Welcome to our service today – whether you are a regular member of All Saints or whether this is your first visit to virtual church, I hope that during the service you will come closer to God and learn more about His amazing world and the life-giving water that He provides.
But let us start our service with the collect for today, the third Sunday of Easter.
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever
Today we continue our environment series, based on the Lent Book for 2020 by Ruth Valerio “Saying Yes to Life” and will be looking at the topic of water.
Water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible– more than prayer, faith and worship and, if you’ll forgive the pun, flows from the very beginning of the Bible, as we saw in one of our readings this morning, to the very end chapter of Revelation. Water is essential in its physical sense for all living things to survive. However as believers, water also has a metaphorical meaning and the ‘living water’ is essential for our spiritual lives.
Water is so important for life that God created it before he made the plants and the flowers, the animals and humankind. Over 70% of our planet’s surface is water. In fact maybe our planet should have been called Water rather than Earth as there is a lot more sea and water than land. And of that 70%, 97% is salt water. I’m sure many of you will recall the lines from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (sic) which states “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”. Only three percent of the water on our planet is fresh but 2% is locked in glaciers, primarily in Antarctica. That leaves 1% for the growing population of the world to survive on – whether it comes from rivers, reservoirs, wells or aquifers.
Water has an important symbolic importance in the Bible. Valerio points out that “it was written by people who were intensely aware of how precious water was and the ever-present threat of it running out” The theme of water, and thankfulness for God’s provision of it, pervades many of the Psalms – take a look at Psalm 65 for example. Miraculous provision is seen in Genesis 21 when Hagar’s water has run out and God shows her a well. In Ezekiel 47 he speaks of the vision he saw of the river of God coming up from the Temple and increasing all the way to the sea. In both Old and New Testaments water is mentioned again and again.
Water symbolises healing and renewal. As we read in the story of the Samaritan woman, Jesus, the source of living water, extends an open invitation to everyone who thirsts after it. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).
However this symbolism of healing and renewal is seen most profoundly in the act of baptism. In Ezekiel 36 it states “I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” We first meet the adult Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan and for all believers the act of baptism is an outward symbol of inward renewal, turning to Christ and restoration of the broken relationship with God – a new creation as St Paul referred to it in 2 Corinthians.
So water is an amazing gift – it has immense life giving properties. And yet there are problems which are of our making. Rather than bombard you with figures, please take a look at this video produced by National Geographic ‘Water – our thirsty world’. Although as an American company some of the figures quoted relate to the USA, the content is pertinent to our own ways of using water.
“There are perceptions that water is there in bountiful amounts and everyone has access to it because you can turn on a tap and that’s a big problem”.(Amina Mohammed – Deputy Secretary General of the UN). It is also a misconception, particularly in the West where access to fresh water is assumed. In 1875 the UK government passed the Public Health Act which obliged local authorities to provide clean water, dispose of all sewage and refuse, and ensure that only safe food was sold. It gave them the power to ensure that homes were connected to the main sewerage system. The Act forbade the building of new homes without such connection. Nearly 150 years later we take this for granted – and simply moan about the level of the water rates we need to pay. And yet do we under value the provision of fresh, clean water and good sanitation. Maybe if we had to fetch and carry it every day we might look at it with fresh eyes.
Currently 1 in 6 people in the world have no easy access to fresh water. Climate change (where some areas will have too much and some too little water) and population growth means that demand for the limited supply of fresh water will increase. As recently as 2018 Cape Town faced what was called Day Zero – the possibility of being the first major capital city to have to completely cut off its piped water supply as an extended drought had reduced the levels of the five reservoirs in the surrounding hills to 13%. Kofi Annan, said in 2001, “Fierce competition for fresh water may well become a source of conflict and wars in the future”
Lack of water is a major issue in a warming world – and parts of the world will become drier with huge impacts on agriculture and access to clean drinking water. In some parts of the world, such as the US and France, decreases in the amount of snowfall means that meltwaters are not filling rivers and reservoirs. And yet, the other effect of climate change as we have seen is that the warming atmosphere and increased sea temperatures result in rising sea levels and changes to weather patterns so that coastal and inland flooding increases. In parts of Bangladesh for example families have had to relocate two or three times as the sea invades. Hurricanes appear to be coming more powerful and more frequent leaving in their wake personal disaster and financial catastrophe. Glacial coverage is decreasing. But we cannot think that we are immune to it. Even though we have a reputation for being a notoriously rainy country, in March 2019 Sir James Bevan, the CEO of the Environment Agency, predicted that within 25 years there would be an insufficient supply of fresh water. This at the same time as modelling shows an increase in sea levels affecting our coastal regions and major cities.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the potential disaster facing the earth due to the activity of human beings. For over thirty years scientists have been warning about climate change and there is no doubt that the situation is serious. But there are two key things to bear in mind: firstly God is still in charge and God has given humankind an immense ability to use (and yes, abuse) the natural world but to also protect, preserve and restore it. Secondly things can change – with the collective support of governments in terms of legislation and investment and by the actions of individuals. A case in point is the successful clean up of the Rivers Don and Rother. There is a record of the Don in the 1970s on fire because of the level of oil and pollutants in it. The Rother was considered the most polluted river in Europe. Now both rivers have salmon swimming in them. An action committee pursued all polluters along the rivers’ course and took them to court, using the legislation that had come into force.
