“The Spirit of the Lord was moving over the face of the waters…”
from Genesis 1
Holy Water is water that has been sanctified, usually by a priest or some other clergy, for the purposes of baptism, purification, for blessing people, places, things, for warding off evil. In the Catholic and Anglican traditions, making Holy Water is a fairly complicated process, as I understand it, involving the addition of salt to the water, but only holy salt that has first been blessed, as the water must also be blessed with the pronouncement of a series of prayers, psalms, and benedictions, including an exorcism of evil from the water. There are those who believe that once the water has been sanctified, it has healing, regenerative powers, will keep you safe from harm. In some churches there are fonts into which people can dip their fingers into holy water. Some churches even dispense it through spigots for those who bring receptacles from home. One would think that holy water would be the cleanest and purest on the planet, but, in fact, recent tests have shown that holy water, sitting in fonts, day after day, with countless fingers dipping into it, is rife with strep and staph and even e-coli, a potential source of infection, so much so, that during flu season some churches keep their fonts dry.
The last time Max went to the Holy Land he brought back a whole bottle of water from the Jordan River, the same river in which Jesus was baptized, water which we have mingled with our Rayne Water in baptismal font. Does that make the water in our font any more holy? Or does it actually inject germs? I recently used the last drop, (time to go back, Max, to the Holy Land for Holy Water!). Actually, I have a much easier recipe for Holy Water, so easy anyone can make it: take a pot, fill it with ordinary fresh tap water, put it on the stove, bring it to a boil, a high rolling boil, let it boil, a high rolling boil, yessir a high rolling boil until you boil the hell out of it! Voilá! holy water! Or here, as we call it, Rayne Water, the best water I know!
But there are those of us who believe that all water is holy water. That WE don’t make it holy, we cannot possibly make it holier than it already is, because it IS holy is the reason it is such a powerful symbol of life and new life. Without it there is no life, no new life. Perhaps you saw the quote I included in our newsletter this week by Dr. Larry Rasmussen of Union Theological Seminary: “I don’t know what tallies as sacred for you, but if water doesn’t qualify, you should check your pulse to see whether you are among the quick or the dead.” You can be sure that nobody in California right now has to check their pulse. For the whole state is suffering from a record drought. Water is being rationed, crops are dying, orchards devastated, and I bet there is not a person there who does not believe that every drop of water is sacred.
I remember going on a mission trip to Reynosa, Mexico just over the Texas border, to a settlement of impoverished people who lived on a landfill with no plumbing, no utilities. As far as the eye could see to the edge of the horizon there were shacks made of trash—cardboard, boxes, sheet metal, garbage. We were there when the water truck arrived to fill the blue barrels that were scattered across the landfill, water that would have to be sufficient for drinking, cooking, washing, brushing, bathing. When that truck arrived, all the people ran out to meet it as if it were the Coming of Christ. You don’t have to tell any of them that every drop of water is sacred.
Both science and scripture agree that there is no life on earth without it. It is the cradle of all existence on our watery blue planet. Remember in The Hunger Games the life-saving advice Haymitch gives to Catniss and Peeta: When the games begin, first priority, he says, don’t compete for the weapons or for the supplies. “You run! Go find water! Stay alive!” It’s the only way.
We don’t think about that much, blessed as we are in South Louisiana with sometimes too much water. But is the water rising up all around us, invading our swamps, diminishing our coastline, is it fresh, is it clean, is it safe? Did you know that while nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 1 percent is freshwater, and most of that is trapped glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only 7 thousandths of a percent of the planet’s water is available to its 6.8 billion people. And this is a finite amount, the same amount of fresh water we had on earth when dinosaurs roamed, is the water that has continually recycled through the atmosphere and back into our cups and bottles and sinks and tubs. But the number of people–and now corporations–competing for that finite, 7 thousandths of a percent of water, has intensified with each passing year.
By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions. Already, more than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. This water and sanitation crisis claims more lives than war or guns, competition for water leads to war and gun. I read that lack of access to clean water kills children by disease at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.
In Africa and Asia women will walk an average of 3 miles to secure clean water for their families, IF they can find a source of clean water. And yet, an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country uses for an entire day. At the very least, let us all vow to take shorter showers! 1 song showers!
You may think that this is a distant problem affecting only people in faraway places. But do you know that within 45 years, it may very well be that a gallon of water will cost more than a gallon of gas? The Baptists may have to start sprinkling! And yet, when I pick up trash outside our church every single day, there is almost always at least one of those ubiquitous plastic water bottles discarded on the ground, and always with still in it–a triple travesty! (1) it’s littering (2) it’s pollution–could have been recycled, and (3) it is wasted water, precious water. What could a woman in Asia or Africa would do to have that little bit of fresh, clean water! And the tragic irony is that it takes nearly 2 gallons of water to manufacture the plastic for the bottle in which the wasted water is contained!
I call that sacrilegious! For, don’t you see that all water is Holy Water! The very first verses of the whole Bible tells us about “The Spirit of God was moving over the face the waters bringing forth swarms of all sorts of living creatures.” And the Spirit of God still moves over the waters, still brings forth life and new life, calling us to bless, to hallow, to revere, to cherish this sacred gift and never, never, never waste it or take it for granted.
So the next time you
run water to brush your teeth or water your plants
to wash your dishes, to make your supper,
or step into the shower, stand under its cleansing spray,
dive into a pool, wade into a creek, dip a paddle or cast a fly into a lake,
or buy a plastic bottle of drinking water,
or have a waiter bring you a tall glass of water with lemon,
will you drink it, or will it be wasted?
The next time you pull on a pair of jeans that took 1800 gallons of water to produce,
or pull on a cotton shirt that took 400 gallons of water to make,
or bite into a hamburger that took 630 gallons of water to produce;
The next time you watch the rain fall softly on the grass,
or shed a tear, or contemplate the 70% of water coursing through your own
giving you life and new life
then ponder the sacredness of this precious gift,
and give thanks to God for water.