Water of Life.

November 3, 2009

Notes for an address at Harvest Family Service 09

Readings: Exodus 2, 15b-21, John 4, 5-15

Can you tell me all the ways you can think of that you use water at home? What have you used water to do already today? What might you use water for later on?


Any other ways you use water?


Some of you may have used water this summer to grow your sunflower from the seed I gave you in June. Anyone brought sunflower back? Reward – bottle of clean water.


We can see water extremely important to us.


Was as important, if not more so, to the people who wrote our Bible.


If we run out of something – can go to the shops and get it. But people in Bible times grew their own food, raised animals for food and milk, not as pets. If could not get water they needed because rains failed or rivers and wells ran dry – no shops to provide. Crops wouldn’t grow so went hungry – and no seeds to plant for next year’s crop, so went on being hungry. If could not get water, animals died, so no food and no wealth. If could not get water – they died.


Our Bible readings show how important water was to people of Bible times. Jethro’s daughters could not water their animals if others opposed them. Jesus was thirsty – no shop to buy bottled water; had to ask woman to help him.


Water so important to people who wrote Bible that it became a symbol for abundant life. In one of the stories written about the creation that we find in Genesis, they imagined the perfect world in the beginning of time – and one story described a garden with a river running through it. (Gen 2.10) And when they imagined the perfect world there would be at the end of time, again they imagined a river, this time flowing out of the throne of God and flowing through the heavenly city of New Jerusalem. (Rev 22,1) Because water was so essential to life, that river was called ‘the water of life’ and in our second reading, that is what Jesus says he gives us – everything that is essential for living a rich, holy and fulfilled life.  Because water was so essential to life, the first Christians chose water to be the symbol of the new and eternal life that is promised to us through baptism.


If we want some water, we turn on a tap. Or we go down the road, and buy some bottled water from the supermarket. We can all afford to do that, and there is a plentiful supply of clean water.  And to water our gardens, we can collect water in water butts, because we live in a country where, most of the time, it rains a lot. But for many people in the world, life is not as easy as that.


I wonder what you would feel like if you had to carry all the water  you use from somewhere a long way away from your home. Average consumption of water in the UK is 150 litres per person per day. Can two small people volunteer to go and fetch water bottle from back of church. This is 5 litres. Was it heavy. You carried it a short way. How would you feel if you had to walk to the Harlequin Centre and back with it. What if you had to go to St Albans? And what if you had to do that ten times in a day. Think how many hours it would take you.


And what if it wasn’t along a road, with pavements and people and safe places to cross. What if it was along rough ground, through lonely places, where there might be wild animals or people who might want to hurt you?

What if there was nowhere to eat or drink on the way. What if the need to collect water meant you had no time to play or go to school?


And what if when you got there, the water was not clean and safe to drink, but was muddy and polluted by the droppings of animals?  What if it made you ill when you drank it?

The water we get from our taps is clean, safe, reliable, always there. We don’t have to spend long hours collecting it, and we don’t get ill when we drink it. We are so lucky. It really is ‘Water of Life’ for us.


The Bishop of St Albans has asked us to think about how lucky we are this Harvest time, and to give lots of money to help those people in some parts of Africa who don’t have access to clean water. In a little while you will hear the stories of two people who have been helped by Water Action, one of the many charities that is helping people in Ethiopia to have enough clean safe water to drink, to wash and to water their animals and irrigate their crops.  You can see pictures of some of those people on the leaflets you have been given and the posters around the church.


Clean water is only the beginning. It leads on to improved health, security, education and work prospects.


When we have heard those stories we will pray that God will help us to give as generously as possible to the appeal.


Jesus gives us Water of Life through our faith. And he expects that living water to flow through us to transform lives as ours have been transformed through him. We have the great privilege of sharing God’s work  to transform other people’s lives so that they are are as rich and healthy as ours. We pray that  many of the people we are thinking about will have Water for Life as well as the water of life after our service today.


Through Jesus Christ our Lord





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