Now you may say that you are too unimportant to make a difference, – that it is the big polluters who need to change their practices – or that the problems exist in other countries and we can’t do much. However, we need to continue to pressure for change and do what we can not only in the use of our water and protection of eco-systems in the UK but to support countries who need financial and practical support. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Everyone can do something – and is able to start somewhere. As a church we have supported the provision of a well in Kenya and as individuals there are organisations we can support and small changes we can make – and some of these are given in the Response and Resources sections below.
As people of faith we are called upon not just to say what we believe but to live it out. And part of that is to care for the world that our God created. We need to cherish and give thanks for God’s life giving, life enhancing gift of water and do what we can to protect and share it. We do literally need to live in a way that doesn’t cost the earth.
What does the term ‘Living Water’ mean to you?
What ways could you think of to reduce/reuse this precious commodity? Here are some suggestions:
- Preserve drinking water for drinking and cooking and use other sources for toilets and gardens.
- Re-use shower water (grey water) for gardens and flushing toilets.
- Have shorter showers, not have baths, not leave the tap running
- Fix any dripping taps – a leaky tap that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year
- Reduce the number of new clothes you buy – each pair of jeans is estimated to cost 8,000 litres of water in their production
- Reduce water pollution by becoming more aware of what we are flushing down our toilets and sinks. Look in your kitchen and bathroom – is there one thing from each you could switch to a product that does not contain harmful chemicals?
This week think about your use of water. Every time you turn on a tap, have a shower, flush the toilet or put a load of washing on, think about God’s wonderful provision, pray for those who do not have the same access and look for ways you can be a better custodian of this amazing resource.
If you wish to explore this issue further there are numerous websites and videos available but you may find the following particularly helpful.
Netflix programme on the World’s Water Crisis
Interview with the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makboga, on his experience when the city of 4 million people ran dry due to drought and his favourite Biblical verse about water
A Rocha UK (ARUK) is a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world and committed to equipping Christians and churches in the UK to care for the environment
Supporting the provision of toilets and clean water
Tear Fund’s approach to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH)
Prayers of Intercession
A prayer for creation
Father, we pray for your creation
You gave us responsibility for all that you have made.
You entrusted every living creature into our care.
But we have betrayed that trust
and neglected our responsibility.
We have allowed your good earth
to become polluted by our greed,
damaged by our selfishness
and sucked dry by our materialism.
Father, by your Holy Spirit, give us a renewed urgency
To fulfil the task you laid upon us
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Father, we pray for governments around the world,
for those whose decisions
will affect the whole of your creation;
for those who ignore the implications for future generations
of the decisions they are making today;
for the leaders of nations
who are genuinely seeking to behave responsibly,
to act justly and to be faithful stewards of your creation.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Father, we pray for those who look at your creation
But do not see you;
for those who can marvel at the wonders of your world,
but never lift their hearts to worship its Maker;
for those for whom life is no more than the things
that they can see or hear or touch;
and for those whose lives are so dominated by material things
and by the pleasures of the moment
that they are leaving no space for the things of heaven
or the Lord of eternity.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Father, we pray for ourselves.
We are your creation.
We acknowledge that we are wonderfully made.
We are capable of amazing acts of kindness,
love and understanding.
Yet we also know our need of your healing,
forgiving, transforming grace.
We ask you to touch our hearts with your love,
our lives with your grace
and our lips with your truth.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
David Clowes, 2003
A prayer for water
It is exciting to know that You are the very source of life – including water.
We praise and adore you for the gift of water that sustains all life and constantly reminds us that You are the fountain of loving water.
Teach us to use it thankfully, to consume it consciously, and to protect its purity.
Father, forgive us for the times we took it for granted. We confess our attitudes of greed, dominance and insensitivity towards your beautiful creation, and particularly toward water.
Lord, forgive us for the times we have used water selfishly, unwisely and without regard for how it affects others. Forgive us for the actions we have taken to harm the different sources of water around us.
Help us to see the effects of our actions not only on our immediate surroundings but also on people living in places plagued by drought. Help us to be conscious of our daily use of water; help us to be more willing to reflect on its symbolic nature and the lessons it teaches about You and Your sustaining power.
Please guide us on how to protect the water bodies you made for your glory.
Prayer by Fwangmun Oscar Danladi
From ‘Saying Yes to Life’ by Ruth Valerio, London, SPCK 2020
A Celtic Blessing
The Spirit of God be upon you.
The Spirit of God strengthen you.
The Spirit of God guide you.
The Spirit of God protect you.
The Spirit of God enlighten you.
The Spirit of God fill you –
Today, and evermore.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”