Sunday, September 7, 2014

elemental narraphors... water

Mash ups are songs made by taking take one part of a song, like the vocal track, and adding it to parts of another song to make something new.  The word Narraphor is a mash up. It’s a mash up of words, of metaphor and narrative: word image and story. Narraphors are not new,  Jesus was the master of narraphor, he blended story and metaphor to speak to us. His Parables take everyday images and weave them into a story which we interact with, that opens us to an ongoing reflection, conversation transformation and relationship.

 I’m not a master of narraphor, I’m just learning, in fact this is sort of an experiment...But over the next few weeks I want to invite us to look at the four elements that the mediaeval world though everything was made of… water, earth, air (or wind) and fire and use them as narraphors for our spiritual life. They are actually motifs that run through scripture, they keep popping up, and they carry meaning and significance, and deal with things that are elemental to our life in Christ. They are elemental narraphors… so let’s dive into the first one… which fortunately is water.

We passed out glasses of water this morning and I’m going to invite you to hold it in your hand and look at it.

It’s water…and Water, or H20 is essential for all life. It’s essential for human life, apparently by weight the average human is made up of between 60-65% of water. To remain healthy we need to drink about 2.4 L of water a day that is to simply to replace the water we lose… through respiration, perspiration and in other ways. Water is so abundant in our country that we forget how valuable it is. Futurists predict that by the end of this century major wars will be fought over access to clean water like we have in our hand this morning. Even in our nation the quality of the water in our rivers and our taps and how we are to aid draught prone areas are election issues.

At a very basic level our faith is water based…A good way to explain that is to look at the difference between farming in New Zealand and in the outback of Australia. In New Zealand we tend to use fences to keep our stock where we want them. We manage them by moving them from one paddock to another. In the dryer areas of Australia where farms are bigger fences are not practical. They keep their stock together by using a well, the animals soon learn to stay by the well where there is water, and food and therefore life… if they wander off then… they dehydrate and die.

People sometimes think that Christianity is about fences. Rules and regulations, does and don’t that somehow keep us part of the flock. But our faith comes from a place more like Australia, a desert land; much of the action in scripture takes place round wells and water sources. Both passages we had read out to us today tell us that at the centre of our faith is a reliable source of life giving water, the presence of God with us.

The passage in Ezekiel comes at the end of a series of visions that relate to the restoration of Jerusalem after the exile.  It is a vision of a river. It starts as a trickle from the sanctuary in the temple, where Ezekiel had seen God come back to dwell with his people.  It flows out past the altar into the courtyard, out into the city and the land of Judah. Miraculously that trickle very quickly, in the space of about 2km, becomes a mighty river, that what all the measuring and talk of cubits is about it is supposed to show us the miraculous nature of this river, a river that turns desert into productive land that makes forests grow, that can even flush out the dense salt of the dead sea and make it teem with life. That makes fruit grow and healing possible.

In John on the last day of the festival in Jerusalem Jesus stands up, maybe even at the very place Ezekiel saw that river flowing out of the temple.  And Jesus says “if you are thirsty, come to me and drink, and out of your heart streams of life giving water will flow.” John interprets that as the sending of the Holy Spirit, the means by which we can know God’s presence in our lives. That God no longer dwells in the temple but within us.

I just want to share very quickly this morning some ways that I believe God wants us to connect with these passages with the life giving water of the presence of God.

Each has an action and a reflection.

I want to invite you to have a drink of the water you have with you. To quench your thirst and I want to invite you to drink deeply of the river of the presence of God. When I was growing up and going to youth group about once a month it seemed we'd have a spiel about 'have you had your quite time today?" and it felt like farming with fences... I want rather to encourage you by sharing a little of the life giving water I have found this week.

