A sermon preached
Readings: Exodus 17:1-7, John 4:4-14
Exodus 17:3 “Tormented by thirst, the people complained
‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt’ they said,
‘only to make us our children and our livestock, die of thirst?’" (NJB)
children of Israel, fleeing the tyranny of Pharaoh,
find themselves encamped
in the waterless blistering heat of the Sinai Desert.
They turn on Moses and his God –
how could they allow this to happen to them?
Moses to take his staff -
the one he used to strike the Nile –
and strike the rock.
And lo and behold –
fresh water spurts out, and the Israelites can drink.
are 3000 and more years on.
Perhaps we too might wonder about grumbling to God –
look at your world, God – why have you left us in such a mess?
Don’t you know that
Over 2.6 billion people - two
fifths of the world's population -
do not have access to sanitation
1.1 billion people
- one person out of every six in the world -
do not have access to safe water.
So is it surprising that
2.1 million children
die every year from diarrhoea.
This is one in five of all child deaths under the age of five
and means a child dies every 15 seconds
from water-related diseases
(Information from WaterAid)
not possess the staff of Moses,
and yet, just as in the Exodus myth
God gave Moses the power to bring water to the desert,
so he gives that power to us –
the staff he gives is the staff of science and technology,
wielded with the arm of political will
and the hand of compassion.
in a planet with immense resources of water
if we will but cherish, conserve and share those resources
amongst all who need them.
Listen to one of the Directors of WaterAid
talking about a family in Malawi.
“Mrs Ksyisi...lost 4 children to
She now has one remaining son,
and still she has no option
but to give him water that could kill him.
As an engineer,
I know that the solution often lies beneath the mother’s feet –
fresh water buried under the rocks.”
We don’t need
to wait for God to give us Moses’ staff
when he has already given us the ability to sink wells.
In 1904 the Herero people of
what was then
German SW Africa (now Namibia)
rose up against their colonial oppressors.
The Europeans created a huge military encirclement
in the shape of a horseshoe surrounding the Herero.
Deliberately they were manoeuvred
so that they fled through the funnel of the horseshoe
into the harsh heat of the Omaheke Desert north of the Kalahari.
Then the border was closed, the wells capped,
and 25000 Herara men women and children left trapped
in 200 miles of desert,
where the vast majority died of hunger and thirst.
(see Thomas Packenham, The Scamble for Africa, 1991, chapter 33 for more details)
A grim parallel with the story of Israelites
fleeing into the Desert from their oppressors in Egypt.
human race we have the power of Pharaoh
and the power of Moses’ staff –
which do we use?
thank God for the riches of the Harvest –
and we have much for which to give thanks –
At the foot of the South Downs just outside Brighton
there is – or there was when I lived there –
an old Victorian roadside spring set into a wall.
Above it, a text had been set in tiles –
springs into the valleys
which run among the hills.
Oh that men would praise God for his goodness”
And next to it East Sussex Council
have added their own notice on a metal pole –
“ESCC – This water is not fit for drinking”
I don’t know where that pollution came from –
But I do hope we never have to add a PS to the Gospel –
“Here is the water of life” says God –
but we have polluted it beyond use says humanity.
recall the old story about the bamboo plant?
It is really a story about Jesus –
but might it also be a story about you and me??
Bamboo was a great much loved plant
which grew tall and true in the garden.
One day the master of the garden cut down Bamboo.
He hacked off his branches and stripped off his leaves.
He split him down the middle and took out his heart.
Then lifting him gently,
he carried him to where there was
a spring of fresh sparkling water amidst the dry fields.
Then, putting one end of broken bamboo in the spring
and the other into the water channel in his field,
the master laid down gently his beloved bamboo.
And the spring sang welcome,
and the clear sparkling water ran joyously
down the channel of Bamboo’s torn body
into the waiting fields.
The rice was planted, and the days went by,
and the shoots grew and the harvest came.
And on that day was Bamboo,
once so glorious in stately beauty ,
yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility.
For in his beauty was life abundant,
but in his brokenness he became
a channel of abundant life to his master’s world.
So today let us
God for his bounty –
for the water table below and the refreshing rain above
conserve and above all share,
the rich resource of water
· Give ourselves to be channels of God’s love, peace and bounty.