Bless Your Water

Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov
Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

On the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th or January 19th, depending on the calendar used), the Orthodox perform an ancient rite with roots in Israel and the early church: the Great Blessing of the Water. In many parts of the Orthodox world, the blessing happens on a frozen lake, requiring saws to carve their way through thick ice. Commemorating Jesus’ baptism, stalwart souls sometimes plunge into the biting water (did I mention January?). The priest dips a cross three times, then sprinkles water in all four directions, as if to baptize the entire world. This water evokes primordial creation (“the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters”) and the belief that in Jesus the world God once named good returns again to harmony with God. In God’s world, even the water is holy.

Each Sunday, Christians around the globe eat bread and drink wine, remembering Christ — and not Christ as ethereal deity but a God who got blisters and cried tears, a God who grew incensed at injustice and who cooked fish on the beach for his friends. A God who insisted on restoring humanity to our true¬†humanity. And we raise the bread and the wine, these most ordinary elements, to God. We remember how God fills the entire world (every blade of wheat, every luscious grape, every finch and every rugged range) with grace.

Given all this, how is it possible that we have arrived at the place where many believe that love for God’s world sits at odds with Christian faith? Why do so many believe that the work of their hands and the longings of their heart share little import in the Kingdom of God? How did our humanness, the humanness so essential that Jesus would not abandon it, become only a liability rather than also a source of great promise?

However you bake your bread, however you bless the waters of your world, know you are doing holy work. Good God, we need you.

6 Replies to “Bless Your Water”

  1. Thank you for this. Your writing speaks deep into my spirit where I sometimes struggle. “Why do so many believe that the work of their hands and the longings of their heart share little import in the Kingdom of God? How did our humanness, the humanness so essential that Jesus would not abandon it, become only a liability rather than also a source of great promise?” Yes, why do we think this? The good news is far better than we can imagine and Jesus the one who says his yoke is easy and burden light.

    N.T. Wright’s After You Believe and Surprised by Hope both buttress what you’re saying here–that we are living in the Kingdom here and now, that our work is Kingdom work, even if it isn’t fancy “Christian work.” I remember having hope that even if my writing work didn’t find an audience in this life, maybe it would in the Kingdom come, and taking great comfort in that.

    By the way, I quoted an old blog of yours in my blog “Meditation on Success” if you want to check it out. I’ve been doing some mighty wrestling on this whole book promotion thing. (I haven’t been one of those who jumped up an down when her book arrived. I know, odd…)

    Thank you so much for your witness and writing and how it’s been very encouraging to me.

    1. Yeah, Katie, N.T.’s most helpful there. I think ‘mighty wrestling’ is a good way to describe all this. We’ll just keep wrestling on…

  2. I just found your site today, because I blogged about an article you wrote for “In Touch” magazine. Even though it was from August 2014, it was timely for me this week, as are your words encouraging today. I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, and there is an international Ice Carving Festival going on. They cut ice out of local ponds and create amazing artwork. I simply make my sourdough bread at home with a houseful of children, but I enjoy the humanness around me and the reminder of Jesus earthly life, being no less holy than His current status in Heaven. Thank-you. Please visit our Alaskan blog at http://www.teamgerhardt.blogspot.com and enjoy some humanness. I hope I’ve done your article justice today.

    1. Thank you, Jeannie. I saw your blog, and it looks like you guys are making a good life there. I especially liked the picture of the moose. Thank you for reading.

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