Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seasons of Creation :Water - (Reading embedded within a sermon)

The theme for today in this the 4th Sunday in the season of creation is River Sunday. In the Lectionary for this Sunday we are given readings with themes that are supposed to match this theme and or carry this theme throughout. So if we had multiple readings you would hear;

Old Testament: Genesis 8:20–22; 9:12–17 ‘God’s promise to Earth’
After the flood God promises that Earth and all of life on Earth will be preserved by God,
in spite of the sins of human beings.

Psalm: Psalm 104:27–33 ‘God’s sustenance of Earth’
The psalm writer celebrates how God sustains all life on Earth through the Spirit and
calls on God to rejoice in God’s own creation. 

Epistle: Revelation 22:1–5 ‘God’s healing for Earth’
When creation is restored, a river will flow directly from God with trees of life growing
on either side to bring healing to all nations on Earth 

Gospel: Matthew 28:1–10 ‘God’s celebration with Earth’ 
The resurrection of Christ is also celebrated by creation. An earthquake accompanies the advent of the angel and the rolling away of the stone.[1]

Since the choices were kind of minimal and not, for me, relevant to water except for the Noah story I choose the story of creation form one Gros ventris tribe. There are stories of the flood from most civilizations from Babylonia the epic of Gilgamesh, to the Irish, from African tribes to American Indian tribes much like the story we share today.

The story I will share is a traditional oral story that all would know and participate in so when you hear and he sang three times i want you to sing Ah Ahh AHHH. when you here he shouted three times i want to hear ou ou youh! and when you hear he stamped his foot stamp your foot!

The Creation of the World

This creation story, of the Gros Ventres Indians, is similar to the origin story of at least two other Algonquin tribes (the Arapahos and the Crees). It is also similar to stories handed down among the Huron and Iroquois tribes of eastern North America and to one related in 1953 by the oldest Chehalis Natives near the Washington coast.

The people before the present people were wild and did not know how to do anything. Because the Creator did not like the way they lived, he thought, "I will make a new world." He had the chief pipe. He went outdoors, hung the pipe on three sticks, and picked up four buffalo chips. He put one under each of the three sticks supporting the pipe, and took the fourth chip for his own seat.

The Creator said to himself, "I will sing three times and shout three times. Then I will kick the earth. There will be heavy rain, and soon, water will cover the earth." So, he sang three times, he shouted three times, and he kicked the earth. The earth cracked and water came out. Then it rained many days and many nights until water was deep over the earth. Because of the buffalo chips, he and the pipe floated. Then the rain stopped. For days he drifted, floating where the wind and water took him. All the animals and birds had drowned except Crow.
Above the Creator, Crow flew around, crying. When it became tired, it cried, "My father, I am tired and I want to rest."Three times Crow said these words. After the third time, the Creator replied, "Alight yourself on the pipe and rest."

At last the Creator became tired from sitting in one position and he cried. For a long time he did not know what to do. 

Then he remembered to unwrap the pipe. It contained all the animals. He took out all those that have a long breath and, thus, are able to dive through water. Large Loon, which he selected first, was not alive, but its body was wrapped up in the pipe. The Creator sang to it and then commanded it to dive and try to bring up some mud. Not half way down, Large Loon lost its breath and turned back. Almost drowned, it reached the place where the Creator sat.

Then the Creator took Small Loon's body from the pipe, unwrapped it, sang, and commanded it to dive for mud. Small Loon nearly reached the bottom before it lost its breath and turned back. It was almost dead when it came back to the surface. 

Then the Creator took Turtle from the pipe, sang until it became alive, and sent it down after some mud.
Meanwhile, Crow flew about, crying for rest. The Creator paid no attention. After a long time, Turtle came up from the water, nearly dead. "Did you reach the mud?" asked the Creator."Yes," answered Turtle. "I had much of it in my feet and along my sides, but it was washed away before I reached you.""Come to me." The Creator looked in the cracks along its sides and in its feet. There he found a little earth, which he scraped into his hand. Then he began to sing. Three times he sang, and three times he shouted.