The image of Ezekiel’s vision of a forest growing along the banks of the river is reminiscent of the metaphor Psalm 1 uses for someone who finds delight and joy in the word of God, they are a tree planted by the waterside. They have put their roots down deep into the word of God to know God. And I just want to encourage you by sharing a way I have found it life giving for me this week.. One of the e100 Essential Jesus readings this week was Mark 4:35-41 Jesus calming the storm… And it spoke to me… I sat down and I wrote all the forces arrayed against me at the moment, things pushing in like they were about to swamp the boat I wrote them in a storm pattern, then in the middle like the calm eye of the storm I wrote psalm 46:10,’ Be still and Know that I am God’ someone had shared with me last Sunday for encouragement. I felt the presence of Jesus with me and as I wrote them down and was able to leave that paper in the prayer room here it felt like their weight had been lifted off my shoulders. They are still raging but I found life in God’s presence with me. I made up a sheet that is in the service sheet today for you to give it a whirl sometime this week.

Drink deeply and you will find that life giving water of the presence of God flow into your life.

 The second thing I want you to do is pour a little water into your hand… Don’t worry if you spill some on the carpet. Then I want you to wash your hands. I’m sorry I don’t have any towels, but can you feel the fresh water on your hands. Can you feel that they are clean.

In Ezekiel’s vision the water flowed on the south side of the altar. It connects this living water with the altar where sacrifices we made by which the people of Israel could acknowledge and ask forgiveness for the things they had done wrong things which were a barrier to them knowing the life giving presence of the holy and righteous God.

In the New Testament it is Jesus who invites us to come and drink of him, Jesus who gave up his own life who by his blood paid the price for what we have done wrong and enables us to come into that life giving relationship with God.  It’s symbolised for us by the waters of baptism that speak of the old being washed away forgiveness, new birth and new life,.  This morning I want you to hear afresh the life giving story of the cross in your life… you are  forgiven…the slate is wiped clean…  you are accepted… you are beloved.

A few months ago a van got stuck in the grass down the driveway by the church. I went round to help get it out. We stuck some boards in front of the back wheels and went round to push and you guessed it I ended up splattered with mud. This morning I felt it was important to acknowledge that the life giving water of Jesus also cleans off the much and dirt that other fling at us. The Dead Sea is the lowest point below sea level on the earth’s surface. Water and salt and minerals flow into the Dead Sea and they have nowhere to go. Because it is hot the water evaporates and leaves the salt and minerals behind and they build up. Over the millennia the Dead Sea has become about 35 % salt and nothing can live there. Ezekiel’s vision sees the life giving water of God’s presence able to transform even that, to be teeming with life so much so that it provides food for other people. God’s living water can bring his cleansing, healing and transformation even to the lowest point, and the most toxic.  

Finally his morning I want you look at the water you have left in your cup.

 In Ezekiel’s vision the end result of the presence of God was not simply a transformed land, but rather one that could provide sustenance and food for other people. It finishes by talking about fruit trees that produced fruit all year round, more than that whose leaves had healing property and this is picked up in the book of Revelation as being leaves that could bring healing to the nations. In the passage we had in John it talked of streams of living water flowing out from us.

AS you contemplate the water you have can I invite you to have as a prayer for the rest of the week how am I going to be bring this life giving water to the people around me at work, at home, at school. Maybe it’s as simple as mark 9:41 giving a glass of water in Christ’s name, a random act of kindness.

One of the critiques I read on how people use the vision in Ezekiel is it can be over spiritualised. And yes we’ve done that… WE can just focus on the inner journey and we can miss the fact that the source of living water in the vision actually has an impact on the environment. It actually brings transformation in the desert. The living water that flows from a restored relationship with Jesus flows out into the whole of creation. I’ve said it often but the Hebrew understanding of peace and wholeness is a matrix of right relationships with God, God’s word, with each other, both Christians and non-Christians, with our possessions with the spiritual realm and with creation. The PCANZ has as its mission statement ‘working with others to make Christ known’ and we talk of expressing that in terms of the five faces of mission and one of those is care of creation. AS you look at that water today can I invite you to think of a way you can in act that this week in a small way in your life to care for creation.

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