12th Assembly 2009

Water: life-giving and life-threatening

The second Bible study for members of the 12th Assembly plunged into the depths of the power and destructive energy of water both in the Bible and our world today.

In an exploration of the theme Living Water Thirsty Land, members listened to stories from people all over the world of how water can affect life.

Reflections included stories from drought stricken Queensland farmers struggling with floods, farmers from rural Victoria dealing with fire and drought, the long journeys for water for women and children in Africa, the oceans encroaching on island nations like Tuvalu, and knowledge of water sources handed down through the oral traditions of Indigenous Australians.

Story-tellers walked throughout the auditorium with branches dipped in water and scattered the spray over the people.

july18_john squires  elizabeth raine_kc 1Bible study leaders were New Testament lecturers at United Theological College in Sydney, the Rev. Dr Elizabeth Raine and the Rev. Dr John Squires. They reflected on water as a destructive force, or the “waters of chaos”, in the Old and New Testaments.

Dr Raine said water in many biblical stories is dramatic, powerful and dangerous.

“Water is essential to life,” she said. “Thirst is more compelling than hunger. Wells and springs of the Bible have a deep significance.”

She spoke of the presence of water in birth and baptism and its powerful spiritual symbolism.

Dr Squires spoke of Jesus’ promise, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me” and the Scriptural promise, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of water”.

They spoke of water being central to many Scriptural stories involving humanity. These included the Genesis creation stories, the account of the great flood and Noah, and stories of Moses and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.

“Water is an immense spiritual power but also threatening and destructive. Water can give life and water can destroy,” said Dr Raine.

Connecting these Biblical stories to the current day, Dr Raine and Dr Squires pointed to key issues of the 21st Century relating to water.

Dr Squires said water supply was a political issue in Africa and the Middle East and a potential cause of war.

He also spoke of the rejuvenating power of water on a thirsty land.

“Water is the power that reforms, reshapes and rejuvenates the earth and its creatures.”

Dr Raine presented harrowing statistic that more than 800 million people now lack clean water. In the near future, she claimed, 1.8 billion people will experience water scarcity and two-thirds of the world’s population will live with water stress.

She also reflected on climate change refugees who will have to leave island nations like Tuvalu as oceans rise.

“Water is an issue that will not go away,” she said. “It confronts us with questions about our ecological stewardship of the earth.”

Dr Squires asked Assembly members if, as Christians, they dared to risk stepping out into the wilderness.

“What steps could we make to provide a positive contribution to lessening the dangers the earth faces from global warming and climate change?” he asked.