Water Communion Sunday

Rev. Megan Foley
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 09/07/2014

Water Communion        

It is September, and the time has come for us to officially join together as a congregation once again.  To commemorate the rejoining that we do each year, we here at Sugarloaf celebrate with a water communion. 


Each of us have brought water with us from something we did this summer, something close to home or something far away, a place or activity that tells some unique thing about us.  The communion happens when we come up here and share our water – or use this proxy water if we forgot – and we tell just a few words about what the water represents about our lives over the summer. We pour our water into a common bowl, mingling our lives and experiences with all who have come before and all who come after. 



This bowl already contains the water collected from all our previous water communions, each of the 18 years that Sugarloaf has been around, all the stories, all the history, all the people.  Our church is made up of all those things, and it’s made up of you, too.


We each spent the summer in different ways.  Many of you lived your ordinary lives, going to work, coming to church.  Many of you lived quite different lives than you do the rest of the year, because school was out and you could try new things, or try doing nothing at all for a while.  Summer is a time when the group obligations to which many of us are beholden, they loosen up just ever so slightly, and we are given the opportunity to better follow our own particular paths through the world.



Some of us traveled this summer, either to take advantage of the nice weather or the freedom school holidays offer to be somewhere else for a while.  Some of us visited favorite local watering holes, a pool or a pond that is like an old friend.  Some of us likely ventured far afield, gathering water from somewhere exotic.  All of us experienced storms and maybe even floods.  All of us felt wet streets and dripping leaves, even if it was only in passing. Each of us drank water, and ate food that was cooked in it, and bathed ourselves.  Water, water, everywhere, each of us being with it in different ways.  Unique people, with unique habits, but common desires, and common needs.


Our church is like that too.  We gather together coming from so many different places.  Some of us stay very local, and some have traveled great distances. Some come with the clearest of waters and some feel quite muddy and murky these days.  All of us have had different life experiences,  have different preferences, different loves, different troubles.



Like with the water, church happens when we bring all of these things that we are, all our uniquenesses and our individualities, we bring them together to create a common whole, to serve a common purpose.  When we participate in the water communion, we are saying to each other, “yes, you’re a different person than I am.  You carry water that I don’t carry.  I see that. Yet we’ve come here to the same place at the same time with the same goal – an hour to connect with each other and celebrate the things that matter the most in this world.  An hour where we join in the common purpose of remembering our highest values and recommitting to being our best selves and living our best lives.”  This is what church, our church, is for.  It’s not for the individual bottles or jars of water.  It’s for the bowl at the end that is full of the water that each of us brings.


We’ll start by making a line that snakes from over here to around in the back.  When you get to the front, please tell us what your water is from in just a sentence or two so we’ll have time for everyone.  Speakers, please speak loudly and clearly, and listeners, please listen respectfully as people talk and don’t carry on conversations in the back.  After all, we all  want to know what’s in the bowl by the end.  I’ll start.

[water communion]



Today I’m interested in the distinction between all the different waters, and the common bowl.  Because there are two, at least two different reasons that any of us might have come here today.


The first is to celebrate what is one of the glories of summer, when some of us are lucky enough to be able to move towards the sea.  I just read a John Updike poem that captures this.  It’s called August, which is over, but since it stays hot here longer I think we can all appreciate it:


August, by John Updike


The sprinkler twirls.

 The summer wanes.

 The pavement wears

 Popsicle stains.


 The playground grass

 Is worn to dust.

 The weary swings

 Creak, creak with rust.


 The trees are bored

 With being green.

 Some people leave

 The local scene


 And go to seaside


 And take off nearly

 All their clothes.


"August" by John Updike, from A Child's Calendar. © Holiday House, 2002.



So that’s one way to think about the water we bring to start our church year.  It was summer, it was hot out, water cools us off, maybe we went somewhere, we didn’t have to wear a lot of clothing, it’s just a story about what we did, typical for summer.


But I prefer to think of water communion along the lines of the common bowl, not the individual waters.  Sure, that individual water is in the bowl, that’s what MAKES the bowl of water.  But the reason we have church, the reason we are even here, is not to be stuck with our individual jars and bottles, our individual experiences, but rather to make the big bowl of water.  We’re here to find connections with each other and with the things that matter most in a world that seems to be doing its best to make us DISconnected, fragmented, and alone. 



While I was in Maine I was reading a book of reflections by Anne Morrow Lindbergh called Gift from the Sea.  In it, she references a very interesting German word:  Zerrissenheit.  Say it with me, Zerrissenheit. 


It means Torn to Pieces Hood. Torn to Pieces Hood.  The state of being torn to pieces.


Not physically, I have to assume, but torn to pieces by all the different aspects of our lives.  Our parents want one thing from us and our kids want other.  Our friends want us to act a certain way, and our teachers want us to act another way, and each one has a different opinion.  Our bosses want us to conform to their reality, and our financial obligations make it difficult to say no.  There’s a world out there with all sort of bad news, and we can help make a few things better in it, but not very many.  All these things are


pulling at us, in all the different directions, and if we don’t watch out, it can feel like they are pulling us apart.  Zerrissenheit.  All those different pressures, not of your own making, can pull you apart, and you can feel lost, and separated, and alone.


Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes on:


For it is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation. It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. How often in a large city, shaking hands with my friends, I have felt the wilderness stretching between us. Both of us were wandering in arid wastes, having lost the springs that nourished us – or having found them dry. (Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift From The Sea Page 44)



We come together as a congregation so that we don’t find ourselves wandering for too long in arid wastes, having lost the springs that nourish us.  We need, like all people need, we need time to reconnect with ourselves and our deepest values – remember those?  We need to spend time with people who will want to hear about our real selves, not the selves we had to make up to make someone else happy.  We need time to contemplate what the purpose of our lives might be, so that we don’t end up thinking that we’ve been put on this earth simply to buy more things from amazon.com. 


These are things that people cannot easily do on their own.  That is why we come to church.  We’re taking all the jars and bottles of water, and we’re making a bowl out of it all.  Enough water here to nourish each one of us, just like there is enough water on the earth for everyone to have what they need.  When we come together in church, no matter how parched we are, somehow we come away all sustained, knit back together.  Or at least that’s how it should be.  No more Zerissenheit.  Now the whole bowl of water, here for us all.


Prayer for our Water and our Community

Please join me in the spirit of prayer.

Spirit of Life and Love that holds us and will never let us go, may we feel you this morning in this room.  We come together for so many reasons, with so many stories, and with such different lives outside these walls.  But here we are together now, hoping for connection, hoping for a glimpse of something bigger and sustaining.  May we feel that connection today. May we glimpse that bigger something, today. May we feel sustained throughout the week, and gladly return next Sunday to do it all again. May this great bowl of water, made of the waters from each of us, be big enough to quench all of our thirsts, and some of the thirst of the world besides.  Amen.