Water water everywhere…..but not a drop to drink

3 01 2011

DAY THREE : Genesis 4 v. 17 – 6 v. 22; Matthew 2 v. 19 – 3 v. 17; Psalm 3

These readings contain, amongst other things, an introduction to Noah and the flood, an insight into John the Baptist, and Jesus’ s baptism. WATERY texts.
Yesterday, at LMC (Leyland Methodist Church), we celebrated the baptism of Amelie Wood, and heard these words :

“Gracious God, we thank You for Your gifts of water and the Holy Spirit, for Your sustaining, cleansing and life-giving power.
From the beginning Your grace has been made known through water and the Spirit.
Your Spirit moved over the waters at creation and You led Your people to freedom through a parted sea.
In the fulness of time You sent Jesus – He was baptized in the waters of the Jordan and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
He passed through the deep waters of death and lives for evermore.
He offers living water, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

I can’t fail to miss all the imagery here of cleansing, renewing, life-giving water.

AND YET all this water-talk readily brings to mind the terrible flooding in Australia at present (and the apparent increase in extreme weather conditions across the planet), the lack of running water in Northern Ireland and other places. Indeed, on our recce trip to the Holy Land last October the deep concern about water levels (in the Jordan and other regions) was highlighted over and over again. Makes me want to treasure and conserve water here, and support organisations like WaterAid etc…, and to pray with those experiencing the extremes of flooding or drought. What a precious resource water is. Today I pause to appreciate the power and beauty of water.

So, what did I note from today’s readings :

1. DESCRIPTIONS OF GOD-SEEKERS – in the list of Adam and Eve’s descendants, where people’s only claims to fame appear to be the name of their firstborn child, the impressive age they achieved, and their fathering “other sons and daughters”, two phrases stood out for me :
Gen 4 v. 26 : “At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord” and
Gen 5 v. 22, 24 : “Enoch walked with God….”.
Indeed when we get to the introduction of Noah in Gen 6, he is described similarly : “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”
What a wonderful phrase….walking with God. Another image is in my mind. On Boxing Day just gone, I was reminded of the story of Good King (Saint) Wenceslas as we sang the carol ‘on the feast of Stephen’. As they walk barefoot in the snow (ouch), Wenceslas encourages his page-servant to walk just behind him, in his steps, to benefit from the warmth of his master’s footprints. And yesterday, at the close of our Covenant Service, we sang “O let me see thy footmarks, and in them plant mine own. My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone” (from “O Jesus I have promised”).
MAY WE WALK WITH GOD today and everyday, in the footsteps of the Master.

2. THE FIRST COVENANT – Covenant is a very precious word to us, not least as Methodists take on the Covenant Prayer in these early days of 2011. Today we read of the first covenant, made with Noah. Notice it’s always God’s initiative (“I will do this for you….”). God’s heart is filled with pain and He is grieved that He had made humans. I’m sure there’ll be more to say about the covenant in tomorrows readings / post. God desires a covenant-relationship with His people, a relationship build on faith, hope and love. What trust Noah had in his walk with God, that he would construct such an ark, facing the mockery and scorn of others, because of a word of promise from God.

3. NAZARETH – being reminded of Jesus’s growing up years in Nazareth, I find myself reminiscing about our visit last October, to the towns around Galilee (a real highpoint of the visit), and a walk through modern-day Nazareth, it’s tight bustling market, the synagogue Jesus would have frequently visited, and the site of 2,000 year old homes excavated, in the neighbourhood where Jesus grew up. Amazing feelings (have you considered joining us on an amazing Bible Experience in November this year – more details on the Biblefresh website).

4. BAPTISM – As God grants Noah (and the whole planet) a new start, as if washing the world clean, so baptism symbolises cleansing and a new start (the image of a dove in both the ark story and in Jesus’s baptism is worthy of note, symbolising the Holy Spirit and peace). Although John’s baptism is a ritual cleansing marking repentance and forgiveness, the Baptizer points to Jesus’s coming heralding a baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

5. GOD AS SHIELD – In Psalm 3, when David is fleeing for His life, feeling under attack from all sides, he sings out to God, “You are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head……from the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.” Noah and John knew something of God’s deliverance and protection, and in His baptism, Jesus identifies Himself with us, and is yet proclaimed as God’s “beloved Son, with Him I am well pleased”.

My re-created thoughts :

“I am no longer my own, but Yours, Lord….”
Not my will but Yours – walking and talking with God
Not my way but Yours – my footsteps planted in the Master’s
And if, today, I glimpse a dove,
remind me of Your perfect love,
the promise of new life, a new world,
and the beauty of my baptism – another life renewed
mine yielded to Yours,
a divine exchange.
In the free-flying path of the dove, may I perceive again Your word, O Lord:
“You are my beloved – I delight in you”.
Water to my thirsty soul.
Water of life.