super-cooled water droplets which freeze round a minute particle such as a speck of dust. As the snowflake descends through the atmosphere it attracts more water droplets that also freeze. They form crystalline structures which typically – but not always – have six ‘arms’. Although each is unique, few snowflakes are perfect. – do not have symmetrical arms. Imperfect but beautiful!
You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.
1 Peter 3:4
Snow is white in appearance and hard to see through, whilst ice can be as clear as glass. Not all,ice is clear, as to achieve this the water must be clear of air bubbles, dust and dirt. It also needs to freeze slowly as this creates larger ice crystals. These conditions are often met in the formation of icicles. On sunny days an icicle may begin to melt, clear water seeping down its tip. As evening comes and temperatures drop, the melting water refreezes. This slow process of change drip by drop forms an even longer, clearer icicle.
Slow pondering of words said or things seen, can also result in deeper, clearer wisdom.
But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19 and again Luke 2:51
Rain falls onto hillsides, accumulates and trickles into streams. Streams flow with gravity and meet other streams. Bigger streams merge and become rivers. Still the flow is downhill until the river reaches the sea. From there the pull of the moon and the push of currents creates a flow of water around the planet. Where warmer air blows across the sea, surface layers of water evaporate and rise up into the atmosphere. As the air cools they condense to form clouds of minute water droplets. Rising up over higher land or through meeting colder air masses, the water droplets grow heavier and drop as rain. And so the pattern is repeated. This water cycle moves water from the sea to the land and back again.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:mIt will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
When it is both raining and the sun is shining, we know to look for a rainbow. The sun, beyond the rain cloud, shines through the water droplets and the light is refracted reflected and refracted once more – this last as it leaves the water droplet. Refraction slows the speed of light revealing its different waves lengths and colours and hence the rainbow colours. Rainbows seem magical and miraculous which is perhaps why they so often appear in fairy stories!
They seem to hold the promise of something more – be that a crock of gold or , in Noah’s case, the promise of new life. For us over the last few years, rainbows have become a message of hope and of thanks: hope that the NHS a will manage to care for all who are ill, and thanks for the dedication of the NHS staff.
I set my now in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of a covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:13
Plants need water to grow. The water is taken up via their roots and provides for the whole of the plant. As the plant grows, it releases water vapour through pores in its leaves – a process called respiration. Cover a plant with a glass dome or a plastic bag, and you will see water droplets forming as the water vapour condenses.
A terrarium is a miniature garden in a glass dome or jar. With solid and carefully chosen plants, the glass cover provides a self-contained ecosystem: the plant breathes out moisture which condenses to water and so waters the plant. Meanwhile sunlight – the other key necessity for plant growth – is uninterrupted.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6
God caused water to well up from the earth to provide water for plant life (Genesis2) . Later the water would have been released from the plants back into the atmosphere. On alpine slopes following rainfall, it is possible to see clouds forming from ‘thin air’ as the water vapour released from the wooded slopes cools in the mountain air. As the day warms these clouds will often ‘melt away’ as the droplets re-evaporate. But if the day remains cold they will coalesce to form rain clouds. In inland areas far from the coast, this source of rain is all important for vegetative cover.
Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfected knowledge? Job 37:16
Water is not spread uniformly across the world. Some people have too much and some too little. If the use of water is not kept in check, with people taking more than their fair share of water supplies, then they can create a dearth of water down stream. The Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, has now all but disappeared. The cultivation of huge cotton crops begun in the 1960s took increasing amounts of water from the rivers that fed the lake and the lake shrank year by year.
Fights over water ate not new. Genesis records an incident between Isaac and the neighbouring herders over water. When they dug their respective wells too close together, the joint demand on the water below ground led to the wells running dry. Having dug more wells further away, Isaac finally dug a well which did not lead to conflict with his neighbour. Sometimes conflicts just need patience and a bit more manoeuvring to find a place mutual contentment.
