On Sunday morning I worshipped with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew and the ELCA church they belong to in Valparaiso, Indiana. The pastor explained that since it’s Easter season, our service would begin with a thanksgiving for baptism, and that began with giving thanks for water:
Water! Water! We praise you, O God, for water—
the rain that nourishes animals and plants,
water for drinking and bathing.
We praise you, O God, for water.
The exclamation points after the first two “Waters” got my attention. At this moment in my life, they seemed more than a way to remind the congregation to speak with enthusiasm.
Cape Town, South Africa is facing a severe drought. Because of conservation efforts, they have been able to postpone Day Zero, the day they will run out of water, from this month, to May, then to July, and, if current consumption levels continue and they get some rain, to 2019. People have been restricted to 13 gallons of water per person per day, which didn’t sound too difficult until I read a report that the average American uses 60 gallons of water per day. I’ve read that hotels have signage reminding guests to limit showers to 90 seconds. I’ve also read that in reality Day Zero has already arrived for the poor of Cape Town. Experts say that although conservation efforts are extremely important, they won’t solve the problem long term. And yes, the problem won’t stay limited to Cape Town. Water shortage will become a problem soon elsewhere, including the Eastern Cape where we will be living.
So Water! Water! has been on my mind.
On Saturday, my dear friend treated me to a day at a Korean spa in Chicago. One of the features of the spa was a series of soaking pools, of progressively hotter temperatures, followed by a refreshingly (okay, bracingly) cold pool. Before entering the pools, and after spa treatments and use of the steam room, people are required to shower at the long row of showers with wonderfully strong water pressure and beautifully scented soap and shampoo. No time limits. They even provide toothbrushes and paste for use in the showers so every inch of you can feel cleansed and refreshed. Safe to say, in the course of our day, I used way more than the American average.
As we were making our way from one soothing pool to the next, my first thought was, This is fantastic! Why aren’t these spas everywhere? My second thought was how luxuriant is abundant water, and what a blessing. Water to bathe in, soak in; water that cleanses, water that refreshes. We praise you, O God, for water.
What a luxury not to count the seconds until the water turns off or the days until it runs out. And what an important event it may be in my life to move to a place that makes me aware in a new way of the preciousness of water.
In Easter we celebrate new life, baptismal life. We celebrate that in the waters of baptism we were united with Christ in his death and resurrection. We renew our baptismal covenant in which we rehearse our faith and promise, with God’s help, to live our faith by seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, by respecting the dignity of every human being. We are reminded we are part of a “we” with all humanity deeply loved by God, as well as an individual “I” given gifts for service and the responsibility of caring for others and all creation.
Thank God that a trickle of water is enough with which to baptize. Thank God that the grace bestowed in baptism is as abundant as pools of refreshing water that never run dry. Thank God that the cleansing that happens in baptism brings us new life that lasts. Thank God that passing through the waters of baptism unite us to the one who is Living Water and calls us to serve and care for neighbors near and far.
Jesus tells his disciples that anyone whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple will not lose their reward (Matthew 10:42). I suspect this promise will mean more and more to me in the days to come.