Ezekiel 36. 24 – 28
I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Growing up in the valley in Oregon, we talk a lot about water. When my friend John came to visit a few years ago people repeatedly told him how much it rained here. When we mentioned we were going over to the coast one day people continuously said, “It rains at the coast.” In fact, it was said so many times that every time I mention to him on the phone that I am going to the coast he replies, “I hear it rains there.” Oregonians from the west side of the state seem to be pretty proud about our rainy days. When I lived in Chicago and it was raining, my friends from the midwest wouldn’t walk outside while I walked from building to building that it was nothing. I have to admit I am even worse about putting on my jacket at times. I forget. I walk out into the rain because I always have. I remember Halloweens that I trick or treated bundled up in coats and even one year in a poncho because of the rain. Puddle jumping has been a reality during the winter and Christmas to me seems to be a wet Christmas rather than white. I am tickled when we have these gorgeous sunny crisp winter days in December.
Needless to say, water has been part of my identity. And while we complain about the so many rainy days I have to secretly admit to you here that I love the rain. Water is part of all of our identity, we need it to survive!
I love that it makes everything pretty green.
I love that even when the skies are grey the ground is a brilliant green. I love that even when the ground is saturated with water, it is prepping our lovely growing season. And I love cuddling in with a good book, a cup of coffee, and a moment to pause while it rains outside. I especially love listening to the rain as I fall asleep.
Our scripture today begins with gathering together people and sprinkling them with water. This practice comes way before John the Baptist comes along to baptize people. Water was used to clean people, God’s people. And water is used to mark as part of the community. We baptize people many to bring them into community and claim that God has their back. God will hold that person and so will the community. Here Ezekiel uses water as the marker to do this as well. Once water has come into play there is room for God to give a new heart. Water is key here. What is it about water? Perhaps its the refreshing moment that water has. Perhaps it is the cleansing and making things new. Perhaps it is that moment in time that water makes us feel marked. Jesus knew the importance of water. He offered living water to people, started off his ministry in water, and valued water highly.
And some are not so lucky to have water. Water is precious, even in Ezekiel’s time. Water was a dear commodity. In many places in the world, there is a water crises. And for some there is no shelter from the water. We have so much to learn about sharing and protecting with people. We have so much to learn about conservation and use. And here is Ezekiel saying that first we will just be sprinkled and the world will be new.
Spend some time today thinking about the role of water to you today. Then please spend a few moments learning about the world and water. Spend a few moments in prayer for those who have none and those who don’t see water as a blessing but a curse in so many ways. How has water changed your life? When you think of water what do you think of?
Prayer: God, please hold us today as we look for your sprinkling of blessing. Place in us a renewed heart. Hold those who don’t have safe water or who are lacking water during this time. Hold those who are out in the rain most days. God renew our commitment to you this day.