WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE…
Rev. Kit Ketcham
PUUF, Sept. 10, 2017
Two weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey came roaring into Houston, hell-bent for leather, as they say in Texas, and since then it’s been non-stop awful photos and stories of both heroism and tragedy, as well as jerksomeness. And a lot of filthy, filthy water, not just roaring down the concrete streets but filling up houses and cars and making everything stink of sewage. And now we have Irma and Jose in line to hit landfall or ocean on top of the fires raging across the West and crying out for water.
When we think of water, the true source of life on our planet, we imagine crystalline liquid, or sea water, or huge expanses of river as seen outside our windows. We don’t think of sludgy smelly wastewater. Water is for health, for playtime, for gardens, for beautiful waterfalls, for power. And yet sometimes water is not healthy, not clean, not pretty, but ugly and polluted.
Today we’ve brought water from the events of our recent lives, to pool together in our common vessel. Some of it represents beautiful times, some of it represents hard times.
As we have pooled our waters today, symbolizing the pooling of our lives as a community, let’s stop and think about the drama that has unfolded over the past two weeks: the human kindness and the human selfishness, the heroism and the miserliness, the terror of destruction and the relief of rescue, the despair at losing so much and the miracle of assistance from others.
Let us pledge ourselves every day to be on the side of kindness instead of callousness, on the side of compassion rather than condemnation, on the side of giving rather than grudgefulness.
One of my pet peeves during crises of this kind, when it is happening to “somebody else”, not us, and a friend or a relative or a neighbor happens to opine: “I don’t feel a bit sorry for them---they asked for it by electing politicians who caved in to corporate interests and removed zoning regulations or eliminated protections of the environment in favor of making more money, whose self-interest outweighed the interests of the citizens of Texas.”
I can see where they are coming from and I have some sympathy for that frustrated point of view. But my training as a teacher, as a counselor, as a minister, as a human being who has received a great deal of compassion when I didn’t necessarily deserve it, as a person who has come to understand that as some quipster has put it “we are not here to see through each other, but to see each other through.”
When we fail to understand or even try to understand why people don’t vote or behave the ways we think they should, when we would deny them basic services, or help with reclaiming their lives from disaster, when we begrudge them the mercy of a humane response, then our own humanity is at stake.
We are not here to see through each other, but to see each other through. I have been so heartened in my time in ministry by the enormous generosity of our congregants. Your loving and giving hearts have made life much better for others, whether it was in giving money to a cause, or giving water even to someone who turned out not to be trustworthy, or bringing meals to a busy family slowed down by illness, or providing gifts to a single mom with few resources.
This is what it means to be human, to be humane, to answer the call of love, to be true Americans.
Our friend and my colleague the Rev. Amy Beltaine has written this, which I offer in closing: Amy writes:
Traditionally, congregations in (our) movement celebrate a ceremony of coming back together in September. We call it the "Water Communion" ceremony and we mingle the waters from our summers, and our individual lives, into one container during the worship service.
What is important to me about this ceremony is that it is a reminder that we are all connected in community. It takes all of us to make the sacred water. It takes us coming together with intention to create the community that will sustain us through the year.
Each one of us contributes our part. Each one of us needs to shine our own light. Each one needs to show up in our own way. When we do that, the way is made easier. When we do that, we can clean up a mess like the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, or global climate change, or racism.
Showing up to shine may mean donating dollars. Showing up to shine may mean creating symbolic rituals that inspire others and create community feeling. Showing up to shine may be pulling out a lifeboat and paddling to rescue an exhausted puppy. When we are looking for the helpers, sometimes we are the ones getting helped, and always, we are the helpers. We are the ones we are waiting for. We can rise and shine. We can give all our glory (to one another).