My baptism was a gentle sprinkling over my forehead when I was a wee baby.
Jesus got a thorough dunking by John in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13-7, Mark 1:9-11).
“O sinners, let’s go down, let’s go down, come on down, O sinners let’s go down, down in the river to pray.”
In our ancient Judeo-Christian history, water is a powerful theme.
Purity and cleansing. Baptism.
Some churches choose to use water instead of wine for Holy Communion/Eucharist.
Jesus and miracles involving water.
Jesus the living water (John 7:37-9).
Up until recently (as in last few hundred years). Most people didn’t have water at the turn of a handle in their bathroom or kitchen, or house for that matter. Water was a necessity of life and often difficult to acquire. Water, for quenching thirst, cooking, cleaning, keeping the animals, growing food..the list goes on.
What does water mean for us today? Sure, we still need water for drinking and so on. That hasn’t changed. But, it is readily available. Crystal clear, pouring in abundance out of our taps. No worries mate!
And yet, in this Guardian article “The River Jordan’s Shame“, Martin Palmer laments the degradation of these historically significant – sacred to many – rivers. Rivers that have flowed through our Bible stories, flowed through the lands of our spiritual ancestors.
In the case of the Jordan River. It is a Jordan trickle. He writes, “I should have expected it. I had spent the previous two days meeting with Jordanian environmentalists and they had been telling me about their country’s massive water problems.”
Palmer optimistically discusses a growing movement to help bring environmental restoration to pilgrimage cities and rivers, driven by religious leaders and denominations.
He celebrates this move, saying, “[t]he combined power of religious and secular authorities can mean a clean-up programme inspired not just by economics but by a vision of nature as a gift of God for which we have a responsibility to care.”
Thanks to this dedicated and persistent bunch of people, let’s hope that one day soon there will be more water in the Jordan, and that a Sikh having a purifying wash in the Kali Bein, India, doesn’t catch salmonella.
Palmer points to other rivers and places, like the United States, where this movement is also occurring but (I presume) without the need for the waterway to be a drawer of pilgrims. This is inspiring news. Yet, I wonder about our rivers.
The great Murray doesn’t feature in the Bible, explicitly. Does that mean we shouldn’t care for it? What is driving a group of Catholics to care for the Hudson River in New York state?