We were in Durban last week on the day that the coastal city experienced the edge of Cyclone Irina. We drove down in the morning and found our normal route through the city blocked due to flooding. A taxi trying to drive through the water had been washed off the road into a ditch. We took the long way round.
Jen was visiting her Mom, and I was sent off to find a coffee shop for a couple of hours writing. It’s a tough job being a writer, but I’m willing. I settled into a corner of the Musgrave Centre. The lower level of the centre was flooded, and shop owners were wading through water in shorts and bare feet rescuing what they could and sweeping out the water.
Water! Such a gift when it is in the right place and the right time and the right quantity. Huge volumes are useful when running a hydroelectric scheme. A somewhat smaller volume coursing through pipes is critical to the running of our kitchens, bathrooms and domestic appliances. But containing the flow inside the pipes is important. We have had experience of a burst pipe between the tap and the washing machine. It certainly cleans the carpets, but the damage puts it way up on the “not to be recommended” list.
In our well-regulated and carefully-choreographed city-dwelling lives, we are not used to being at the mercy of the elements. Months of dumping rubbish from pockets and car windows (“someone will pick it up”) wreaks havoc in the form of blocked drains and lifted manhole covers.
The analogies to the Christian faith are many and varied. Am I a conduit for the water of life, or am I blocking the flow? Do I bring refreshment to dry and dusty lives or do I wreak havoc with an uncaring, unfocused spraying of good tidings to all and sundry?
The ministry of Jesus was extremely focused. His death and resurrection was for everyone, of course, and God’s love is for all. But that love was not sprayed around the deserts of Israel as if from a burst pipe or a flooded river. For one who had so little time and a whole world to save, how could Jesus stop by a well in Samaria, take time out for a wedding in Cana, or touch a leper on the side of the road? But he did.
Floods happen; burst pipes are a reality of modern living, but they are not the norm. Five thousand people are fed, and another 4,000, but that was more a question of Jesus dealing with people and situations as they presented themselves. When a flood happens we deal with it, but we don’t go looking for it. Love’s way, it seems, is to reach out to neighbour, stranger and friend struggling with pain and thirst, unloved and unwanted, displaced and disempowered.
Large groups are so much easier, less personal and require minimal engagement. I was at an outside table at the foot of a busy escalator. How simple it would have been to stand in the middle of the concourse with a Bible in one hand and a loudhailer in the other, proclaiming God’s love or the end of the world. Perhaps among the crowds there would be someone who needed to hear such a message proclaimed like that. But each member of the ever-moving throng is an individual who is loved by God. And the message that Jesus lived and proclaimed is that God cares about each and every one. Each of us, in our uniqueness and in the complexities of our smaller or larger communities, is loved, and has a place in the family and in the plans of God. That message, more often than not, is best conveyed through a cup of water rather than a hosepipe or a raging flood.
We must, of course, spend time focused on the source of the life-giving water, but we must also focus on where it is needed, who is to receive it and how best to get it there.
Lord, you give us the water of life,
And what a gift for our dry and dusty lives.
We hold on to it;
We nurture it, protect it, and enjoy it.
But your life reminds us that it is not the water that matters.
The water is given to create and nourish friendships;
To bring healing and hope to our neighbours and strangers and friends.
It is they who are the gifts you ask us to nurture, protect and enjoy.
As we open our hearts and lives to those around us
so the water of life begins to flow among us.
Dry and dusty lives are watered, and thirsts are quenched;
Deep wounds are cleansed, and broken lives made whole.
Lord, there are strangers in this place.
Is that because I am a stranger too?
Teach me the way of friendship.
- The Cross and the Flood (wonderingpreacher.wordpress.com)
- New Year Flood (wonderingpreacher.wordpress.com)