He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarrelled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” Genesis 26:22
When a glacier or ice sheet flows down off the land and into the sea, it is called an ice shelf. It is different from sea ice which is formed when the surface of the sea freezes. One Otis fresh water, the other salt water. The ice shelf floats in the sea but is attached to the solid surface of the coast, above and below sea level. Gravity continues to feed the ice sheet extending it further into the sea. Eventually lumps of the ice sheet break off: this is known as iceberg calving. As the density of frozen fresh water is less than that of salt water, 10% of the iceberg floats above the surface of the sea, the remaining 90% below. Whilst ice caps, sheets and glaciers account for less than 2% of the world’s water, they account for an amazing 70% of the world’s fresh water! In other words they are our largest reservoir of drinking water.
By the breath of God the ice is formed and the watery expanses are frozen. Jib 37:10
A spring occurs when water that is held in or is filtering through the earth reaches the surface and bubbles out. The Latin for a spring, ‘fons’ gives rise to the word fountain – although we more often think of fountain as a great gushing force of water. The Latin ‘fons’ also has the meaning of source and thus both a source of life/ eternal; beauty etc. Even bottled spring water is widely advertised as health giving.
In John’s gospel Jesus declare, ‘whoever drinks the water I give will ever thirst. Indeed the water I give wills become I. Them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ John 4:14
We have already noted (day 2) the link between north and water and beginning one’s a new as a follower of Christ. Yesterday we noted the link between the quality of that new life and the life and health giving character of spring water. Followers of Christ mark the beginning of their new life through the rite of baptism. Early baptisms took place in rivers – some still do – but more usually people are baptised in w@yes held in a font. Again this word is derived from the Latin ‘Fons’ meaning spring or source.
Now we are all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – we are all given the one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:13
A waterfall occurs when there I a sudden drop in height of a water course. It may be cause by geological factors such as fault or split in the rock and/ or a contacts between soft rock overlying hard rock. Tye height of the drop and the volume of the water will determine the force of the waterfall. In northern England, a waterfall is often known as a force – derived from the old Norse word ‘fors’. The force of a waterfall can be very dramatic and perhaps a symbol of the power of the creator.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and waves have rolled over me. The Lord decrees his loving devotion by day, and at night his song is with me as a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 47:2
Water is a source of energy and has long been used to drive machinery. The earliest watermills discovered date to the 3rd century BCE. In the Roman era water mills were used to rind flour, crush rock, and to saw stones. Developments have continued and we now use water power to generate electricity. The industrialist William Armstrong used hydro power in 1878 to provide his Northumbrian house with electric lighting – a world first. The following year a hydro power plant on the Niagara Falls because the first commercial electric power station.
As of 2018 hydro electricity contributed about 2% of the UK’s total energy needs . Feeding into the grid are power stations such as the Keller Water plant supplying 20,000 MWh per year, on on the River Lune Halton Lune Hydro – the largest community hydro plant generates 1000 MWh per year.
Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. Philippians 2: 12-13 The Message
Moving water is also powerful in its frozen form. Avalanches cause injury and death each year as well as damaging buildings and other essential infrastructure. Most of the time snow stays where it lands growing deeper as layer sticks to layer. However if there is a lack of friction between layers – weakly packed snow, ice layers, or melting ice – or of the load becomes to heavy in relation to the steepness of the slope, then whole slabs of snow will break away and slide downhill. The speed of some avalanches creates a wind that precedes the snow, and itself causes much damage. Occasionally avalanches are triggered by human activity but more usually the cause is natural. People living in avalanche regions can mitigate the risk by building outside areas where avalanches normally travel, by setting up snow barriers so slow and halt the slide of the avalanche, and by investing in early warning systems. Life is not risk free but risks can be minimised.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
The power of water shapes our landscapes and creates the soils and sediments that sustain plant life. Water erodes rocks in various ways: freeze-thaw using the expanding power of ice that has seeped into the rock,: chemical where water (particularly acidic) dissolves rock particles; mechanical where water wears away rock or washes away soils; and glacial where ice flows scour and scrape away at the rock. Water also distributes eroded material. Rock sediments are carried down stream until a slowing in the flow causes the water to deposit its load. Over time water born sediments can fill dips in the landscape, soften contours, form deltas and extend sand dunes to create new land. Ultimately water wants to create a level landscape, a wittling down of mountains and filling of valleys.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. Isaiah 40:4
As water erodes rocks, minerals are dissolved into it and carried downstream where they seep into the ground water. Thus essential nutrients feed the plants growing there. Similarly rain water washes nutrients from decaying plants into the soil. Water is a useful and widespread medium for transferring materials. However on the flip side water can readily transfer pollutants. Intensive farming can lead to pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers (too much fertiliser is a killer) polluting the ground, whilst industrialised animal farming leads to pollution from animal excrement. Industrial and sewage waste can also end up in rivers polluting the plant and animal life but also drinking water supplies.
