Water - Jon Fryer

(This is a summary of an alt worship baptism service where participants were invited to take part in a number of different mini rituals, including drinking from bottles of water, washing hands in a fountain at the front of the church, and making origami boats out of written prayers and then floating them out on artificial lakes made out of concrete mixing trays!)

SplashAwesome God,
Before there was even light in creation,
Your Spirit moved upon the waters.
Now, we take the waters upon us,
and ask that again your Spirit be here.

‘In the Beginning…
…God created the heavens and the Earth. And the Earth became formless and void. Darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God brooded over the waters…’

We take lots of things for granted. When we flick the switch, the lights come on. When we twist the key, the car starts. And when we turn the tap, water comes gushing out. We don’t even think about it. Honestly, when was the last time that you had a proper think about water? Where it comes from? What would you do without it? I bet you’d think about water a darn sight more often if you lived In Africa, and had to pull every drop from the well yourself. If you had to walk six miles to that well every morning. If you had to carry the days worth of water six miles back to your family. I guess you’d think about water quite a lot if that was your life, because that water would be your life. Water is funny stuff. If you don’t have enough of it, you die. If you have too much of it, you die. But in just the right amount, it is absolutely essential for life.

Everything is about water. The waters of planet Earth team with life, from tropical fishies swimming off of the Barrier reef, to ducks swimming in the water in a London park. You yourself are 70% water.

Life came from the water. The scientists tell us that life itself came from the water when one day a fish got adventurous and decided to explore the land. Water is mentioned twelve times in the Creation story in Genesis.

Life comes from the water. Without water you would be dead in three days.

Life only comes from the water. You are not truly alive until you are reborn in the waters of baptism.

In the Beginning God created the heavens and the Earth, the waters above and the waters below, dividing the waters from the waters so that dry land appeared. If God is everywhere, where did He create the Universe? If everything that is, and was, and will be is full of the glory of God then where did God find room to create new stuff? Surely He must have… made room inside of Himself so that He could bring all of the life that we see around us into being.

‘I am thirsty’ said Jesus on the cross. ‘I am poured out like water’. When God came to save mankind he emptied Himself and became a man, and then that man, Jesus, emptied himself again, pouring out… his blood like water, so that your sins, and my sins, and the sins of the whole world might be washed away.

God says ‘You too should live like this.’ If you pour out the good things I have given you on others, if you pour out your time and your money, if you pour out your love and compassion… then all you do is make more room, so that I can fill you up again… if you pour yourselves out, says God, I will pour out Myself on you with good gifts overflowing and running over.

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

Is anyone thirsty? Listen to this: On the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when water from the Pool of Siloam is poured over the altar of the Temple seven times until runs down the steps of the Temple court, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." And by this he meant the Holy Spirit. Drink. Live.

Is anyone thirsty? The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert, travelling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarrelled with Moses and said, "Give us water." The people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. The LORD said to Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." Drink. Live.

Is anyone thirsty? God says I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may have grain, new wine and olive oil. Do you know that in Hebrew the word for ‘Rain’ and the word for ‘Blessing’ is the same? Here in England we are more blessed by God than anywhere else in the world! Drink and live.

Its pretty warm in here. Not desert hot, but pretty warm. How does that water taste? How does it feel? What words would you use to describe it? You could say ‘cool’, ‘refreshing’, ‘soothing’, comforting words like that. Isn’t it good to always have water available? And yet some of us travel through life like life is a desert. Life for some of us feels like a dry and weary land, parched, barren, empty. And yet, if we only realised it, there is water available. Water from the Rock. Rain from the heavens. More blessing then we could imagine waiting to pour down from the clouds, if only we would remember to turn our eyes to the sky and ask. Jesus said: "If you knew the gift of God, you would ask him and he would give you living water. Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Ask. Drink deeply. Live.

Many of us in this room tonight have asked God for living water. We have chosen to trust Him to see us through the desert places where there is no water. We have chosen to follow him when there seems to be no way past the obstacles, and yet as with Moses, the sea parts and we find our way through. We have chosen to pass through the waters of the river from death on one side to life on the other. Tonight our brothers and sisters have chosen to also make that choice, to be baptised in water, to symbolise that, as they go down into the waters of death with Jesus, so too they trust that they will rise again with Him into new life.

Water is a good thing. If you were crawling across a desert then I guess you’d agree with that. But you can have too much of a good thing. If you were a sailor on a storm tossed ocean in a tiny little boat, I guess you’d have a different perspective.

