In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. ... And God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. Genesis 1: 1-3, 6-7
How do you brush your teeth using only a quarter cup of water? For many of us born into households with running tap water, it seems impossible. However, to millions of people in the world a quarter cup might seem extravagant.
More and more, people are relating the role of sacred water in their faith tradition to the need for clean and secure water in the world.
Most of us live with water abundance. It is available every day for washing, cooking, cleaning, drinking, and for entertainment. Looking closely, we can see that it is intrinsic to all the food we eat, and essential for producing all material goods.
Our tradition teaches us that in the beginning God hovered above the waters. God separated them, then created creatures and humans and blessed it all. We relive this story of creation and abundant life this Lent as we journey along with catechumens who are preparing for their baptism - a rebirth that comes by dying to their old selves and taking on new life commitment. At Easter they will be washed in the waters of God's blessing, and will become newly marked as members of the Body of Christ.
Concern for the waters of creation, like caring for all life, is our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ.
In November of 2002 the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 which declares that the "human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights." Everyone has the right "sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses." The U.N. designated 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action: Water for Life.
Nearly a billion people - one in seven -- do not have access to clean water, making them much more susceptible to disease of all kinds. Coupled with inadequate sanitation, unclean water is the second largest killer of children in the world. When traveling in a country that suffers from water insecurity - because of inability to purify water, drought, political or economic instability -- it becomes clear that clean water is a true gift.
March 22nd is the U.N.'s World Water Day. This year's theme, like this week's Lenten topic, reminds that there is an intrinsic link between water availability and food security, and to consider what we might do to make a difference.
How do we care for God's precious gift of water? The first step is to learn about the issues.
Think about our food. 50 gallons of water is necessary to produce a pound of wheat. Growing a pound of soybeans requires 250 gallons. The "growing" of a pound of beef, however, takes 2500 gallons of water - enough to take a really great shower every day for two and a half weeks!
Food and water availability are closely linked.
Think for a moment also about what we like to drink. America loves carbonated drinks, but do we understand how their production affects us? A well-documented example of destructive corporate practice was a major cola company's plant in Plachimada, India. In order to meet production standards, the company began the unlawful pumping of 1.5 million liters of water a day from the aquifer that villagers relied on for crop irrigation and drinking water. In addition, the company produced waste that so polluted the fields, underground wells and canals, that residents had to walk for miles to get clean water. In 2004 the Plachimadans successfully reclaimed their land and water, forcing the company to close the plant. And while the corporation notes on its website that they have significantly lowered their water footprint in the production of their products (now it takes 2.43 liters of water to create one liter of their cola), they continue to over-tax aquifers in other locations. And this is certainly not an issue for just one corporation-or even just for companies to consider.
We can look at our own "water footprint" and explore our personal choices.
In addition to raising our awareness, and making thoughtful food and drink choices, let us take another personal step in watching our own water use. Have a drink and give thanks. Wash with it and thank God. Water your plants with gratitude. And look up as the sun shines through the falling rain - and see God's covenant with us visible in the rainbow stretched across the sky. Let us choose that covenant with God and care for the gift of water.