And as for you, my dear flock, I’m stepping in and judging between one sheep and another, between rams and goats. Aren’t you satisfied to feed in good pasture without taking over the whole place? Can’t you be satisfied to drink from the clear stream without muddying the water with your feet? Why do the rest of my sheep have to make do with grass that’s trampled down and water that’s been muddied? Ezekiel 34:18-19 The Message
As much as polluted water is harmful, so clean water is essential for good hygiene and health. Clean water for personal washing (especially hands), for laundry, for cleaning surfaces, for washing utensils, for preparing food, and for toileting is essential for good health. It is wonderful that something so cheap and so readily available as water can achieve all this! Yet for some people it is a dream rather than a reality.
The WHO reported that since 2000 1.8 billion additional people now have access to basic drinking water facilities – yet that still leaves 1 in 3 of the world’s population without access to clean drinking water. World wide organisations are working to correct this inequality and to reduce the number of avoidable deaths. One, Toilet Twinning, allows you to twin your toilet with one on the other side of the world. If you have two toilets, you can twin both!
Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7
Global warming is having a major effect on the availability of clean water. Severe droughts have become commonplace in places as far apart as Australia, India, Spain, California and even in Britain. Lack of rainfall plus higher evaporation due to higher temperatures frequently coincide. Drought affects wildlife – plants, animals, even fish – arable and animal farming, food production (a cup of coffee takes 140 litres of water to produce from bean to cup; glass of orange juice 190 litres), and industrial production (1kg of paper uses 400 litres of water; 1 kg of plastic uses 160 litres).
And of course human life. Between 2000 and 2017 20,000 people died due to drought conditions in Somalia.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my solid thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1
Whilst droughts are caused by lack of rainfall, they are exacerbated by over consumption. Across the world different strategies are being pursued to conserve precious water supplies. In richer countries individual consumers as encourage£ to turn off taps whilst cleaning their teeth, to replace open taps with spray taps, to swop baths for showers, standard flush for dual flush toilets etc. At times the use of hose pipes may be banned. Appliances such as washing machine are designed to run on reduced levels of water whilst people are encouraged to launder less frequently. Collecting rain water to water the garden is well established but less so is the practice of harvest other sources of grey water to flush toilets.
In poorer countries these options may be unavailable because they don’t have baths or dishwashers. Nevertheless work is being done to install covered water butts and wells to reduce evaporation, planting trees for shade, creating pits as mini reservoirs around plants, and building cattle troughs to conserve water for animals.
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land, springs of water. Isaiah 41:17-18
Global warming is the cause of extreme weather conditions and whilst some areas endure droughts, others endure flooding and some endure both. Our story books convey the idea that after the flood, Noah walked out of his ark into a pristine clean and verdant landscape. The reality is that floods leave behind mud, raw sewage, dead animals – and people – broken buildings, uprooted trees, decaying vegetation, disjointed railway bridges , broken roads and bridges, fallen down power line and telephone cables, as well as a complete lack of clean water and functioning sewers. Even in rich countries rebuilding one’s life and one’s community takes time.
