Water Communion in the Land of Curiosities

Rev. Megan Foley
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 09/09/2012

Who brought their water with them this morning?

Every September we open our church year with a water communion ritual.  Why do we do this?

Well, we don’t do this so that we can tell lots of stories about places that we went on vacation over the summer – even though we do end up telling lots of stories (very short ones) about where we went over the summer. 

And we don’t do this so that we can stop coming to church every June and then reappear in September with a tale of being away – even though we do sometimes disappear from church in June and reappear in September, or at least come to church less frequently, because summer can be a time to do things differently than you do during the rest of the year.

No, we don’t hold our water communion ritual so that we can do these things, this story telling and this reappearing, even though those things happen at water communion every year.

No, the reason why we have water communion every year is to remind us of the truth of who we are as a congregation. 

The truth of who we are is that our congregation is many, many individuals, almost 150 adults and kids, who choose to come together every year to be One Thing.  We come together even though it would sometimes be easier to be on our own.  We come together even when that joining together is complicated and confusing and we don’t always get our own way. 

We come together to be One Thing, One Congregation, not because it’s easy, but because together we can be something that we could never be apart. 

When we’re together, we not only have the advantage of all the skills that we ourselves have, but we have access to all the skills that the rest of us have. 

When we're together, we not only have the advantage of all the joy that we ourselves have, which is good, because sometimes our level of joy is a little low, but we also have access to all the joy that the rest of us have.

When we’re together, we not only have the questions that we ourselves would ask to make things in the world better, but we hear the questions that all of us would ask to make things in the world better, and when we have that many people with that many questions, we get that much closer to some answers.

So, when you come forward in just a minute to add your bit of water to all the rest of everyone else’s water, and when you tell us what important place your water is from, remember, your bit of water is making up an essential part of the whole just like your presence here is a precious part of our community.  And even though your water will sink into the bowl and blend with the rest, it, and you, are never lost when you do this.  It, and you, are made better.  You are supersized!

[water communion]

Thanks for all the sharing and all the water, everyone.  It sounds like we all had really interesting summers.  It’s great to be back together in one bowl, so to speak.  (The yurt does kind of look like a bowl in some ways, doesn’t it?)

I’d like you to take a moment and look at our water that we’ve collected. Look especially at how easy it is to see through, or not easy.  It’s sort of in between clear and tannish/brownish, don’t you think?  Now I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to raise your hand to answer and just go with your gut reaction, don’t worry about making sense.

If you could pick, would you want this water to be clear, or more on the clear side?  Or would you want it to be more murky, brownish or hard to see through?  Raise your hand for clear.  Raise your hand for murky.  Okay, does anyone want to say why they picked what they did?

For me, I prefer the water to be clear.  And I realize that in some ways that doesn’t make any sense, because I’m not going to drink the water or swim in it or anything.  But still, there’s something in me that prefers clear water.  You can see through it, right, so you know what’s there.  And it is less likely to hurt me if I were to drink it or swim in it, or at least that’s what my gut tells me, which is why I tend to want to drink very clear water and I’m one of those people who would pick a pool over a pond when it comes to swimming.  There’s something in me that prefers the water clear.

I remember a year or two ago at water communion in a year when we had many back-to-back storms in August – you may remember this as well -  when Jim W. brought water to the communion that he had collected from the giant flooded area in his driveway at home, do you remember that?  It was a very clever sort of water to bring, and it definitely summed up the summer that he and many of us had been having.

But that water was very brown and murky as you can imagine, and there was a little part of me, just a tiny little gut reaction part of me, that thought, “that water is going to mess up our water!”  And it was true that when Jim added his very real and very honest water to the rest, the water overall got a little cloudier, a little murkier to the eye.  And there was a little part of me that that murky water bugged.  I wanted the water to be clear, even if that didn’t make sense, because for some reason, clear water makes me feel more comfortable.  It makes me feel safer.

This summer, I was lucky enough to find myself in a hammock that overhung the edge of the very clear and comfortable Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, reading a book about ministry that has nothing to do with anything we’re talking about today, really.  Except that it had a most interesting quote in it by the revered psychologist and thinker Carl Jung that has everything to do with what we’re talking about today, both here in the worship service, and later, in the Curiosity Café that I hope you’ll all be attending.  Carl Jung wrote this; this is what I read, about our clear water situation: 

Life itself flows from springs both clear and muddy.  Hence, all excessive purity lacks vitality.  The constant striving for clarity and differentiation means a proportional loss of vital intensity, precisely because the muddy elements are excluded.  Every renewal of life needs the muddy as well as the clear.

Life itself flows from the clear AND the muddy.

Excessive purity lacks vitality.
When you strive too much for clarity, you lose intensity, which is what you really need.  The intensity is in the muddiness.
Life, full and vital life, needs the muddy as well as the clear.

Carl Jung is talking about more than just actual water like we have in this bowl, of course.  He’s actually talking about our lives, which the water in this bowl represents.  And he’s definitely got me pegged, because in my life I like clear situations just as much as I like clear water.  I like to know what’s going on and to know what’s coming next.

How about you?  How good are you at living with muddiness?  How easy is it for you when you’re in a new school year and you aren’t quite sure what you’re supposed to be doing, where you’re supposed to be, or whether the people around you even like you or not?  How easy is it for you when your kid is acting weird, and so are your parents, and your job isn’t the greatest, and your marriage could use some attention, but who knows what other jobs are out there in this economy, and who has time for date night? 

It’s muddy!  It’s confusing and uncomfortable!  Could you be blamed for wanting just a little clarity in your life? 

Could you be blamed for wanting to come to church at the end of the week and have the waters here be clear, when so many of your other waters are so muddy?

It’s perfectly understandable.

But for me, there is a joy and a deep down freedom to be found in Carl Jung’s quote, in the idea that muddiness is not something to be labored over or cleaned or avoided or feared.  Muddiness is in fact the stuff that we need to really live, and not just live sanitized lives where everything seems okay or is okay on just a superficial level, but live true and honest lives filled with spirit and zest and possibilities unknown to us now.  The muddiness is where the vitality is.  The muddiness is where the growth comes from.  And our excessive cleaning of that mud is not only exhausting and, frankly, never going to work; it’s also ruining the thing we long for the most, which are lives of depth and meaning and truth and connection.  It is the very muddiness itself, says Jung, that brings us those things.  Excessive purity lacks vitality.

So, how about if we give Jung’s quote some thought as we start our new school years and our new church year and another year of work and being together in families and in community.  In each of our lives this year, we will find that things are confusing, or feel uncomfortable.  We will find that things are surprising, and not always in the way we want surprises.  We will find that things are often not under our control.  This is the muddiness of life.

My challenge to you for this year is, don’t try to clean up your muddiness.  And don’t try to avoid your muddiness.  What I suggest we all try this year is just to look at our muddiness and wonder.  What life-giving element is making the water muddy?  What can the muddiness teach us all?  How is the muddiness a part of us, and what can we grow out of it?

What if this year, we traveled together to what I’m calling the Land of Curiosities, where we find both clear water to relax us and muddy water to intrigue us, and both of them belong there, and muddiness isn’t a challenge and isn’t a job and isn’t something to be ashamed of nor is it something to be hidden?  What if we go to the Land of Curiosities together, where muddiness is something we wonder about, and we wonder about it together until we see what wonderful thing it is that the muddiness holds and the muddiness brings?

This is my hope for our church year together this year.