Living Water

By Michael J. Christensen, Pastor

“God is a great underground river that no one can dam up and no one can stop.– Meister Eckhart (13th c)

cccDuring Spring Break last month my wife and I went to see our eldest daughter who is working with an NGO in the Dominican Republic.  One of the places we visited was a 1100-acre cacao plantation called “Eden” (as in the Garden of Eden).  There we met 50 farmers working together to grow, ferment, dry, and sell delicious, organic, fair trade, chocolate beans on the world market.

One of the challenges these young farmers face is water.  Neither the plantation they work on, nor the adjacent town they live in (pop 200), has a source of clean, potable drinking water.  The nearest reservoir is 6km away.  No pipeline. No wells. Fresh water is expensive and in short supply.   It’s a global problem.

Besides lack of water, another challenge on the cacao plantation is Stigma.  The 50 farmers and their families are Dominicans and Haitians—two cultural groups that historically don’t get along.[1]

A nearby, tourist-oriented, Zip Line Adventure we visited also employs both Dominicans and Haitians… They work together but have to live in separate compounds.

Haitians are considered illegal immigrants, non-citizens, without rights to the local resources. And resident Dominicans often treat them with hostility and contempt.

One Christian leader told me that most Dominicans are Catholic and All Haitians are devoted to Voodoo religions—“which is the Devil without a name tag.”

Yet… I can imagine a Dominican offering a Haitian a “cup of cold water” in Jesus name (Matt. 10:42).

When we move beyond racial and cultural divides, Dominicans, Haitians and Californians, Christians and those who practice a religion of African descent, all share a common need and human condition:  We all thirst.

I found a donor willing to fund a small community center and outdoor chapel on the Eden Plantation.  Its purpose is to bring people together from across cultural barriers to enjoy available resources for education, recreation, and church services. The farmers built a stone wall–a “Shalom Wall”– next to the chapel where people could slip pieces of paper with their prayers between the cracks.

I was asked to speak at the inaguration of the chapel, and I spoke, of course, about Shalom.  The deeper meaning of the Hebrew word for peace includes health, healing and harmony between races and cultures.   Culturally diverse people are equal in value before God and therefore we can learn how to respect and affirm the Other (who we think is not like us).

My short message had to be translated, but it seemed to resonate with many.  Later I reflected on the value of water as the common denominator.

Water is life. Our bodies are mostly water (65%), about the same proportion as water to land on mother earth (70%).  New born babies are about 78% water.  Fetus’s 99%.  We need to drink clean water everyday to stay alive.

Water in motion, carries healing energy wherever if flows… Jesus called it “Living Water” (John 4)

“Living water” is the Spirit that flows wherever it will.

“God is Spirit,” Jesus says, and it doesn’t mater whether you worship on the mountain or in the Temple, for those who truly worship God do so in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23)

“Give me this water!”  said the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).

The wonderful 13th c. German mystic, Meister Eckhart, who was marginalized by the Church as heretical on certain points, described Divine Effulgence as subterranean stream:  “God is a great underground river that no one can dam up and no one can stop.”

We all have equal access to the water because the River of God flows within us.  People can try to claim it only for themselves, or try to keep others from drinking, but the water keeps circulating and no one can stop it.

Another ancient mystic said that God is River “whose beginning is nowhere and whose end is everywhere.”  And we all have a portal to this Source within our soul or spirit. The spring of the River of God is deep inside us. We are the microcosm to the macrocosm that is God.

The River of God flows through our body, soul and spirit and bubbles up as an inner fountain. That inner spring connects us to our Source. And we tap it in many ways: prayer and meditation, praise and worship. Music and art. Community and service.  Nature and Creation.  I think it’s why we go to church.  To drink some water.  And I know it’s why we seek Shalom.  To quench our thirst for health, healing, and wholeness.

“Ho, everyone who thirsteth.  Come to the waters.” There’s plenty for all. Dominicans and Haitians, Jews and Samaritans, fill your cup.  Lift it up.  And be made whole. 

[1] Haitians are visibly stigmatized, marginalized and disenfranchised by the dominant group in Dominican society. Even in the churches.



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