After Hurricane Harvey a couple of summers ago, my brother split his time for months between clearing out his flooded home in Bridge City Texas, and helping to run a disaster relief supply distribution center from the church that he pastors in nearby Orangefield, Texas.
And they were sad about the loss of many things in their home, but it was not a total loss, clean-up and repairs took well-over a year, but they are fine now. SO is their church building. Many families from the church lost much, but there was no loss of life, and they are okay too. What they had before the Harvey and have still is, of course, each other. They accepted in semi truckloads of supplies from the National Guard, from neighboring churches, and from churches that are not neighboring at all, and traveled hundreds and thousands of miles to deliver what help they could. They raised thousands of dollars for supplies, in addition to the physical donations. In the wake of hard days, friends, the task is mighty, but together, so are we.
I’ll admit, since this is my family, I followed their story more closely than that of any of our fellow UU beloveds, although I know that the rallying of help from our siblings in faith was just as mighty after Harvey, and after each thing that strikes fear in our hearts and causes us to hold our beloveds closer.
And there are no politics in helping. Let me be clear, there are still people on the side of justice, and those who are not. Still people who support science and statistics, see our human responsibility in these unimaginable tragedies, and those who do not.
But there is just something undeniable in our shared DNA…something that longs to help. Something that crosses all the lines of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and even species, not to mention political leanings and ideologies. There is something about life that wants to sustain life when it comes right down to it, and our fellow beings on this aching, beautiful planet are far more likely to take our hand and lift us up than to push us down when we are in need of each other. I still believe that about us.
There is something in the water that calls us to our best selves.
I was always told there was something in the water of baptism in the faith that raised me, and they were right. What it was for me was a ritual that brought me into a beloved community, and that was the something that was in that water. Faiths that believe in baptism vary on the theological underpinnings of the practice, for sure. Some will baptize you as an infant, and some believe you must be of an age of accountability and be baptized of your own free will. Some will sprinkle a splash of water on you, or make a wet symbol on your forehead, and some will fully dunk your whole body in the water. And most will tell you that the particulars matter, because for them, they do. But, I tell you that for me, I too believe there is something in that water, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the words or the ritual or whether it comes from a font, a sponge, a baptismal pool, a super soaker squirt gun, or if you’ve gone down to the river singing in white robes.There is something in the water, and it is the line of connection to all who have shared that ritual before us. We do not generally baptize in Unitarian Universalism, but the something that is in this holy water that we have shared is our history. The memory of who was here to share the water ceremony with you last year, and the year before that, and who you were reminded of from other times in your lives when you may have participated in other kinds of water rituals.
There was something in the floodwaters of Harvey inextricably bound me to the muddy rain-boot-wearing Pentecostals in Texas who share my bloodline, my DNA, my welcoming into the family of faith through water baptism that my brother witnessed when I was 8 years old.
Mudslide-devastated Sierra Leone and flooded Bangladesh and the melting arctic know that there is something in the water, and it is precious life, desperate to be saved. It is the remnants of precious lives now gone that must not be forgotten. It is the promise of new lives in the crops that will survive and propagate to feed the resilient beings who remain. It is community and hope and healing and togetherness, when we are all we have left.
There is something in this water and it is healing love that calls us to be together when it is hard and we are frightened, and could have just stayed home and skipped water ceremony and ingathering this year. But we didn’t, because we know that there is something in the water, and we needed to be here for it.
It really is holy water. It’s holy water because all water is holy. Harvey water was holy water that caused us to awaken all the more to what we are doing to our one and only planet. Because it caused us to see the divine in the eyes of the hero DACA recipient paramedic who carrying someone’s grandmother to safety. Sierra Leone mudslide water was holy water, because from within it we saw communities emerge SINGING for the joy of another day of life. Bangladeshi flood water was holy when kittens are being carried in baskets on children’s heads to safety as a reminder that every being has worth. There is something holy in the water in burning wildfire country when it comes gushing out of firehoses held by exhausted parents who just want to get home and hug their babies a little tighter than they did yesterday. There is something holy in the bottled water left in the desert by No Mas Muertes workers for immigrants and refugees. There is nothing BUT holiness in the tears of the victims and survivors of gun violence, and the victims of unlawful and inhumane migrant detention centers. And in those of us who weep because we don’t know what else in the world to do.
And, oh, please let us not forget that there is something holy in the water of the sweat and the waterslides and sprinklers and the juicy watermelons of summer.
And this water right here.This water is blessed and holy. Because it came from you. You are blessed and holy. No matter the waters you came from, the waters that may have called you into community before now.
There is something in this water. The water’s holy. And so are we.
Delivered at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation
August 11, 2019
© Rev. Misha Sanders