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the money depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the flood engulfs me. Psalm 69:1-2
Whilst global warming is certainly a major contribution to the risk of flooding, it is human actions – such as building on flood plains – that exacerbates the situation. Yet human actions can reduce the risks too. Replacing impermeable surfaces such as concrete with grass and gravel, allows water to soak into the ground rather than running direct into the drains. Installing water butts delays the sudden rush of water into the drains. Planting trees slows the flow of water and their roots stabilise the soil. Allowing streams to me@Nader and to form natural dams, slows the flow of water downstream and this slows the build up of flood levels. Beavers can be natural architects of river based flood defences. Recreating water meadows provides space where excess water can be temporarily stored. Ploughing fields along the contours rather than across them is also a way of slowing down and saving rain water.
They are like a tree planted by streams of living water, yielding its fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither and who prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:3
Jumping in puddles, paddling in a stream, swimming in the sea. Whether we are children or adults, water can be fun, exciting and challenging. A place to relax or a place to exercise.
God created us to be able to enjoy leisure activities. God’s laws included the Sabbath as a day to rest from work, and feast days to enjoy food and wine with family and friends. Jesus told the parable of the greedy farmer who because so obsessed with accumulating more and more wealth, that he does before he has time to enjoy his life.
Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small. See the ships sailing along, and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea. Psalm 104:25-26
Water throughout the world is used as a means of healing. Many springs, streams and rivers are considered as holy and/or therapeutic: the spring that rises in the grotto at Lourdes; the spa waters of Bath, Harrogate and Spa itself; the Ganges; the Warm Springs in Georgia, USA. There are various examples in the Bible of water being used to heal people. Naaman was healed in the river Jordan. Jesus smeared mud on the eyes of a blind man and sent him to the Pool of Siloam to wash so that he might be healed.
Hydro therapy is used in the health service for people with injuries that make weight bearing exercise difficult, and as a means of improving blood circulation and aiding treatment of damaged muscles etc. Hydro therapy is also used with animals.
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon, they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come”. Isaiah 35:1-4a
First it was the tea trolley, then the automatic coffee machine, then the water cooler, and now it is the virtual water cooler: the place in the office where people meet and chat, commiserate and congratulate. Before the advent of indoor piped water, it was the well or the pump where people gathered to hear the news and share the gossip. In biblical stories, wells were places where you might meet your future spouse. Wells, oases, watering places were key to the control life. And what about churches? Do they have virtual coffee tables?
Surely God is my salvation ; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:2-3
In hot and dusty climates there is a tradition of washing people’s feet. If you haven’t experienced that, maybe you have experienced the welcome relief of bathing your feet after a long and tiring walk. Feet often get overlooked being so far from the centre of our bodies, or maybe because we find we can longer reach them. Each foot has 26 bone and 33 joints (the total number of bones in our whole body is 206) and are key to our ability to stand and move. They certainly warrant care!
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus chose to kneel and wash the feet of his companions.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, an you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36: 25-26
Water had the ability to be transformed into all manner of different drinks, drinks with different flavours, smells and textures – from a cup of tea to a glass of champagne, a Turkish coffee to a fruit cordial. Jesus turned upward of 500 litres of water into the best wine and in so doing transformed the wedding party! Sometimes we forget that it is God’s desire that we should be happy, that we should experience moments of pure joy. Isaiah 12 talks of God preparing a banquet for us with fine wines and choice meats.
Go, eat you food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Ecclesiastes 9:7
Sadly as much as water can bring joy, it can also be used to cause pain p. Even today we still hear of people using water boarding and similar forms of torture on their fellow human beings. Jesus’s own torture on the cross was accentuated by thirst. And at the same time, we hear of Pilate washing his hands to declare that he would accept no responsibility for what was taking place under his authority.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24
In many faiths and cultures when a person dies, their body is washed prior to burial. It is a way of caring for the person who has died and showing respect. In some ways it recalls the washing of a new born baby before it is wrapped in a shawl.
Holy water may be sprinkled on the coffin at the funeral and at the grave. Many graveyards have stoops of holy water so that visitors may repeat this sprinkling of water as a blessing. It comforts those who mourn, a way of continuing to show one’s love.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.