What makes water holy? Some believe that words from an ancient ritual in preparation for baptism said by clergy cause water to be holy. Some say that water is holy when it is infused with God’s Spirit. When I wash my hands several times each day to avoid spreading or catching the virus, I am grateful that I have such easy access to water. Water is saving lives every day. Does saving lives make water holy?
Poet Joel McKerrow, in his book, Woven, writes about a holy experience he had in the Murrindindi River, that runs through the backcountry of Victoria, Australia. Joel traveled there sometime after a fire had reduced the entire valley to black ash. McKerrow writes:
I floated in her waters and she told me of the day the fires came. She spoke of how she had been here through it all. As the smoke drifted in on the wind. As the flames crept over the edge of the valley. As the trees raged with fire. As the world around was scorched and burnt and left for dead. She was here in the barren ash of a world that was no more. She carried life deep in her bosom in this place that had been so stripped bare. In her the pain of the earth met its rebirth. 1
On his way to the river, which was not much more than a creek at the time, Joel noticed signs of new life. Green plants rising up out of the ashes. Allowing the waters to rush over his body, the ash he collected on his way to the river was washed away.
McKerrow claims that the river spoke to him that day. Assuring him not just that life would soon return to this valley of ashes, but also to him. The river promised Joel that, like the valley of ashes, the barrenness that he felt would soon be replaced by an assuredness that God is also present in the fire. And that God’s Spirit is present in the water.
Listen to the Holy water that touched your skin and your innermost being at your baptism.
Listen. Listen to the voice of the Spirit. Allow the Holy water to find its way into the depths of your soul. Listen to the promise of renewal. Listen to the birthing pangs of creation, giving birth to new life within you. Listen to the Holy water that touched your skin and your innermost being at your baptism.
This is the living water that Jesus spoke about to the woman at the well in Sychar. This is the Holy water that Jesus spat upon the ground to make mud and heal the man blind since birth. This is the water that the good neighbor shared with the man left beaten to die alone. This is the water that God sang into existence at the beginning of creation.
This is water that washes away a virus. This is the water that washes away the ashes from the fire. This is the water that washes away sin, and regret, and shame. This is Holy water.
This Sunday, we begin Part three of our series, Woven. After three weeks of unraveling from our sculpted selves, we consider what happens when we are woven. When we realize that holiness is also found in the mundane. Holiness is found in the chaotic and in the ordered. It is found in the changing of diapers, and in the goodbyes.
This Sunday, we won’t be together in the same building, waving palm branches in celebration of the time when Jesus rode a donkey into the city to confront injustice and oppression. Nor can I say ancient words over a water container in the anticipation that God will bless the water that we sprinkle on the head of the newly baptized. But we will be together online. This of us who choose to do so.
But before you click on the link that takes you to our webinar. Before you join our live broadcast on Facebook. Before you pick up your phone to call the number that lets you listen in when you don’t have internet or smartphone. Grab some water.
Grab a bottle of water, a glass of water, or a bowl of water. An old mason jar may help connect you to whoever left it for you. You don’t need a lot of water. Just enough to feel it on your skin.
This Sunday, we celebrate baptism. We celebrate that God makes water Holy. We celebrate that God washes away all the dirt and ashes and virus that infects us. The water you choose, whether it is full of nutrients or void of all but hydrogen and oxygen molecules that make it water. It is Holy because God is with us.
If you have never been baptized, I hope that you will plan to join us after this stay-at-home order is rescinded, and it is safe for us to be together in person. If possible, your baptism should be among friends who can hug you after your experience.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him.
For now, imagine the water you feel with your fingers is the same water that flows in the river in Australia, that ushered in a new life after the fire. Imagine that the water you lift up with your fingers is the same water that Jesus felt in the Jordan River. The water that John the Baptizer shared with Jesus as he did the unthinkable. He dared to baptize the Son of God. And the water was Holy. And the moment was Holy.
I invite you to join us this Sunday. We plan to be live via webinar, through Facebook live, or you can call (929) 436-2866 and enter the meeting number — 324 841 204. We go live at 10:30 am. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to info@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Recommended books and citations
1 McKerrow, Joel. Woven: A Faith for the Dissatisfied. Sydney, Australia: Acorn Press, 2019.