Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thinking About Water And Taking Things For Granted

If you were to drive past our house right now and look at our pasture, you might that we raise ducks or rice or cranberries or even perhaps trout instead of having a couple of horses and cattle. Thanks to a rather mild winter thus far and huge (or YUGE) amounts of rain, we are underwater. It is just something to learn to live with in the Midwest, especially so near the "big lakes" of Michigan and Erie. We get lots and lots of rain. We have lakes, large and small, all around us and a couple of bigger rivers have their headwaters near us. Add in the innumerable ponds, drainage ditches and creeks and what you get is a pretty complex system and near constant presence of water that we need to drive over or around to get almost anywhere. It is also often a source of mild irritation for us. Basements get water in them, roads have huge puddles and of course there is our ubiquitous mud. Our 15 passenger van is technically dark red but right not is pretty much 85% brown thanks to driving on muddy roads. Water is something we take for granted.

That is not the case in a lot of places in the world where water is life or death, as it is everywhere of course, but where it is also terribly scarce. There are places that get less rainfall in a year than we received yesterday, where the annual rainfall is measured in fractions of an inch. There are even places in the U.S. where water is a big deal. Out West the issue of water rights is a constant struggle between competing parties and priorities. Will farmers get water to irrigate their crops so people in the North can have out of season fresh produce or will cities get that water or maybe suburbs so Northern transplants to arid regions can still have the green lawn they grew up with?

For people in the Midwest, water is so commonplace that it often is an annoyance. It doesn't really mean much to us, at least until something happens and we can't use the water out of our taps for a day for whatever reason. For a lot of people in other regions it is something they constantly have to worry about having enough of.

If there is something else we have in seemingly endless supply in the Midwest it is religion. Unlike places around the world and increasingly in places around this country in certain regions, we have churches everywhere. I can be to one of dozens of churches in less than 20 minutes, from small country churches like the one up the road to aspiring mega-churches. It is pretty rare to meet someone who is not at least nominally religious and around here that means "Christian". Although the houses are pretty spread out, I would bet that if I went to 100 of the houses closest to mine, 95 of them would have at least one Bible (even if it was in German).

It often seems to me, and I am speaking of myself as much as other people, that we take having the Bible and the liberty to worship as we see fit for granted in the Midwest just as we take water for granted. In every meaningful way the living water we read of via the Scriptures is more important to life than the water we find in streams and lakes but we sometimes seem almost as contemptuous of it. Getting people to actually read the Bibles that litter our homes like old catalogs is like pulling teeth. People who have been "churched" their entire lives, even older people who have been in church for half a century, are woefully ignorant of what the Bible teaches because for all of our protests to the contrary, the record of God's revelation to His people is just not all that important to us.

Just as water is precious to people around the world who have limited access to it, the Bible is even more precious to people who don't have ready access to God's Word. I would guess that someone in Saharan Africa would be shocked and probably more than a little angry to see how much water we waste in my home, filling a glass up with water, drinking half of it and pouring the rest down the drain or letting the faucet run because it is just too hard to turn the knob. After all, the water goes into my septic system and then back in the ground where my well pumps it back into the house so who cares? Can you imagine someone who doesn't have their own Bible in their own language being told that there are people who have half a dozen hard copy Bibles in their home, unlimited access to the Bible and study tools on the internet that theologians of the past couldn't even have dreamed of and even Bibles on their phone and yet they still can't summon the effort to actually bother reading it?

Familiarity breeds contempt and I fear that many of us in the Midwest are so used to having the Bible that we can only be described as being contemptuous of it. Do we use the same whining tone we take about it raining again when confronted with the need to read our Bibles to prepare to participate in Bible study or Sunday school? I have to read a whole chapter?! Do we have no problem making time to go to a sporting event but when we need to make time for a gathering to open and study God's Word with other Christians we never seem to find an opening in our schedules?

I wonder how people would react in the Midwest if our plentiful water was suddenly scarce? I would expect people would panic and probably be quite angry and scared like we saw a few years ago when Toledo, Ohio had a very brief water crisis. I also wonder how Christians in the Midwest would react, or more accurately will react, if/when having the Bible is not such a given and when meeting with the church to open those Bibles requires more sacrifice than simply skipping one of your favorite TV shows? I would imagine that all of a sudden those Bibles collecting dust on our shelves or strategically placed in a conspicuous place in our home to show how Christian we are would rather quickly become a lot more precious to us.

I am not wishing persecution on us or dreaming of a day when Bibles are scarce. I am just thinking about how often we take for granted the things that are life-giving and life-sustaining, physically and spiritually, when they are so easily accessed without significant effort or cost. What is easy, what is cheap or even "free" has little value because it has little cost. In this transitional period where we are inexorably heading down a darker road where the culture turns even more radically against us and in a time when many pious pseudo-intellectual religious "leaders" denigrate and diminish the Bible as a sign of how "nuanced" they are, we should be declaring loudly and boldly within the church that the Bible is one of our most precious assets and is almost without peer in sustaining and maturing the church. Some day the water we take for granted in the Midwest might be gone, pumped via pipeline to irrigate golf courses in Arizona and probably even more likely there may come a day when access to the Bible carries with it significant cost. One of the chief tasks of the church today to is start placing a premium on the Word of God now so that we don't end up losing it due to neglect or indifference.

Jesus said that the words He spoke to the disciples were spirit and life...

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

His Words still are spirit and life. Let's treat those words as if we believe the One who gave them to us.

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