Life is a good thing. It certainly beats being dead. But you can have too much of a good thing. Don’t you have some days when life just seems too much to handle? When the jobs a hassle, the kids are a pain, your partner is hacking you off, when the bills fall through the letter box must faster than your paycheque, when your boss is an ass, when your homework is due and your mum is a nag, when your little sister is a drag, when you’ve got double maths first thing? In fact, don’t you have some days when life seems exactly like being on a storm tossed ocean in a tiny boat and you don’t know where to turn or how to cope? Don’t you have days where life is as treasonous as the sea, when everything is floating along just fine, and then Bam! A storm blows up out of nowhere and suddenly you’re swept away? Isn’t that scary? Why does God let that happen?

I can’t say for certain what the reason is, but I am certain that there is a reason. Maybe its because life is meant to be lived. And I mean really lived. Experienced in glorious Technicolor, with all of its highs and lows. Maybe the highs aren’t as high without the lows? A boat is perfectly safe in harbour, but that’s not what its designed for. Its designed for the scary, wide open places. Maybe God is just desperate to catch our attention, and maybe a ruddy great tidal wave is what it takes to get it? There’s an old Leonard Cohen song called ‘Suzanne’ (which incidentally is on Mike Pilavachi’s MySpace page!) which has a verse that says:

Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water / and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower / until he knew for certain that only drowning men could see him / and so he said all men shall be sailors until the sea shall free them…

Maybe, just maybe, God is not just the shelter, but the storm as well. Maybe, just maybe, the rolling waves that seem so scary are actually sweeping us somewhere for our own good. Maybe, just maybe, if we trust the great Captain to pilot our boat and stop worrying so much about where we’ll end up, then just maybe there will be a new horizon to explore when the sun comes up tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe, if the gave is blowing all around you and the waves are swamping you, and if you open up your eyes and look into the storm, then just maybe you’ll see a ghostly figure out at sea already walking on the water to find you, who is already whispering to the wind and the waves ‘Be silent. Be still. I’m in charge here.’

We all have storms in our life which we need Jesus to calm. We al have scary wide open oceans where we need Jesus to pilot the boat, ‘cos we’re clueless where to go next. On your piece of paper you will see two triangles. The triangle pointing downwards represents the storms that come down on us – in this triangle I want you to draw or write something that represents a storm in your life that you need Jesus to calm. The triangle pointing upwards represents the place where we need to let Jesus guide us – write or draw something that represents a situation that you want to give to Jesus and say ‘Here, you steer for this one, I don’t know where to go’.

(Find out how to make an origami boat.)

You now have a boat that is holding your prayers. I’m going to put a track of music on, and what I want you to do now is to hold that boat and spend a couple of minutes actually praying those prayers to Jesus – tell him about the situations you’ve written or symbolised in your boat. And then, when you’re done, I want you to come up to the front and float your boat away in one of the lakes up here, and as you do, leave those situations to float away, safe in the hands of Jesus, our Great Captain who is up there keeping watch. And then go quietly back to your place. I don’t want any queues or a mad scramble here at the front – do it as a prayer and take your time, we’ve got plenty of time left so don’t all try to come up at once. Oh, and be careful of the candles.

Origami BoatsBeyond these shores
Into the darkness
Beyond these shores
This boat may sail
And if this is the way
Then there will be
A path across this sea

And if I sail beyond
The farthest ocean
Or lose myself in depths below
Wherever I may go
Your love surrounds me
For you have been before
Beyond these shores

Written by Iona ©1993

Coming towards a close now – just one more thing to do. We’ve talked about life coming from the water. We’ve talked about life through the water in baptism. We’ve talked about life on the water, but there’s one major and obvious thing about water that we haven’t talked about yet. Water gets you clean.

Listen to this: Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean”

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Where Jesus is talking about having a bath there, he is talking about baptism. If you have gone into the water with Jesus then your sins are forgiven. But we all do stuff we shouldn’t even after we have been baptised – its like your feet getting grubby when you walk around in sandals all day, even though the rest of you is clean. These little sins need to be cleaned up like dusty feet need to be cleaned up.

And its not just sins that Jesus can wash away. The Bible describes sickness, depression, grudges and other such problems as ‘uncleaness’ that can be washed away as easy as water washes away physical dirt and as easy as Jesus forgives spiritual dirt. Elisha told Naaman to wash in the river Jordan seven times, and his leprosy was healed. Ezekiel describes a river of life flowing throughout the celestial city, running down from the great throne of God, and this water is the healing of the nations. There is nothing that can not be fixed, nothing that can not be washed away. Miracles happen, big and small, every minute of every single day, if you just open your eyes to see them.

There is in Jerusalem a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethsaida and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed – and they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters, and the first on into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Jesus GlowI’m waiting here for my life to change,
When the waters stir you can rearrange me.
Just one touch is all I need,
I’ve nothing much but the wounds I feel,
I’m looking for the hand of the miracle man.

