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Water: Have Mercy!

by Maxine Allen

Read Isaiah 55:1-7 Key verses 1 & 7: 1 “Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water!…everything’s free!… 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he [God] will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he [God] will freely pardon. (The Message)

Growing up in Arkansas, I never thought about water as something that wasn’t always good, clean and available. Freely, we drank from the faucet inside and from the water hose outside. We went to Hot Springs and brought back bottles of “healing hot water.” There were several places in Little Rock that had natural springs that had been enclosed. People brought their jars and buckets to fill without cost. Clean, pure water was a given commodity.

Nobody worried about water quality or the absence of potable water – except when we went to my aunt’s house in Mound Bayou, Mississippi1. My aunt, Ruth, was the elementary school principal and lived in Mound Bayou throughout much of the 1960’s. There the water was murky and had a smell. We were told that it was “back river water.”

Recently, I was reminded of Mound Bayou’s “back river water” when the accounts of the water crisis in Flint, MI began to be published. I asked myself: How, in this country, in 2016, do we have a water crisis in a major city? Isn’t access to clean drinking water an implied right for all citizens? Is knowingly depriving a group of people adequate infrastructure for a healthy living environment a criminal act? I heard the City of Flint was still issuing water bills. I worked myself into a real frenzy about the inequity as demonstrated in the lack of clean water in Flint!

Then, I thought about the poetic beckoning of the Prophet Isaiah as recorded in Isaiah 55. The basic element: water is conferred as a gift to the people living in captivity; it is a promise of freedom. ‘Come… everything is free.’ A captured people are provided with the element which will quench a basic human need: thirst. Water is the symbol of our spirituality, our link with a God who supplies all our needs. It all begins with water: a core element of what we are created to be. Water makes up 70% of our bodies. Without water we die.

PRAYER: God who freely gives us life-giving water; we pray for those in polluted situations. The water is polluted when we believe that those who have been victimized somehow deserve the treatment that they receive; the abused, abducted and the poor. The water is polluted when we call for and support the disenfranchisement of whole groups of people, immigrants and refugees from tyranny. The water is polluted when we enact laws that disproportionally penalize those on the margins. Just as a group of former slaves in Mississippi sought to have their own autonomy by building a town in the delta back waters, today a whole city seeks to move from the bondage of a governmental system that continues to pollute and kill. While we must push for change in Flint, we must push for change in all places where the water is polluted. In the Name of the One who calls us to “come to the water,” Amen!

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