"I will throw this little dust in my hand into the water," he said. "Little by little, let there be enough to make a strip of land large enough for me."He began to drop it, little by little, opening and closing his hand carefully. When he had finished, there was a small strip of land, big enough for him to sit on. Then the Creator said to Crow, "Come down and rest. I have made a piece of land for myself and for you."

Crow came down and rested, and then flew up again. The Creator took from his pipe two long wing feathers, held one in each hand, and began to sing. Three times he sang, and three times he shouted, "Youh, hou, hou!" Then he spread out his arms, closed his eyes, and said to himself, "Let there be land as far as my eyes can see around me."When he opened his eyes, the water was hone and there was land as far as he could see. He walked over the earth with his pipe and with Crow. When he became thirsty, he did not know what to do to get water. Then he thought, "I will cry." So, he closed his eyes and cried until his tears, dropping on the ground, formed a large spring in front of him. Soon, a stream ran from out of the spring. When the Creator stopped crying, a large river was flowing. In this way he made all the streams.

When he became tired of being alone with Crow and his pipe, he decided to make persons and animals. First, he took earth and made it into the shape of a man. Then he took another piece of earth and made it into the shape of a woman. He molded more figures out of earth until he had created many men and women.

When the Creator thought he had enough people, he made animals of all kinds, in pairs. Then he gave names to the tribes of people and names to all kinds of animals. He sang three times, shouted three times, and kicked the earth. When he had finished, many pairs of living creatures stood before him, persons and animals.
He called the world "Turtle" because Turtle had helped him create it. Then he made bows and arrows, and he taught men how to use them. The pipe, he gave to a tribe called Haa-ninin(Gros Ventres).
He said to the people, "If you are good, there will be no more water and no more fire. Long before the flood came, the world had been burned. Now this is the third life."

Then he showed people the rainbow and said, "This rainbow is the sign that the earth will not be covered with water again. Whenever you have had rain, you will see the rainbow. It will mean that the rain has gone. There will be another world after this one."He told the people to go off in pairs and to find homes for themselves. That is why human beings are scattered.[2]

It is so easy to underestimate the power of water. As a child I loved the water. I learned to swim at an early age. It was at my grandparent’s house, they had a pool in the back yard. Later we had a pool at our home as well. Eventually we moved to a lake. I’ll never forget that feeling of panic when for the first time I wasn’t sure where the bottom was. I couldn’t see it and or reach it suddenly the water that I loved had become threatening and dangerous.

We see stories all the time about how someone who is out surfing, a good, almost professional swimmer, disappears or becomes exhausted due to rip tides. Or the other side of the coin is someone camping in the desert there is a storm in the mountains and suddenly they are swept away by a flash flood.

Then there is the mundane side of the dangers of water. After my trip to the world aids conference I came home to an empty house, bob was at some meeting or event, any way I can hear water running. I checked and double checked everything then finally I shut off the air and the little waterfall we have and I can still hear water running that’s when I notice that the marble tiles are warm near the bathroom. Anyway, hundreds of dollars and a jack hammer later and it was all caused by a hole in a pipe that was no bigger than the size of an eyelet of a shoe.

Of course, there is the practical side of water. Water fills our pools and hot tubs and provides recreation in ponds, lakes and oceans all over. To me, there is nothing as fun to watch than a child playing in a sprinkler or one of those fountains over at universal studios. You know the kind where the water seems to pop out of the cement randomly.

Water provides a thirst quenching and a life giving force. Water is needed for our harvests to be successful and to feed the planet. Water teams with life in our streams and ponds and oceans. According to a blog on NPR: “It turns out, a brand new baby is 75 percent water. We’re born as wet as a fresh potato. Tomatoes are wetter (93.5 percent water). Apples, too, but only slightly (80 percent).”[3] So if I look around this room I can literally see “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”[4]

In Psalm 104 which I read as part of centering prayer Benjamin Stewart reflects upon the water; “What is flowing down from the mountains and skies with such powerful blessings? What is giving life to the diverse creatures named in the Psalms? Is it water? Is it God? The beautiful answer is, of course, Both, Simultaneously.”[5] In water we find both the awesome power of God and the blessing and life giving spirit of God active in this world today.