Holy, you are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, you are holy, Saviour, Healer,
I’m standing at the feet of the miracle maker.

I’m holding on, with your life in mine,
Living water’s come,
And you’ve rearranged me.

Holy you are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, you are holy,
Saviour, healer,
I’m staring in the face of the miracle maker.

Holy, you are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Jesus, precious Jesus,
Thank you, Saviour,
I’m walking in the shoes of my miracle maker.
I’m standing with the faith of a miracle maker.

Written by Delirious? ©2005 Curious? Music UK

The moral of this story is – whatever your problem is, you don’t have to wait. Jesus doesn’t have to play by the rules. There isn’t a queue with Jesus. ‘Do you want it to get better?’, he asked, and that’s his question to you tonight – whatever it is, an illness, a worry, a sin, a problem, whatever it is, do you want it to get better? And we all have something. We may not wear sandals in this day and age, but we still live in a dry and dusty world. We dirty our hands with stuff we shouldn’t. We get rough and calloused wrestling against a dry and barren land – in our day and age, its not our feet that Jesus needs to wash clean, its our hands. We all get grubby and need Jesus to wash us clean again.

I’m going to pray, and then I’m going to put on a track of music. Once the music comes on I want you spend a couple of minutes giving to Jesus whatever it is that you need him to fix right now. And when you’re done talking to him I want you to come up to the fountain at the front and wash your hands, as a physical prayer to show that you want Jesus to make you clean and put things right for you. Whatever it is, it can be washed away. There is no guarantee that Jesus will do things the way you expect – as we said earlier, sometimes God is just as much the storm as he is the shelter – but there is a guarantee that He will listen, and He will bless one way or another. Again, take your time – I don’t want any more than one person at the fountain and one person waiting at any one time – no queues! – but that said, we don’t want to rush this. Take stuff slow with Jesus – we’re all fragile, and need him to be gentle. And when you’re done, go back to your place. If when you’re done you want some of your brothers and sisters to pray with you then grab someone else once they’re done and get them to pray. It might be a good idea if the people around the baptismal candidates pray with them anyway! Anyway, if you’ve got all that, lets pray:

Where ever we walk, we walk in the crap left by others and by ourselves - the mess of human lives, the comings and goings of a wasteful, corrupt and selfish world. We wallow in the dirt and the hurt, oblivious to the stink and the stains that we carry with us. God stripped off all His finery, stepped in our shit, knelt in it, touched it, held our ugliest bits in the very hands that made us and washed them clean.

Hands Cleanwash us clean
where we judge others
where we dismiss others
where we abuse others
where we ignore others
where we ridicule others
where we use others
wash me clean
where I elevate myself
where I think only of myself
where I want only for myself
where I gather to myself
where I hold to myself
where I value only myself
wash us clean
where we seek for power
where we seek for control
where we seek for praise
where we seek for status
where we seek for fame
where we seek for wealth
Where we are confused, wash us clean.
Where we are broken, wash us clean.
Where we are sick, wash us clean.
Lord Jesus, wash us clean. Amen.

(Mark Berry, SafeSpace)

Maybe somewhere in this weak shadow there has been a glimpse of the Kingdom,
A foretaste
A hint
A promise

If so, hold onto it. May it be your light in the storm. May it be your guide to water in the desert. May it be the hands of the maker washing you clean. And Lord Jesus we pray that you would be our Captain, our pilot, and that you would guide us and keep us safe through all the storms of life until that day when you bring us safe at last to the harbour of the great and shining celestial city that we will one day call home, and where we will find peace, out of the swing of the sea.

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The Character of God
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The Authority of Scripture
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The Wise Mans Tragedy
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What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?

Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?

Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?

When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?

Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?

Why should we look after the world God has given us?

How do we know who we are in God?

Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...

Close Encounters
How do get to have intimacy with God?

Can we feel the breath of God?

Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?

The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?

What does Passover mean to us as Christians?

What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?

What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Teaching for Christmas Eve...

What does it mean to have authority?

What can we do when it all seems like too much?

I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?

What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?

A contemplative service for Pentecost

A creative/contemplative baptism service

How do we know what we should do?

A creative prayer/worship service

The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?

The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!

Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?

Warrior's Confession
A liturgy for masculine prayer

Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?

What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?

The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?

How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?

Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?

To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?

Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?

Will you let Jesus be in charge?

Recognising Jesus
Would you know him if he met you on the road?

The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?

How can we really 'count it all joy'?

More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?

The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?

The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...

Following Jesus
Do you really want to follow him?

Preaching Skills
How should I prepare to give a sermon?

The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?

The People of God

The Bible
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?

Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?

Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?

How do we resist?

What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?

The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?

Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?

Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer

It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?

Becoming a Christian
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Basics of Christianity
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