Water and Creation
“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.” (BCP, page 306)
Many of us get a chance during the summer to spend some time near a body of water. The Gulf of Mexico, Perdido Bay, Lake Jordan, Lake Martin, the Alabama River, the Atlantic Ocean are some favorites. Some enjoy pools or ponds or lakes at their homes. There’s something peaceful, relaxing, and invigorating about sitting and looking at water.
As peaceful as water is, it is also dangerous. Years ago I was swimming in the Atlantic when a storm cropped up. At first the increased height of the waves was really fun but then the wind swept me a couple hundred yards down the beach and the current was too strong for me to swim against. I had to get on the beach and walk back but the driving rain beating against my bare skin felt like needles. I made it back to the house but ever since have been leery of storms at the beach.
The first creation narrative in Genesis speaks of the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. The account seems to suggest both that we are brought forth from water and that the Spirit of God must tame the waters in order for us to be created. When we are born our bodies consist of over 70% water. In our adult years that percentage is about 60%. Throughout our lives water makes up most of our physical nature. Dehydration is a common and life-threatening condition for humans. We are made of water. We require water for life. Water can kill us. Water can save us.
Maybe one reason we are uplifted and awed by water is that it reminds us of where we come from and what we most require. Perhaps as we watch water our unconscious takes over and we know something more about the very God who made us and sustains us.
To know that we are created, that we did not make ourselves, is to acknowledge that the creator has power over us. That which creates could destroy. That which creates could have chosen not to create. As people of faith we do not live with God’s power looming over us in threatening fashion. But as people of faith we do understand that creation is all God’s choice. Just as my spouse’s love for me is totally her choice, nothing that I cause or earn, God’s creative act is all up to God.
One reason we are sustained so by observing a body of water may indeed be because our unconscious knows we are in the very presence of God. The power of God to love and create simply because God chooses to do so is something that is expressed to us routinely in peaceful and merciful ways. God doesn’t threaten to destroy us but we all live with some sense of what it would be like if God were to withdraw creative love from the world. Just as infants are dependent upon their parents for life, so are we dependent on God’s creative love.
God creates, God redeems, God sustains us. The act of creation is an eternal act of God’s love for us and all of life. Appreciation of that gift is the ultimate form of worship.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.