Just as the flood story is found in many different cultures throughout history so is the sacredness and the ritual of water found throughout many different religions. Really as people the one thing that truly connects us to this planet, to each other, and every living creature is water.

In national Geographic on line I found this short but wonderful extortation to water from Cathy Newman;

“If I were called in / To construct a religion / I should make use of water, wrote the English poet Philip Larkin in 1954—and most religions do.

Waters, religious historian Mircea Eliade explained in the 1950s, are “spring and origin, the reservoir of all the possibilities of existence; they precede every form and support every creation.” So it has been since human history began and, by legend, before. The world, Genesis says, was brought to life by a God who created a “firmament in the midst of the waters.” Babylonians believed in a world made from a commingling of fresh and salt water. Pima Indians have said Mother Earth was impregnated by a drop of water. The cataclysmic flood that destroys a civilization is also an aqueous archetype and part of Hebrew, Greek, and Aztec cultures.

The body thirsts. So does the spirit. “I must live near a lake,” wrote Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who waded into the depths of the psyche and equated water with the unconscious. “Without water, I thought, nobody could live at all.”

From our worldly entrance in a burst of amniotic fluid to the ritual washing of the dead (taharah in Judaism; ghusl al-mayyit in Islam), water flows through our lives, scribing a line between sacred and profane, life and death. We are doused, dunked, dipped, sprinkled—and blessings flow, deep and wide as the River Jordan of Scripture, wondrous as the spring at Lourdes, cathartic as tears.”[6]

We here in southern California can be fickle about our relationship with water. We are highly aware of the drought we have been in and all the ramifications that can mean and so we have become very savvy about water conservation. Yet if it rains more than twice a week, or if it rains so hard it floods then the complaints start. Though I suspect after all these years of drought we won’t be so quick to complain.

Based on a special edition of National Geographic back in 2010 I would like to share a few photos that show many of the ways water is used as celebration and ritual around the world.

All the Photographs are by John Stanemeyer and used in national geographic April 2010 the

Mayans believed natural wells led to the underworld.

in Laos so much water is used in a new years celebration, as it is believed to chase away evil spirits, that the water pressure drops to a trickle.

and of course baptism, as seen here in the Greek Orthodox Church, which can be done from a river to just a sprinkling depending upon the denomination and its traditions.

I would suggest that instead of seeing these flood stories as about an angry God. We should see the renewal and the blessing the water brings. Through water we become a covenanted people, a people renewed in covenant through water and rainbows. People blessed by waterfalls and tear drops. Water is physically a source of life and physically a source of spirit. 

Where I grew up we were never more than a mile away from water in any direction. In the same way we are never far from God in any direction. Whenever and wherever you experience water it is an opportunity to stop and recall how precious it is both physically and spiritually. There is an opportunity to recall Gods covenant to us “And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’”[7]

I think that’s the key. God does not make a promise to the people but it is a covenant between each of us and the earth. If we are covenant with God and God is in covenant to the earth should we not be covenanted to the earth as well? Are we called to care for all as much as God cares for us?

Today let us continue to live the covenant to be a people of creation. Witnesses to the Glory of it all and caretakers of Gods sacred covenant to each other and of all here on earth. Amen.

[1] Norman Habel, Season of creation, (accessed September 4, 2014).

[2] YRDSB Document, The creation of the World, (accessed September 8, 2014).

[3] Robert Krulwich, Born wet, (accessed September 4, 2014).

[4] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in Seven Parts (Philadelphia: H. Altemus, 1889).

[5] Benjamin M. Stewart, A Watered Garden (Minneapolis,MN: augsburg Fortress, 2011).

[6] Cathy Newman, Sacred Waters, (accessed September 8, 2014).

[7] Holy Bible and NIV, God's Covenant with Noah, (accessed September 16, 2014).

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