My internship site has Wednesday Lenten services, and I preached at the first one this year. Our theme is “Water for the World” and we are using resources from the good people at ELCA Global Hunger to help our people learn about water scarcity, water sanitation, and water stewardship. Just before the service I preached this, we had a “Walk for Water” around the church for all ages, and I think people had a lot of fun!
So here we begin our Wednesday evening Lent services. Forty days of walking and forty days of waiting. Forty days of turning away from ourselves, and forty days of turning to God.
Now, Lent was the furthest thing from my mind a couple weekends ago. I was at a fun conference with my people. We were watching the Superbowl. We had munchies, chips, salsa, even those meatballs and I think there were little toothpicks.
And then this commercial comes on, and it’s the sound that captured my attention more than the image. But this man is standing there in his pj’s brushing his teeth, probably like many of us do, or at least I hope you do [Google search “Colgate water ad”].
This year during Lent we will be focusing on water. We will explore the challenges that some face to get clean water, like you saw in the video, and get clean water on a consistent basis. We will explore what it means to live as a people of God, whose neighbors internationally and domestically have significant challenges to getting clean water and have responded in some life-giving and inspiring ways. The Bible is rich with stories that talk about water—this ordinary element that for many of us comes easily.
This week’s Bible text comes from Genesis, the first book of the Bible. We read from Genesis 24: 1-21
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh 3and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, 4but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac.’ 5The servant said to him, ‘Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?’ 6Abraham said to him, ‘See to it that you do not take my son back there. 7The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, “To your offspring I will give this land”, he will send his angel before you; you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.’ 9So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.
10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all kinds of choice gifts from his master; and he set out and went to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor. 11He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water; it was towards evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12And he said, ‘O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14Let the girl to whom I shall say, “Please offer your jar that I may drink”, and who shall say, “Drink, and I will water your camels”—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.’
15 Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, coming out with her water-jar on her shoulder. 16The girl was very fair to look upon, a virgin whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up. 17Then the servant ran to meet her and said, ‘Please let me sip a little water from your jar.’ 18‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. 19When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.’ 20So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. 21The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.
So Abraham, sends out his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant brings some gifts to sweeten the deal, including 10 camels. 10 camels! Can you imagine getting to that water well, and not just seeing your neighbors retrieving water, but also 10 slobbery, moaning and groaning camels from walking all day by a servant who was gifted the task of walking not one camel, but all 10 at the same time. In this romantic setting of ten groaning, hot camels, the servant enjoys the hospitality of a woman named Rebekka who offers him and his camels water.
But the real core faith idea here comes into today is blessing. See – whenever you hear that Abraham is in a Bible story, God’s promise to bless him is always a theme, and almost like its own character in the story. A few chapters back, God promised Abraham that he will receive a great nation, and his kids and grandkids and great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids will be rich in life and love, and that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 15, NRSV).
In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. That’s a big promise! But that is the promise that Abraham and his family, and the people of Israel, and now the people of God carry, and depend on.
God promises abundant life and love for everyone.
So why do 1.8 billion people drink from contaminated water?
Why did in a city in America, a city of 100,000, people were affected by lead-poisoning, seeping in from their domestic water pipes?
So why has the state of California been in a drought for 4 years?
Why do many experts say that the next civil war will not be fought over guns, or racism, or classism, but will be fought over water?
Because we’ve forgotten that God does not bless Abraham for the sake of Abraham. God blesses Abraham so that Abraham can bless others.
The same water that blesses our lives is the same water that God call us to bless others who have little access to it.
This is the work that the ELCA Global Hunger is a part of. And it’s not just programs that gift water and then that’s it. These are programs that build wells with those who live in third world countries, so that they are not only receiving life-giving water for their families and their business, but so they learn how to maintain and multiple these water-sustaining efforts. The blessing of water becomes a lifelong blessing to quench the thirst of generations and generations to come.
God has blessed you and promised you abundant life and love. How might you take this blessing, and turn it into a blessing for someone else?
Maybe take a blue water box and as a family, fill it up for the month of Lent with loose change and pennies you might find in the couch?
Maybe make it into a contest and see who can waste the least amount of water when you wash dishes, shower, or wash your hands?
Or perhaps even turn off the water as you brush your teeth tonight?
Whatever idea, don’t limit your creativity. As you are a blessed child of God, how might you bless someone else with the gift of water?