We draw from the living well of this community and tradition, and we give back to this living well through the inspiration and love we share.
Interim Minister Rev. Lyn Cox
Draw water in joy from the living well. These words from Isaiah, chapter 12, remind us that there is a source of blessing that we did not create, that no one could earn, and that offers grace and renewal when we work toward right relationship. The song we heard at the beginning of the service was written by Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield of blessed memory for a Jewish congregation in Ashland, Oregon. It’s a song for dedicating ritual water, for protecting the lakes and rivers in our watershed, for re-dedicating ourselves to paths of peace, and for returning to community.
In this congregation, some people find spiritual sustenance in Jewish or Christian teachings that hold the Book of Isaiah as sacred text. Some people don’t. Some people have a relationship with a personal God. Some contemplate multiple gods, or find the sacred woven through all existence, or don’t believe that God is a useful concept, or are happy with not knowing. It seems to me that, no matter what we think about God or the Bible, we can agree that there is more to the world than what we bring to it as individuals. We are part of an interdependent web of existence. Human beings have a tendency to need each other. We are part of something larger than ourselves. There is a living well, and we might have different ideas about what feeds it, yet we can still find joy in sharing.
There is a living well that we did not dig. Our UU and congregational ancestors drew from it and gave back to it, managing streams of compassion, wisdom, and ethics in such a way that we are able to reach this moment here together. People in this congregation have poured their love into this community over the years, adding new ideas and skills so that this congregation could adapt as you pursue your mission in the world. Think of the people who brought the water of their inspiration and talents to this well. Who are you grateful to for helping this congregation achieve its mission of creating sacred space and bending the universe toward justice and compassion? They could be founders who are no longer with us, they could be sitting next to you. Who are the members and friends and children and youth you are grateful for? (Congregation is encouraged to call out answers.)
Here we are, gathered around this living well. We are drawn here in search of strength and hope, in search of a channel for our gifts, in search of a continuing stream of faith that connects us with something larger than ourselves. The water ceremony is a ritual that reminds us to bring our talent, our inspiration, our work, our longings for a better world, and–most of all–our love to replenish this living well. Those who came before did that for us. We each have something to give back. Each one of you has stars inside of you, just like the apple tree in the story. People in this congregation work every day to create the kind of place where we can notice the stars inside others, and help people to discover their gifts. What are your gifts? What did you pour into the communal waters this morning? What are your feelings, hopes, talents, and things you are excited to learn? (Congregation is encouraged to call out the gifts they bring.)
Living water is water that moves. What happens if you leave water sitting around outside, not moving, not flowing, not connected to other water? You get mosquitoes. That’s not the metaphor for spiritual or congregational tradition we are looking for. Living water flows from a source and is on the move. Living water is fed by streams and rain, and knows that its destiny is to give back to the water cycle, because all water is one water. As we gather our symbolic water today, bringing together our gifts, giving thanks for and replenishing the tradition that has sustained us, we are also conscious that this congregation is headed somewhere. This congregation has a purpose beyond sustaining a pocket of renewal for those who find it. This water will not sit bottled up, it will be used to bless people and rites of passage and the work we do together. This congregation and this water have a calling.
There is deep gladness here. We will draw from and replenish and move forward along with the current of the living well, and we will be one with these waters in joy.
So be it. Blessed be. Amen.