“You could be the water…you could be the water…”
You know, when that poem found its way to me about a year ago, I did not feel like the water. It was actually around this very time last September–the beginning of the church year. Didn’t we all think back in March 2020 that surely we would be able to gather come September? It was also the beginning of the school year–surely, surely, this thing isn’t going to last more than a few months we told ourselves in April…And there we all were sitting in front of our screens again with very little hope in sight. As a parent , this time last year was…heartbreak. I know I am not alone here. And one need not be a parent–one need only qualify as human, to know the heartbreak I am speaking of here. Let us not forget what else was in the ether last year: the death of George Floyd, climate crisis, the election–oh God the election–loved ones dying, fear of one another, fear of touching, economic terror–will I have enough?–my kids are not okay. I am not okay. We are not okay.
No, I didn’t feel like the water. I felt like the tired ground; the scorched seed–exhausted and parched. I sense you get this. And I was sharing this with a dear colleague of mine one day and she said, we have to trust that there is water in the well. That there are unseen, unimagined reserves deep within.
And she’s right.
Wells very purpose are to draw from these unseen deep reserves. I am particularly drawn to wells dug in lands that are devoid of any sign of water: deserts, for example. Cracked earth or sprawling sand dunes which conceal cool, thirst-quenching waters below. How utterly unexpected.
This feels comforting. This comforting today.
But what happens when the water really does dry up? When we become the scorched seed? Because that is real, right? While we are not where we were last year, we are still not okay. And this might sound like an awfully dreary way to begin our time together, these were not the words I had planned to first offer you, and this is the raw and real truth that we are living with right now. And that matters. That matters here.
We are bound up together in this. This feels comforting too. Not unlike a deep well beneath a desert floor. I sense this is because it reminds us that we are not alone. And I want you to know I see you. I am with you. That we see you and we are with you. Hear that.
The thing about wells is that they are dug in community, they are tended to in community, and they are drawn from in community. When one thirsts, we pull up more water. When one is quenched and thriving, we tend to the well–because we can. And so those Mamuse words could not be more timely, the words Lauren so beautifully taught us and sung to us: it is time to lead ourselves back to the well. And this has much to do with first acknowledging that we are parched and trusting that there is a reserve of well-water and well-tenders waiting for you. You need only ask. Our month’s theme is possibility and I can’t think of a better symbol for it than a well dug in desert lands.
The spiritual life is one of searching for wells in dry lands, asking for directions, filling them and drinking from them, sharing them–Believing in their possibility even in the most dreary of days. That is what I call FAITH. And what else are we doing here, in this community, but building and tending to this our sacred, life-giving well? And calling people to it: come, come drink from it, there is plenty here. I mean, isn’t that what church is for? Isn’t that what the bigness of church is? I think so.
I can’t think of a better way to begin this our year together, set against the real and raw backdrop of we are not okay, but to Ingather water–a Water Communion ritual. Why do we do this? Because in this ritual we are the water. The water represents each of us, exactly as we are today. Water that holds the memory of places we love, that holds the longing for places we couldn’t get to. Water that holds our joys, our sorrows, our gifts, our needs. Water that holds our story. Water that holds The pain of oppression, water that holds the hope of reconciliation. The raw and the real. This glass bowl on the altar, this symbolic well we are creating today, holds it all. And we begin our church year like this because this is what we need to stay tethered to in the days ahead–you and we and the peoples of this world in all our wild audacity, as Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes. You are welcome and wanted here just as you are.
I am going to ask some of our worship leaders to come up here to our Water Communion Bowl with their water. If you have some water at the ready, pick it up now and take off the lid if there is one. If you don’t have any water with you, you can either go get some now out of your faucet–put it in a cup, or not. You can still be a part of this ritual–please do what feels right for you today.
Take a moment now to consider the healing, transformative, thirst quenching strength of water. Know that the water you hold or imagine holding offers this. It has been drawn up from deep and healing places on this Earth, far beyond our sight or imagination. It bears Spirit and Mystery. Ancient memory. And it is a part of you, as you are a part of it. You might want to place your fingers in your water if you want. Take that in: it is a part of you, and you are a part of it. And I want you to take a moment and consider what you would like to impart to it. What you would like it to carry that is yours. It could be a hope. A joy. It could be hopeless-ness. A grief. Let the water share in it; share in who you are and how you are today. For it wants to. For those of you who don’t have physical water in front of you, just let the deep, unseen water beneath you and around you share in who you are today. Let this tender sharing be the blessing we give this water today. For it is. Just take that in for a moment.
I will now ask our worship leaders to pour their water into the bowl knowing that it will co-mingle with each of those who add to it, blessing begetting blessing, soul begetting soul. Becoming Us.
And this water will be collected for as long as it takes for everyone to add to it. So please save your water, go collect water and share what was on your heart with it. This bowl will make a home here in the sanctuary. We will ingather all year if we have to. If you are able to come to today’s outdoor time of fellowship after church, it will be in the memorial garden. Waiting for you. As it will every Sunday.
And when we celebrate new life we will use it in ritual. And when we are there to usher life out, we will use it in ritual. And when you need it, you can draw from it. And when you need it, you can draw from it. This is a place of deep reserves. Know that.
And now, let us receive the blessing that is music, sing along with our beautiful choir as they call us home to this our well by singing, O come, you longing thirsty souls, Hymn # 209 drink freely from the spring…
Amen Dear Ones and Blessed Be.
Reverend Sophia Lyons
Rev. Sophia is committed to radical welcome and spreading the good news that is our bold Unitarian Universalist faith. Some of her areas of interest include interfaith partnerships, addictions ministry, spiritual direction, and working towards collective liberation for all. Rev. Sophia aspires to live her life and fulfill her ministry guided by spiritual seeking, big love, and the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism.